Pursuing comedy as a career means working in a famously cutthroat industry. That’s why it’s always a big deal whenever BIPOC can manage to eke out a successful name for themselves, snag coveted spots in well-respected festivals, and maybe get a few bucks in the process. Which is why I think we should take a moment to celebrate the two Latinas – Melissa Villaseñor and Vanessa Gonzalez – performing at Netflix is a Joke as part of the 200+ person line-up.
PSA: Latinas make up around 10% of the US population (and more in LA) so no, we’re nowhere close to proportional representation.
Let’s face it, Latinx folks generally face hardships when pursuing creative careers, but Latina women have got it worse. Los Angeles has a Latinx population of approximately 4.8 million people, but you wouldn’t guess it if your only ticket to the city is the paltry representation of Latinx folks in film, television, and performing arts produced in Hollywood.
Even with talent and community support, entertainers from minoritized backgrounds face additional hardships when trying to eke out a living. That’s why it’s time for us to celebrate the Latinas who are performing at the Netflix is a Joke festival in Los Angeles in May 2024. Hollywood may be trying to silence us but Villaseñor and Gonzalez are proof positive that our voices – and our jokes – can’t be ignored.
Raised in Whittier, Villaseñor had a successful six-season run at Saturday Night Live, where she delighted audiences with spot-on musical impressions. She was the third Latinx cast member and the first ever Latina in SNL’s history. Villaseñor was an integral part of SNL’s Weekend Update, where she discussed Oscar Snubs, embodied Lady Gaga, and talked about Hispanic Heritage Month.
Prior to SNL, she appeared in Just for Laughs and competed on Season 6 of America’s Got Talent. Her comedic work explores some of the problems she’s dealt with because of her voice, all while showing us her versatility and down-to-earth persona.
She cited her struggles with mental health as her reason for leaving SNL. After the show, she wrote her book Whoops…. I’m Awesome that incorporates her visual art. Villaseñor continues to incorporate her music and voice talents in her successful return to full-time standup. In recent years, Villaseñor has been more vocal about what it’s like to learn Spanish as an adult, and what it’s like to deepen her relationship to her Mexican-American culture.
As a Latina who got on the good side of Dolly Parton, she offers audiences will a joyful, mostly wholesome performance with sprinkles of Spanglish thrown in. She’ll appear at Netflix is a Joke on May 5 at 7 pm at Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth.
Vanessa Gonzalez overcame multiple obstacles to become a comedian. Hailing from Laredo, Texas, Gonzalez was a middle child and the only girl in her nuclear family. Laredo is a tight-knit Mexican and Mexican-American community, and Gonzalez makes a lot of references to Texas, family, and her heritage in her routine.
Her star was rising just as her mother got cancer, and González moved back to Laredo briefly to help with her mother’s care.
She’ll participate in Netflix is a Joke along with Chelsea Handler, Fortune Feimster, Sam Jay, and Matteo Lane. She first opened for Handler in 2021 and the two have worked closely while maintaining their friendship.
You can find Gonzalez on Episode 2 of Netflix’s Verified Standup. Her set dissects fatphobia, racism, and what it’s like when you wear a costume that many may mistake for a cosplay of (gasp!) Yolanda Saldivar. She’s not afraid to poke fun at her family just as many of us might: using humor gets the dysfunction and disagreements out of our systems.