When Tony Rodriguez moved from New York City to Los Angeles seven years ago, he brought more than his stuff.
At the Upright Citizen Brigade’s East Coast outpost, the actor-comedian had performed with Improvisos Peligrosos, a Spanish-language improv troupe that included both native speakers and non-Latinos who learned to speak the language conversationally in school. Two years ago, Rodriguez and several fellow improvisers launched the West Coast version of Improvisos Peligrosos, which became the first and only Spanish-only improv show at UCB. “I moved here and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, there’s enough of us here,'” he recalls, referring to L.A.’s high concentration of Spanish speakers.
The troupe still exists, but Rodriguez and three other members who are native speakers—Raiza Licea, Oscar Montoya, and Carlos Santos—saw room for a show that would go even further to specifically highlight Latinx talent. On Saturday, their new project Spanglish Aqui Presents will become the first all-Latinx show presented on UCB’s main stage; as the name suggests, it’ll be in both English and Spanish. Taking cues from both Asssscat and heritage-specific UCB shows like Asian as Fuck, SAP will combine improv, a celebrity guest and performances by sketch actors, stand-up comedians, and musicians exclusively of Latin descent.
The inaugural lineup includes stand-up comedian Steve Hernandez and YouTube comedians the Chonga Girls and Jenny Lorenzo; Mario Lavandeira, aka Perez Hilton, is the celebrity guest.
Along with performing, Rodriguez is a member of UCB’s Diversity Committee, which distributes UCB Training Center scholarships twice a year to promote diversity in race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identification, and increase the number of service members and differently abled people on stage. Asked whether Latinx people are underrepresented in the L.A. improv scene, Rodriguez says yes — but things are improving.
“I do really strongly feel that they [UCB] have their heart in the right place and do make an effort to be inclusive,” he says. “It’s getting better. I do see more diversity on the stage.”
Rodriguez says he hopes SAP will find a monthly home at the theater. “Fingers crossed,” he says. “Or I guess I should say dedos cruzados.”
Spanglish Aqui Presents, UCB Sunset, 5419 Sunset Blvd., East Hollywood; Sat., Jan. 13, 10:30 p.m.; $7.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.