Award-winning cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz is nationally known for his biting Latino satire and social commentary. An artist whose work is nearly always controversial and never politically correct, Alcaraz has been recognized by publications including Rolling Stone, The New York Times and L.A. Times as one of the country’s leading Chicano humorists.
Which is why it seems surprising _ and yet, wholly fitting _ that Alcaraz has signed on as a writer on the upcoming FOX comedy “Bordertown.”
According to FOX, “Bordertown” _ the latest in the network’s list of controversial comedies that includes “Family Guy,” “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad” _ will feature the story of Ernesto Gonzales, an “industrious Mexican immigrant and father of four. ” The series will debut in 2014 and will feature Gonzales’ interactions with neighbor Bud Buckwald, a “white guy struggling to come to terms with being the new minority,” says series creator Mark Hentemann.
“We’re going to try to have a variety of characters that are diverse and relate what the immigration experience is right now,” says Alcaraz, whose comic “La Cucaracha” is the nation’s first Latino syndicated daily comic strip. “It will be funny and edgy – but [Mark] and I are committed to showcasing the cultural shift that’s happening in a sincere way.”
Alcaraz _ whose third book, “Imperfect Union,” will be released next year – insists that the show won’t consist simply of racially-charged humor or insensitive jokes, in the vein of ill-fated 2012 comedy “Rob.” Instead, “Bordertown” will “be satirical,” promises Alcaraz.
“This is not going to be PBS Latino. It’s not going to be a documentary,” jokes Alcaraz, who holds a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. “But our community should support it. We have to put on our big girl and big boy chones (underwear) and not cry about every little thing that might come up on a show like this.”
The 49-year-old’s knack for delivering hard-hitting satire about the U.S. landscape is exactly what qualifies him to join the behind-the-scenes-crew of “Bordertown,” says Felix Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.
“Lalo can create a nuanced message that few Latinos can, exposing an entire story in just a picture and a few words,” says Sanchez. “And by embracing this opportunity, he has the ability to further educate and bring a new level of consciousness as it relates to the Latino community.”
And that ability – who could forget the San Diego native’s infamous “Mexican Mitt” parody account on Twitter? – is the reason why Hentemann called Alcaraz with an offer to work on “Bordertown.”
“One of the first calls I made after getting the series order from Fox was to Lalo, because I am interested in making the show funny, but want it to have authentic portrayals of both the Latino characters and white characters,” says Hentemann, who hired four Latinos for his staff of a dozen writers on “Bordertown.” “I feel that the circumstances of this world are rich enough that we don’t need to lean on stereotypes to create a great satirical comedy. I see this show as a great opportunity, but also, a great responsibility.”
And Alcaraz – who wrote film scripts for major Hollywood studios in the 90s – says he’s more than ready for the challenge of creating a television show that will be executive produced by Seth McFarlane, who has been slammed in the past for perpetuating negative stereotypes in FOX shows like “Dads.”
“I work in this field because I believe that mass media and pop culture are extremely important in communicating ideas in this country,” says Alcaraz.
“And if we do this well, then the landscape will open up for more Latinos to be portrayed on television and employed behind the scenes.”