Saturday, April 9, 2011

Serious 'Ghetto Klown'ing From Johnny Legz

John Leguizamo's comedy in "Ghetto Klown" is informed by just about every decade of his life, including the 1960s, the decade of his birth. Photos by Carol Rosegg.


goodness for John Leguizamo’s impulse to bare his soul in public. In his hands, confession makes for exceptional entertainment.

Fame has not dulled the pain of his childhood memories or weakened his skill in retelling them.

“Ghetto Klown,” his latest Broadway offering at the Lyceum Theatre through 15 May, covers some of the same ground as his Tony-nominated “Freak,” the self-described “Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography.” The presentation and production, however, are fresh and of the moment. From Broadway, JL is taking the show to Toronto in November. (See a performance video at

The performer has made the misery of his home life well known in a series of one-man performance pieces. In “Ghetto Klown,” he also tells tales on his costars and directors from his experiences in making films over the years. On the set of “Executive Decision,” he fought with Kurt Russell, and battled with Patrick Swayze on “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.”

JL describes the pleasure Brian DePalma took in encouraging Sean Penn to “rehearse” the slap in “Casualties of War” until JL’s cheek was swollen.

John Leguizamo reminiscences about experiences with the residents of the 110th Precinct in "Ghetto Klown."

“This is like therapy for me,” he says at the beginning of “Ghetto Klown.” “I should be paying you guys.”

JL enters dancing and spins records from each decade of his life, beginning with his impoverished childhood in Queens. Forty-six now, he started performing as a standup comic at age 20. In 1984, he landed a small role on the TV series, “Miami Vice,” and has since appeared in numerous films and on many a stage.

His angry and abusive father fuels much of the successful tragic comedy in JL’s writing. Never forgetting where he comes from, and quarrelling with almost everyone in his path, JL is honest about himself.

John Leguizamo does many impersonations in "Ghetto Klown."

He is not just a solipsistic chronicler. His irreverent impersonations people the stage; he mimics his mother, ex-girlfriends and his wife to great comic effect. He does impressions of some of his Hollywood cronies, including Baz Luhrmann, whose accent and affectations seem to bring out the funny in JL.

“Ghetto Klown” – full of laughs, tormented, cherishing absurdity and full of energy – is a great showcase for the extraordinary talents of its creator and star.

Visit to learn more about “Ghetto Klown.”

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