Marcella Arguello says it “only took her 17 years” to reach the milestone of having a comedy special. Premiering on HBO Max February 10, Bitch, Grow Up! is evidence that her hard work has paid off – even if her declaration is an unfortunate testament to how long Latinx entertainers have to wait for recognition. And she has backup via the special’s director, Aida Rodríguez, a critically-acclaimed comedian herself.
Arguello’s roughly 30-minute special is full of energy, vocal work, and great act-outs. Her theatricality doesn’t detract from the feeling that you’re listening to a hilarious friend that isn’t going to put up with your bullshit. Clearly at home on the stage, Arguello isn’t self-conscious about laughing at herself. Where many comedians make it obvious that they’re trying to force a well-crafted persona on us, Arguello’s stage presence avoids pretentiousness.
She delivers her jokes with touches of physicality and impressions that add dimension to her lines. In comedy, there are always people who add shock value because they know audiences will remember it. Others focus on complex explanations of their identity and don’t give us much detail about who they are on a regular day. Marcella Arguello acknowledges how hard it can be to be a Latina and just want to live, but these provocative moments are peppered throughout the special with intention. Personal anecdotes on dating, childhood memories, and conversations with her homegirls let us in on who she actually is, and they balance out the references to larger conversations on identity.
Bitch, Grow Up! starts with light reflections on Arguello’s appearance and how it’s affected various facets of her life. From awkward moments with strangers to dating to family interactions, she graciously delivers tidbits and even advice to the women in the audience.
Latinx comedians are often tasked with the job of educating their audiences on the nuances of their existence. But, audiences know that the best art is specific, and tough subject matters enter into art naturally. Which is to say that in Bitch, Grow Up!, Arguello addresses her heritage and the complications our systems can bring to marginalized people, but she’s primarily interested in broader questions: living an honest life, improving as a person, and making fun of people and situations that deserve it.
And the specifics of Arguellos’ life are on point. Throughout the special, she references D.A.R.E., dicks, Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower – that’s quite the list, even for a seasoned comedian.
She also openly talks about her childhood and what she thought being an adult would be like – not shying away from having grown up in a conservative area or having been proud to be a good girl in the past. Instead, she uses her special to take us through how she grew up without being harsh on her past self.
Like many comedy specials and routines today, Arguello also shares some of her all-too-real pandemic struggles and observations. We’ve all changed since 2020, and she isn’t shy about how it felt to finally have vaccines in order to feel comfortable finally exploring the world again.
Despite her assertion that she’s a mean bully, the decent and good person behind this special shines through. Comedy today is definitely going through a reckoning, and conversations about jokes today often center on the controversies they cause. Bitch, Grow Up! is fun without dismissing the struggles of this world, and intelligent without feeling unapproachable. In it, Marcella Arguello manages to ruffle feathers while delivering a routine that feels absolutely joyous.
Watching it is time well spent.