FAIRFIELD — Life. It’s a favorite four-letter word for comic Willie Barcena.
Next weekend, Barcena will bring those life experiences during two shows at Dimitri’s Lounge.
A veteran of a dozen appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Barcena was a social worker before entering the comedy field about 20 years ago.
Life, and Barcena, changed over the past two decades.
“The more I live, the more I feel I’m able to talk about topics in greater depth,” he said.
Barcena has some strong feelings and opinions about Latino comics.
“I think the smart ones have a harder time in Hollywood. I am one of the smart ones. I think the guys who write stereotypical comedy that appeals to the lowest common denominator get put in the forefront,” he said.
He knows of two Latino comics, both with college degrees, who get on stage then put on a thick accent and talk about Latino stereotypes.
“You would think they were just picked up from Home Depot,” he said of their stage personas.
There is a place for ethnic comedy, if it’s done the right way, Barcena said.
Keeping his material fresh takes time.
“You have to write a lot of material. When you get one good joke, you have written many, many bad ones,” he said.
With no one telling him to sit down and write jokes, Barcena disciplines himself to write. But that can be a double-edged sword as he’s basically his own boss.
“I’m a pretty cool boss. I just told myself to go to P.F. Chang’s and have a beer and some food,” he said.
Jokes start with a thought he puts on paper. That thought is taken to the stage for delivery, where one of two things happen – no response or laughter. Either way, he knows how he delivered on stage, because he’s recorded it.
“I like it verbatim. Changing one word can change the whole dynamic of the joke,” he said.
No subject is off limits. However, it can’t be offensive.
“I want to be funny and I want to be saying something,” Barcena said. “But I don’t want to be preaching.”
Barcena wrote and performed “Cry Like a Man,” focusing on the struggle of a blue-collar comic who grew up with macho men.
“They have a chauvinistic view of a man-and-woman relationship,” he said. “It worked a lot against me early in my marriage, trying to emulate these guys.”
He’s working on two projects, one with fellow Latino actor Esai Morales. The second is with a young writer from UCLA.
While he doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee, Barcena said he’ll promise his Dimitri’s audiences a good time.
“Honestly, I feel it’s my duty to make these people laugh. The economy being what it is, I feel privileged to see people in the audience,” he said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.