Broad City breakout Arturo Castro is readying to launch his own Comedy Central sketch show, Alternatino with Arturo Castro, later this month. Seeing your name in bright lights is surreal for any actor in Hollywood, but it’s especially strange for Castro, the Guatemalan-born funny-man who moved to the U.S. as a teenager and once seriously considered anglicizing his own name to make it easier to pronounce. These days, Castro, whose show is a mash-up of skits revolving around hilarious mishaps that have happened to him and political controversies dominating the conversation — think awkward dinner parties with subversively-racist small-talk and a particularly dark sketch that refers to the children of undocumented immigrants as cage-free poultry produce — decided to play up his heritage in the hopes of reaching more people like him, who just didn’t see themselves on TV when they were younger.
The result: a gut-bustingly funny sketch show that feels like Comedy Central’s next hit. We chatted with Castro about his embarrassing choice for a stage name and what he learned from mentors Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer when it comes to running his own show.
A lot of fans know you because of a character you played on Broad City, Jaime. He was a fan-favorite on that show.
Yeah, he’s based on an actual person named Jaime, but his voice is deeper than mine. He’s Abbi’s best friend. He was always impeccably dressed, so it was just so fun to play him for six years.
He’s a mix of two real people. One was Ilana’s former roommate, and the other one is Abbi’s best friend named Jaime and he’s just such a sweetheart. I sort of imitated his beautiful outlook of life, but I made his voice a little higher because I thought it was funnier. The Jaime that I play was sort of like, who I was in a way when I first moved to New York. I had this wide-eyed, positive attitude about everything. Everything blew my mind. Now it just comes out when I’m drunk.
Comedy Central has a great track record when it comes to sketch comedy series. What does Alternatino add to the mix?
A perspective that I haven’t seen before. There are such iconic sketch shows on Comedy Central, which have been a huge inspiration for my own show. This show is a love letter to my upbringing, of having grown up in Guatemala and then having grown up as an adult in New York. Growing up, I didn’t see anybody on television that I could relate to, they were all just, broad types. So for the Latinx people out there, that, you know, don’t really like spicy food, and they’re pretty bad at soccer. There’s a place for you here.
The show focuses pretty heavily on the Latinx experience, what do you think about the timing of all this?
It can be a hostile environment for people who look like me right now and I think comedy’s a really great empathy building tool. I really do think that the human experience at its core is basically the same. Everybody can relate to feeling awkward on a first date or nervous for a job interview, and I felt like, if you watch the show, and you see somebody that doesn’t look like you going through something that you can really relate to, then perhaps the conversation shifts a little bit in your mind, you know? So, I thought it was something important to do. Also, I just really like dressing in costumes. It was really important for me to wear a wig.
How much of the real Arturo is in this Arturo character on the show?
This is definitely a heightened version of me. The character is a lot more naïve than I am. So, some things are exaggerated, for comedy sake, but those are all experiences that I have been through, you know. Like, the breakup or being at a party and you’re the only non-white person there and everybody trying to tell you about their beautiful experience in Peru.
Just to segue really quick, I thought about changing my name, when I moved to the States at 18. I figured people wouldn’t be able to pronounce it and, I am going to tell you, the terrible stage name that I was going to use: It was Joe D’Sant. It was using pieces of my mother’s maiden name and my first name. To see Alternatino with Arturo Castro — how much it means to me, to see my name, my actual name, that I kept up on main-stream billboards. It is a dream come true. I never thought I would see this, such a Latinx name on a billboard, in my lifetime, you know?
It definitely doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way. Joe D’Sant sounds like the plumber that gets drunk and hangs out at the corner bodega.
When you hear that name, you expect some guy to show up in a cape. Or he’s like, a DJ.
Did someone tell you not to make that mistake of changing your name?
A director named Andrzej Krakowski. I was like, “Hey, I am thinking about changing my name,” and he was like, “My name is Andrzej Krakowski. Andrzej Krakowski. Keep the name.”
Speaking of representing the Latinx experience, how do you compare a show like Narcos with this sketch comedy series? Are there stereotypes you want to avoid with Alternatino?
I mean, Narcos was a misunderstood romantic comedy. I don’t know what you are talking about. No, when I accepted the job, I knew the concern was, “How are we portraying Latinos?” I understand the concern, it’s very valid, but I saw it as a warning story for anybody in Latin America, that wants to make that money [that way] You’re going to face the consequences because everybody on the show is either dead or in prison, or their family is dead or in prison, you know? So that was how I viewed it, we are telling a story as a warning to the future generations. How we treat it on my show, is, I take some of these misconceptions of what other people believe about what it means to be Latin, and I heighten it, so people are like, “Oh my god, that’s ridiculous,” and I’m like, “Yeah, exactly, that’s my point.” What does it look like to be Latinx, now, you know?
How much has the experience of working with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer on their Comedy Central series influenced how you run your own show?
I’m always like, “What would Abbi and Ilana do?”
Like “What Would Jesus Do?”
Like Jesus. I tried to make everybody that came on set feel welcome and heard and happy. What Abbi and Ilana did for me … I didn’t have a chance until they gave me my break. If I can do that for people that can then go out and make careers, by being on my show, that would make me the happiest. Truly. We gave a lot of people their first TV job, which made me really happy. That is my whole philosophy, man. Whatever success you have, just uplift other people. I think that it leaves the world in a bit of a better way than in which you found it. I think that is what makes life worth living. Otherwise, it’s just about you, and that is so empty.
‘Alternatino with Arturo Castro’ premieres on Tuesday, June 18. Watch the trailer below.