HBO Comedy Hour: Mambo Mouth

This film of John Leguizamo’s award-winning stage piece, Mambo Mouth, presents the young actor-writer-comedian as a Latino version of Eric Bogosian or Lily Tomlin — a performer who embodies characters for long stretches of time, permitting us to see the tragedy beneath the ridiculousness that provokes laughs. Leguizamo leads off with his best creation, Agamemnon, a genially sleazy sex machine who hosts a low-rent cable show called Naked Personalities. Agamemnon reads love letters from female viewers and tries to turn them on by gazing into the TV camera and murmuring lines like ”The only things you can count on me for are satisfaction, gratification, ecstasy, passion, decadence, debauchery…and maybe kissing.”

Other Leguizamo characters include Loco Louie, a 13-year-old New York street kid who delivers a monologue about losing his virginity, and Manny the Fanny, a viciously sarcastic transvestite who works as a prostitute. Each character sketch lasts about 10 or 15 minutes, and Leguizamo’s powers of impersonation are formidable. His writing, however, is a lot weaker; he settles too often for cheap laughs (referring to an overweight Latin woman as having ”tortilla chins”) and cheaper sentimentality (his segment as a detained illegal alien is excruciatingly soppy). There’s also a pattern in Mambo Mouth: Every character Leguizamo embodies loathes women. He’d probably say this is satire; I’d say it’s dismaying and annoying. C+

HBO Comedy Hour: Mambo Mouth
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