Five Questions with Mateo Hurtado

Editor’s Note: Mateo Hurtado’s Uncut From Air! can be seen at Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival July 26th at 7:30 p.m.

1. ‘Uncut From Air!’ is done in the style of a T.V variety show. What excites you about variety shows as a medium, and what do you think the variety shows of the past that inspired the show can tell us about the moment and culture that they’re from?

Without a doubt what excites me the most about variety shows as a medium is the fact that the audience is such a central component. It’s so similar to an over the top event, a deliciously fun party, and a spectacle! In terms of the throwback variety shows that inspired the show, I think that Sabado Gigante’s iconic legacy was built on how gimmicks, making a fool of yourself in public, and knowing how to party doesn’t get old. Sabado Gigante’s massive success pulsated throughout Latin America. Through the ever-present whimsy lay an ongoing thread of misogyny and homophobia. And personally, which I dive into further throughout Uncut From Air!, watching Sabado Gigante was totally a ritual and formative cultural event for me when I was super little.

2. What role do satire and farce play in ‘Uncut From Air!? Are there other approaches to tackling social and political issues that you use in your work? 

Formally, this show is like a spoof of a Variety Show. What keeps coming up in rehearsals is that while many of the acts and skits throughout the evening are responses to the universe we live in, our vicious, unforgiving society is actually flipping the script about what is factual and what is satirical. So if our headlines read like The Onion, how does inventiveness and creativity get distorted through the lens of the comedian? Recently in my work I’m noticing that physical humor, self-awareness, and observation are some guideposts that help me wrangle politics and all-things-social across art. 

3. What piece of culture (play, movie, book, painting, t.v show, etc.) had the biggest impact on you as a child and why? What piece(s) of culture are you fixated on right now and how do they relate to your work? 

So my ingredients for this mix of “Mateo’s Inspirational Hits” would include: House music, 90’s R&B, SNL specially with the stylings of Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Will Ferrell, Horatio Sanz, Rachel Dratch, Chris Kattan etc, Star Wars, Austin Powers, Salsa, Durangense music is probably always in my subconscious, and Batman. My padres are super super super cultured and the rest of my family too so I reckon all of this culture rubbed off on me. Each of these things certainly are in my DNA. As for right now, I’m obsessed with Rita Moreno (specifically in the present) because of all that she represents and embodies. Rita informs my work because her unfiltered charisma, swagger, and pride is totally something I aim to tap into when I approach performance. Re: Comics who totally get me thrilled about experimental comedy or what the masses are calling alt-comedy, I’d have to turn to: Kate Berlant, John Early, Ana Fabrega, Joel Kim Booster, Patti Harrison, Julio Torres, Lorelei Ramirez, Bowen Yang, and Jaboukie Young-White, to name a few. When I moved here from Chicago, I became jazzed about how like, oh, there’s totally a space for the insanely bizarre, the incredibly off putting/grotesque, the intensely absurd, and all things subversive. Those types of big brush strokes so-to-speak totally reminds me to go ape shit with my work.

4. We’re so inundated right now with images, news, and experiences full of tragedy, violence and injustice, in the face of that onslaught, what is the importance of joy (specifically the joy of queer people and queer people of color in a live performance) in your life and in ‘Uncut From Air!’?

Whoa I’m obsessed with this question. I’d say that right now I’m throwing this q at myself a LOT. I’m thinking: what’s the relationship between joy and the various vibes and qualities of my identity? In my life, joy is so damn important; I’m rounding out year #2 living in NYC after moving from the Midwest and re-getting to know myself while finding and building community which couldn’t be possible without joy. QPOC existence relentlessly is met with homophobia, shame, and is often pushed to side amongst white folks, so joy is a good good look. Wildly enough, in the realm of ‘Uncut From Air!’, joy is paramount in this show as it is totally a celebration, a party, a momentous nod to the variety show tradition. Any apologetic or bashful aura will be left at the door, ya know?

5. Dusty Childers is a very special person who is FILLED to the BRIM with JOY. What was your favorite part about working with Dusty?

Dusty is really fucking thoughtful and fun!!!!!! As a wearer of many hats, Momma Dusty has been a spectacular collaborator, thinker, and director to work with. Audience, hold onto something, my thoughts are gonna go into a brief Dusty love fest. My favorite part about working with Dusty (if I had to pick one!) would have to be when we both harmonized creatively and found a way to make gold mines out of brainstorm tangents. What I mean by this is that Dusty’s keen ability to elaborate, escalate, and accentuate any ideas on the table to help them grow and shine really felt like a glowing way to make the material for this show. You won’t want to miss this reading, this world premiere, yo. #711NachosForever

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