On March 22, John Leguizamo’s fifth HBO comedy special, Ghetto Klown, premieres, and if you find yourself watching the hilarious, brutally honest journey through his personal and professional ups and down and do a spit-take, you’re not alone. Having perfected the show on Broadway and on tour, Leguizamo’s seen it all. “There were spit-takes, people getting up and walking toward the stage to high-five me when it was a good joke,” he recalls, laughing. “There was a lot of people smokin’ up their doobies trying to enjoy it a little bit more, and I appreciate people being altered in their substance abuse, if it makes the show better for them. I had people who were enjoying it so much they started trying to film it using their phone so they could keep it for always. I appreciate that you love my stuff, but that’s called ‘pirating.'”
The stories that got people out of their seats? Leguizamo reenacting Al Pacino’s reaction to working with him in Carlito’s Way and him recreating his audition to play Tybalt in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. For the latter, he showed up with a freshly-loosened tooth from an argument that had just ended a 30-year friendship. The tooth made him whistle when he spoke. Luhrmann thought Leguizamo had the “elephantine testicles” to jeer at Shakespeare and grabbed Leguizamo’s “tiny little koala nuts.” When Luhrmann wouldn’t let him go, Leguizamo explained that his best friend had just jumped him, grabbed Luhrmann by the throat, and threatened to choke him if he didn’t release him. That’s when Luhrmann squeaked out, “Quickly, quickly, say the line. Say the line, quickly.” Leguizamo did, and he got the role. “Baz Luhrmann came to see [the show], and he was like, [in Luhrmann’s Aussie accent] ‘I loved it, John. You should have used a little bit more of me. I didn’t hold you that long. You’re exaggerating a little bit. But I don’t mind,'” he says. “Working with Baz is one of the highlights of my life, and we’ve done two movies together, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. He really gets it out of you, literally.”
See what we could get out of Leguizamo in our Pop Culture Personality Test below.
John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown premieres March 22 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.