In the Brooklyn comedy community, Julio Torres is a precious jewel. Whether performing at Fresh Perspectives, the monthly show he co-hosts at Muchmore’s, or at any number of shows you can catch him at any given week, the El Salvador native stands out. He’ll take the stage doing soft-spoken impressions of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, sporting a shock of short platinum hair and a touch of glitter on his face. It’s as if he heard Rihanna’s “Shine Bright Like A Diamond” and decided to take the advice literally.
His Twitter and Instagram are full of short vignettes about the self-described Space Prince living off of marble, diamonds and universal adoration. He’s been named one of Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch, one of Just For Laughs’ New Faces and a finalist for the Andy Kaufman Award. Recently, you may have seen him make a brief appearance along with his friend and collaborator Lena Einbinder on Louis C.K.’s brilliant new show, Horace and Pete. Tonight, he’s splitting an hour show with Brokelyn-favorite Jo Firestone at UCB East. We spoke to Julio about performing in Brooklyn, having fun with Tilda Swinton and why Jo Firestone is like actual fire.
How long have you been in Brooklyn?
I’ve lived here for, I think, five years in Bushwick. I think that’s accurate. Yeah, yes. I would say five. Final answer.
Is there a difference doing comedy in Brooklyn versus doing comedy in other cities or even other boroughs?
I guess on paper, maybe, Brooklyn audiences are not as easily amused. I feel like entertainment in every form is so accessible here, so if someone has a stand-up show, it’s a battle uphill to get people to come. I feel like the few times I’ve done stand-up outside of New York or L.A., the people that are there really want to be there. It’s much more like an event than it is here. But I think what I do like about performing in Brooklyn is there’s something that feels democratic about it in that the people aren’t really judging the performer by their credits or anything like that. I don’t think telling someone here, “Oh, this comedian was on MTV” means anything to them, and I don’t think it should.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I’ve always found myself more stimulated by serious things and serious people. I find serious people to be very funny. I do little impressions of people that aren’t necessarily funny people. … I find the humorless to be very funny.
You have such a great social media presence, too. So much of what you talk about are serious folks like Rooney Mara and Tilda Swinton, but you’re also talking about marble and diamonds.
Yeah! I find luxury to be very stimulating. I’ve always been very attracted to that sort of stuff. My mom recently showed me drawings I made as a little kid, and it was just literally pictures of me holding gems. The art world I think is very funny. I definitely love inserting myself into that world amongst people that care a lot about the way things look, because I do too. My mom is an architect and she was a fashion designer for a while in El Salvador, and that was very informative. I care about the way things look a lot. I think that a lot of my material, especially on the internet — I don’t know if that counts as material because it’s just pixels at the end of the day — but a lot of it I think is very visually driven.
I think what’s always interested me about your material is that it’s not satire. It’s not a critique of excess.
No, I love it! If ever I’m making joke about Cate Blanchett, it’s because I like her so much. I’m not good about joking about things I don’t like, I don’t think. When there is stuff I don’t like, I don’t talk about it, because why would I? That’s how I’ve always felt. Obviously, there are people who are extremely funny and very successful about talking about moments of despair or just “my dating life sucks,” etc., etc., etc. But I’ve always been of the mindset of if my dating life sucks, why would I bring it up? Why would I ever talk about that? That’s not fun. I’ve always felt that way.
Well, you do self-identify as a space prince.
Yes! Whatever the hell that means. I enjoy that.
That’s become almost an official title for you. Where did that start, and did you realize you’d be so tied to it?
I think that at the very core, as I think about it psychologically, to some extent everyone does go off of experience, but I’ve never been good or too interested in making jokes about or having material about being Latino or being gay or any of those things. They’re very much part of who and what I am, but I feel like the one sort of label that I do feel a strong creative connection with — because I do feel a connection with the other two in other ways — but creatively what I do feel connected to is the idea of being from elsewhere. This idea of foreignness or otherness, which is why space as a trope is very exciting to me. Especially because I sort of feel foreign everywhere. I have a sense of otherness here, but I think I’m stranger back home. I look more out of place back home in El Salvador than I do here. Then the prince part, I think, sort of makes that empowering. Oh, I’m not misplaced, I didn’t stumble into here accidentally.
Did you have any great celebrity run-ins on Horace and Pete?
No, not really. I wish I could tell you I have an upcoming project with Steve Buscemi or something, but no. You should know it’s like literally seconds, it was cool being amongst those people. It was like Louis’ “Bad Blood:” he just summoned his posse and I’m glad I could in the background of it.
What’s your relationship like with Jo Firestone?
It’s funny because I feel like on stage I’m very collected and she’s very manic, but I feel like in real life, she’s the one who helps me organize thoughts. She’s a truly, sincerely wonderful person that I’m glad that I to get to be friends. I think we’re both very attracted to each other’s work. Jo’s the kind of person that everyone’s always delighted to be in the presence of. It’s good to be somehow linked to that.
What can folks expect from the show tonight?
I’m toying with the idea of having some thunder noises now and then. I do know they don’t allow you to have a fog machine at UCB East, which is a real bummer. I do like using fog a lot. I don’t know, heavy tech? Stand-up with heavy tech. You can definitely expect that. And, in Jo’s case, stand-up with a lot of poster boards. She’s crafty.
You guys set it up pretty ominously with this whole Fire vs. Thunder theme. Is your friendship destined to turn bitter and rivalrous and you’ll have to do some kind of alt-comedy battle one day?
No, no. I just like the idea of again sort of removing yourself from reality, I think putting a picture of thunder and fire is funnier than our headshots next to each other. But Jo feels very much like fire to me. She’s very powerful, but she’s warm and she’s beautiful. She’s productive. You can weld with fire, you can cook with fire. Jo is very fire.
How are you like thunder then?
Maybe because I’m shiny and quick? I’m very into blue and silver.
Spend An Hour With Jo and Julio at UCB East tonight at 6:30 pm, and follow Julio on Twitter or Instagram.
Follow Bobby for more comedy and jewels: @Bobbeyonce.
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