I first met Salvadorian-born Writer and Comedian, Julio Torres, at a press event for his off-beat HBO comedy series, “Los Espookys.” It’s a must-see to grasp the full scope up Torres’ multiple talents. He serves as the show’s co-creator, co-writer and supporting cast member, delivering seamlessly in every aspect.
“Los Espookys” is a wild ride, with SNL alum, Fred Armisen at the helm as the show’s Executive Producer. Along with Torres, they’ve created one of the most bizarre and hilariously scripted comedies in HBO’s history; one that also inadvertently doubles as a reinforcement of positive Latino representations. If you have not seen it, I suggest you do so. Expect the unexpected and be ready to laugh.
With such a notable collaboration under their collective belt, it’s proven that unconventional magic happens when Torres and Armisen join forces. Now, they’ve done it again, bringing to life Torres’ very ‘out there’ one-man show, “My Favorite Shapes,”which debuts on HBO, SATURDAY, AUG. 10 (10:30-11:30 p.m. ET/PT)(10:30-11:30 p.m. ET/PT).
This is a big deal for Torres. He’s headlining his first hour-long comedy special and as one of today’s emerging LGBTQ voices. I applaud his current rise to success. As I sat down to watch “My Favorite Shapes,” I already knew because of “Los Espookys” not to expect anything predictable or mundane. Those traits are antithetical to the mere existence of Torres’ unique brand of comedy.
The show opens to Torres speaking from outer space or somewhere seemingly galactic, on a cell phone call with his mother. They are discussing his upcoming conversation with his audience in which he will show people his shapes. He explains to her that he is innately compelled to convey this info because, well … someone has to. He arrives in Bowie-Ziggy Stardust fashion – silver, metallic jumpsuit, glittery shimmering skin and a head of peroxide blond hair.
Upon Torres’ entrance to the stage, by which he steps through a space portal, it feels as though he was sent to earth to deliver a message. However, through the use of various shapes and objects, he actually delivers more than just one. The audience is taken on an hour-long journey of highly elevated thoughts that prescribe explanations for not what, but who, shapes really are.
Torres uniquely threads the commonalities and complexities of people, represented by his “favorites shapes,” from squares and circles, to a sparkly keychain to animal figurines and everything in between. Even McDonald’s Happy Meal toys are in play. Yes, it’s trippy with no need to smoke to get the effect.
More than a comedian, Torres is a storyteller who doesn’t rush jokes and really makes you think. Take, for example, he presents the heartbreak of an oval looking at its own reflection, longing to be a circle. On the surface, it seems silly, but its a moment in the show that unites the audience in laughter and shared acknowledgment of relatable envy and personal insecurities.
The real beauty of “My favorite Shapes” is that you never know where Torres is going to take you. It feels like anything and everything could happen, as his various shapes parade by on a conveyor belt, advanced only via motorized foot pedal he controls (I told you it was trippy).
A few of my favorite moments range from the whimsical to the lightly political. For example, Torres’ explanation as to why his favorite color is “clear,” has ruined me, and I will never be able to think of Cinderella again without laughing. Damn you, Julio!
Some of the more thought-provoking moments in the show reflect cleverly crafted real-life moments with which so many of us can identify. Torres’ likable, calm-voiced charm, allows you to forgive some of the absurdity of his concept and embrace a higher possibility. In another example, he presents a clamshell, that suddenly becomes a poignant metaphor about people’s misrepresentation of themselves. Then he transitions from that moment into a calm rant about innocuous curtains. However, those curtains quickly get turned into a social commentary you never saw coming. It felt like I was watching an enlightened spiritual guru, using humor to teach “A-ha” moments and I asked if this was an intentional purpose of the show,
“I like the idea of people coming to me so I can show them these “truths,” Torres explained. “It’s like, let me show you these things around you. It’s not a spiritual show, but yes, the otherworldliness is intentional, and it’s what you’re picking up on.”
Then there is the issue of politics, which is balanced smartly between Torres’ signature deadpan delivery and his existence as a Hispanic, liberal, out, gay man.
In a cautious but apparent jab at a particular resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Torres’ expresses that he does not subscribe to the “It is what it is” mentality. Such a mindset, he shares, “is this same kind of thinking that got that man elected.”
When posed with the question of does he purposely avoid blatant political commentary in his work, Torres’ offered diplomacy but also laid his political cards out on the table for the world to see,
“When it comes to politics in general, I always try to be thoughtful and fair. I don’t think about what an audience will like or will not like though, because I can only present my ideas. I mean, even within the left, I’m sure I have occasionally dissed some of the contenders too because hey, after all, I’m a Sanders and Warren boy.”
Catch Julio Torres in “My Favorite Shapes,” making its debuts on HBO, SATURDAY, AUG. 10 (10:30-11:30 p.m. ET/PT)(10:30-11:30 p.m. ET/PT).