Pablo Arellano Spataro/HBO; Photo illustration by Kaz Fantone
Spooky season is here – or rather, spooky season. The long-awaited second season of Los Espookys is now available on HBO and its co-creator, star and writer Julio Torres has been busy.
From writing a children’s book about a piston that wants to become a vase, to playing a character on Los Espookys who views groceries as “deconstructed food,” Torres and his art are anything but conventional.
It’s been a minute Host Brittany Luse spoke with the comedian about the foundations of her craft, her artist parents and her attraction to secondary characters. They also discuss his interest in difficult people, whether his comedy differs in Spanish and English, and why he crowned himself a “space prince” on Instagram.
These are edited excerpts from It’s Been A Minute, a podcast that features people from across the culture who deserve your attention. follow us on Apple podcast Where Spotifyand follow us on Twitter.
If Torres’ humor in Spanish is different from his comedy in English
Julio Torres: I do not think so. What appeals to me – which is like these observations and the absurd and the surreal – I think they play in both languages. Much of the show’s humor isn’t so much about a specific pun. With Los Espookys, it’s kind of like the visuals, the situations, and the way people behave. It can be a refreshingly silly sight in a good way. Refreshing like, “Oh, that’s just silly,” and it feels like watching a cartoon.
On his appreciation for supporting characters
Brittany Luse: Something I noticed while watching Los Espookys, and also to watch your stand-up special of 2019, My favorite shapesyour acting hand, and also with your children’s book – which focuses on the inner life of inanimate objects – I feel like there’s this theme of focusing on things that are neglected in a sense.
Torres: It is not a deliberate choice. When I was a kid, I was always very drawn to secondary characters – things that weren’t supposed to be the focus. The kind of people that appeal to me are the kind of people that wouldn’t be main characters. I don’t like the energy of the main character. So I gravitate towards strangers and objects are a perfect vehicle for that. Because at the end of the day, I’m not a documentary filmmaker, am I? I am a writer. So I’m the one who puts the words in people’s mouths. With objects it’s easy because it’s as if they were a perfect canvas. I’m very interested in bringing meaning, emotion, and thought to things people might overlook as a way to show them something that’s surprisingly familiar.
On how his parents influenced his art
Use: Your mother is an architect and designer. Your father is a civil engineer. Design is definitely part of their life and their vision of the world. How did your parents’ experiences and the way they see the world – how did that influence your sensibilities when it comes to working with objects like this?
Torres: It is extremely influential. Both of my parents have a very keen eye for reading people through their homes. Read people through the kind of person they are based on the type of furniture they have. The kind of renovation they want. I remember hearing about this woman who had a garden and she kept expanding her house, so much so that the pool that was in the garden became an indoor pool because it’s like she didn’t see the value of the outdoor space. So it’s this mentality of “the bigger my house, the more successful I seem”, isn’t it? And, yes, that’s such a personality type. And little things like that have always stayed with me. That’s why I get on well with wardrobe designers and production designers who are very tuned into this stuff.
At setting Los Espookys in a non-specific Latin American country
Torres: Well, you know, I really like to portray the way things feel, not the way things actually are. So not setting it in a specific country allowed us to do it in a more abstract and emotional place rather than needing to have faithful reproductions or interpretations of something. So it became this park for Ana [Fabrega]Fred [Armisen] and I like to contribute their own experiences so that there is never a wrong answer. There is never a wrong way. There is never a bad accent. There is never a bad sidewalk. It’s very liberating. And through this kind of Tower of Babel – Latin American Tower of Babel – we found a commonality that seems universal. I feel like cartoons do it all the time. Springfield is not defined anywhere, as in from The simpsons. But you understand that this is a middle-class American family in a middle-sized town. Sometimes the beach is a short drive away. Sometimes it snows. Like, who cares? Right. But it’s like those details are somehow irrelevant. What matters is to show what it is like to live in this context.
On her otherworldly Instagram handle
Use: Your name on Instagram is “Space Prince Julio”. Prince of space from where?
Torres: I don’t think anywhere. You know what, I think it’s a bit like traveling. Like I’ve been here a little while, but I don’t know where I’ll be next. I like the idea of just… dropping by.
Use: I like this. Makes me think… inter-dimensional, like different realms. As opposed to like, beyond geographic.
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This “It’s Been a Minute” interview with Julio Torres was produced by Janet Woojeong Lee, with support from Andrea Gutierrez. Technical support came from Carleigh Strange. It was edited by Jessica Placzek.