Toward the beginning of Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy, Al Madrigal’s first stand-up special since Why Is the Rabbit Crying? in 2013, the comedian brings up Donald Trump‘s infamous Cinco de May tweet from 2016. You know, the one in which the future president claimed “the best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill” and that he “[loved] Hispanics.” Proud of his half-Mexican, half-Sicilian heritage, Madrigal wastes no time digging up the old controversy for the sake of bringing a surprisingly long and detailed bit about immigration that ends with an unexpected joke.
“I prefer the longer stuff,” Madrigal tells Uproxx below. “It takes a while to figure out all the tags in those.” While the concluding joke could stand alone and still generate enough laughter to satisfy most performers, the former Daily Show correspondent enjoys drawing things out, not simply to take up time, but to expand his stories and the jokes therein to their full potential. As a result, Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy comes off as one of the year’s better stand-up specials for its combination of longform humor and its observations on current events. Madrigal talked about this, his upcoming series I’m Dying Up Here and more.
I didn’t realize until halfway through Shrimpin’ Ain’t Easy that you, more than most comics I’ve seen this year, talk about Trump a lot.
Yeah. The personal stuff I dig into about immigration, which is about a seven-minute bit, is very heartfelt. That bit is probably one of the things I am the most proud of from this special.
Some of your references are quite recent, while others — like his Cinco de Mayo tweet featuring a taco bowl — are at least a year old.
I think the “Trump Tower Taco Bowl” bit was a late add to the set. A bunch of time had passed by then. I’m not a comedian who just cranks out a special every year or so. I like to have the bits be fully formed, maybe even a little over done, before adding the best ones to the show. Usually, I prefer the longer stuff. It takes a while to figure out all the tags in those. When the basis for that taco truck story actually happened, though, I almost hugged the guy because I knew it was the joke. He really said all that to me. And I was really laughing, but also thankful. That always seems to happen. You have a bad case of writer’s block and somebody says something fantastic.
And, they, of course, have no idea why you’re so happy.
I love it. Some people were suggesting I take out the middle part, thinking it could be trimmed up. And they’re not wrong. I could totally do an abridged version of that joke, where it doesn’t get sad, but I really like that part as well.
Why do you prefer longform jokes?
It’s all about storytelling and surprising the audience. So during the first few minutes of the “Trump Tower Taco Bowl” bit, they might think, “This is a really long shit joke.” But once they here the final few jabs, they’ll hopefully realize its’ a shit joke with heart. It’s always fun to do that with the crowd. More recently, I think a lot of it comes from working on I’m Dying Up Here. We were talking about Richard Prior a lot. He would do that. Plus when I was working on The Daily Show, I discovered that was something Jon Stewart was able to do very well — to make things that meant something, but were also silly. It’s difficult to pull off, but it’s something I’ve always been challenged by. And it’s all the comedy I tend to like, too.