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If you've ever seen John Leguizamo in "Freak", than you know what it is to
watch a man give of his soul for two hours.
Creating a unique hybrid of every kind of one-man show performance ever, Leguizamo tells us the abridged story of his life, and goes out of his way (with a riveting, touching, hilarious performance) to cushion the many blows he has to reveal for an audience so unsuspecting of a damaged genius.
Directed for television by Spike Lee, John's *stage* performance was nominated for a Tony in 1998 for Best Actor In A Play (he lost to Anthony LaPaglia). His past show, "Spic-O-Rama", showed a diversity to play the eccentric characters of his life. But "Freak" proves something much greater: on such a fluid, risky platform as a one-man show with nearly no blackouts, Leguizamo can express emotions that are not yet eccentric or dull, but real. To see him give child abuse a whimsical perspective leaves a mark on you.
This is what he will be remembered for.
This is such an interesting one-man show... I cannot recommend it more. Not for its material, or its qualities to make us analyze our own life or whatever people are saying in these posts. The actual things that are being said in the show by Leguizamo are sometimes easy to go by. This is not the result of writing prowess. This is the result of dramatic stage genius. It is all... every single bit of it... placed on Leguizamo's talent on stage. His power is not in his one-liners, in his story development, in his critical mind, but in his physical talents and his genius use of not only space, but dramatic characterization and 'space' within characters. I'm not saying he is just funny physically. He is a physical creator on all senses and terms. This is, therefore, the most interesting stand-up comedy act I have ever seen. It isn't really one, actually. It is, yes, but it extends the parameters, the possibilities in such ways that all you say is, 'why does nobody ever think of things like these... why is stand-up comedy so dull'. This isn't dull. Leguizamo is at a creative peak in his performance. And that is gold. He has what any other straight up stand-up comedian lacks. And that is dramatic intelligence. So you've got a comedic act that without shining on paper, shines put to life. A true play of sorts. The reasons why maybe, after watching this, you will not like him, or consider it bad, are more on a personal level, I think... Leguizamo is really in your face on this one. And if you find him the least bit annoying, then that will be the end of this performance in your eyes. Still, it will open your mind in one simple matter: that stand-up comedy as we know it is limited. This is far beyond 'stand-up comedy as we know it', and could be, perhaps, a nice future to a dead-end formula.
John Leguizamo's one man shows are hit or miss: Mambo Mouth showed off
intense characterizations and great timing but the material was average,
Spic-o-Rama accomplished the former as well but this time the material was
funny, Freak is a classic followed by his disappointing Sex-o-holic. But
his stuff in Freak showcases his genius and when he's in the spotlight
Freak's semi-autobiographical look at the journey of a young man has power and resonance I don't think even it's creator knew about. By allowing us the chance to see his soul, Mr. Leguizamo gives us an opportunity to project our own life onto his and there can be no greater gift a performer can give. The willingness to drop 'the Wall', expose and share is too terrifying for most actors-they use characters to hide behind-but JL goes full-throttle and gleefully smashes any pretenses. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor were our best cultural observers/comedians/actors because they spoke from their heart about whatever they noticed in society and the truth provided slashing humor. Combine that with a great actor's gift of mimicry and being in-the-moment (not to mention a sense of humanity) and you'll see John Leguizamo has the power to do the same. At least in Freak he does.
From birth to his first big break and every life altering moment in between, a viewer sees our host and other characters in their most private moments all the while experiencing the pain, hope, and humor that comes with. Looking drained and lean muscled-tight JL is ringing with sweat by evening's end having offered up his crazy life for an audience; Spike Lee's fluid camera work captures the actor's nuances down to the last lip curl and slow blink. The scenarios range from drinking with his machismo-fueled father (when he was 9) to seeing A Chorus Line with his gay, deaf uncle; his first girlfriend's vicious humiliation when he strips naked, eager to have sex. A nightmarish first sexual encounter with a large German woman in the back of a Kentucky Fried Chicken follows an unsuccessful attempt to pick up a "drunk lapsed Catholic" in a bar on St.Patty's Day. Climaxing in a serious showdown with his mother and father, it's here that he shows his true genius: he plays a scene between these two characters and himself and his brother with such a strong dramatic/humourous intensity, you forget you're watching only one person. There's no costume changes, bad wigs, lighting tricks, or makeup. Just an actor giving his all. It's simply amazing.
Other actors/comedians that stand out right now are Eddie Izzard and Chris Rock but they don't dive into themselves as deeply as John Leguizamo does; that's not a criticism, not by a long shot. I love their work but Freak is different. It's moving in a no-b******* way. It's the best one man show out there and no one will be able to touch it for a long time.
My mother and I caught this on HBO one night in 1998. I absolutely fell in love with it because though I was laughing, Leguizamo managed to illicit sympathy for his life through his gift of comedy. I was lucky enough to have caught this gem again a few months ago. I hope that I catch it once more so I can tape it. For anyone that hasn't been introduced to Leguizamo's comedy, this is a great starting point to get to know one of the funniest men out there!
After seeing this routine by John Leguizamo, I finally realize why he is such a talent. I enjoy great stage work, and this is stage work at its best. I cannot label it as a stand-up routine, because Leguizamo is so intense when playing the different characters. The only time he breaks character is when it is necessary for him to complete his part in which he does so coolly, that you cannot help, but appreciate his talents. I wasn't really sure how I felt about him as an actor, but Freak solidified my appreciation of him. For those out there that have not had the opportunity to see this show, I feel for you. Definitely check it out. It is one of the nest routines I have ever seen. Ranks with Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby and Chris Rock. Four stars and more.
I never saw any of John Leguizamo's stand-up before I watched Freak, and after seeing it again on HBO comedy recently it was better, more enlivening and with things that, at the age of 14, I couldn't understand quite before. Spike Lee did a wonderful job directing, keeping the visual angle up to par with Leguizamo's theatrics and the style of personal storytelling; it's substance and style merging together but unobtrusively. We get Leguizamo's rants about race and sex (the bits about sex are classic), but a lot of it is about family, and what sticks still fresh in my mind is about his father. Even when things get dark in some of the stories, there's something fresh or crazy or random that Leguizamo pulls out to get a laugh, and it works more often than not. If something does fall flat (for me at any rate) it might be his personality tics here and there. But overall, it's the kind of fun material that isn't heady, but is so true to itself that it stings. Find it if you can!
I just happened to come across this one-man-show on HBO, and I was hit in the face with true talent for the performing arts. John Leguizamo provided me with a fresh of breath air from today's Lindsey Lohans and the uncreative, less-than-quality shows and movies in cinema (and staged shows for that matter). He let me know that there is more to show business for an actor than choosing the right parts and getting lucky with a hit movie (granted, that may be part of it). For the main part, though, it is the skills needed to entertain, acquired through practice and hard work. I don't think I would be able to watch another standup for the length of this show. This show should stand as the epitome of great, contemporary Broadway.
This was very energetic and well played show. I saw it back in 98 and
my friends and i still joke about it. Each time I watch it's always as
funny as the first. I also love the way that everyone can relate to it
in their own particular ways. I am very much looking forward to seeing
more of John's own scripts and productions.
Unfortunately I can't find it anywhere for sale, and I've done quite a lot of looking. If anyone knows a website or store to refer me to, I would very much appreciate it as I am looking for his other live performances as well. Please send me a message if any of you have info on the subject. Thankyou.
John has made two One man shows. Spic O Rama and Freaks, and neither one has shown up on DVD... John!!! Why do you this to me john?? Put it on DvD John, so the people can see,they need to see John!! :D... Just in case anyones keeping a watchful aye!!
After watching John preform this one of a kind show, I had to share.....It was really something to watch a grown man portray himself as a child. I like the fact that with every character he "became," you could picture what they looked like. It is more entertaining when you can understand the individual. "Freak" is what real "stand up" should be. John is REAL talent.
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