Erick Acuña is a Peruvian comedian living and working in Washington, DC. He presents a series of gently amusing monologues taken from his life as a Latino immigrant. Skits include filling out forms on his first day at a new job, soccer v. football, a game show (with lots of potatoes), where Peru is, Peruvian television, and finally—the “ñ” in his name. He’s deeply attached to it. He very clearly, and forcefully, explains the difference between Hispanic, Latino(x), and Espana. His exasperation is really funny. He also has some choice words about keyboards and the elusive “ñ.”
And besides being a funny show, he also has perfected the art of leaving the audience wanting more.
By day, Acuña’s a human rights lawyer at a large international organization; he also teaches and performs improv and sketch comedy at Washington Improv Theater and Dojo Comedy.
His show starts off with a brief history of Erick Acuña—from a boyhood set during the 20-year Shining Path insurgency to coming to America as a lawyer for human rights. Evidently, for him, the most annoying Shining Path ever got was when it prevented him from going to an important soccer game. Otherwise, he managed to miss a series of family events and school events and play awesome video games. It speaks to how much his parents protected him from the effects.
Among his funniest skits was the one about a Peruvian game show, where the prizes were potatoes; after all, Peru has over 5,000 potato varieties and they figure large in the culture. Watching the three audience members juggle their negative, neutral or positive potatoes (they are the points) as they try to answer three questions was really funny. And who knew the guy in the plaid and jeans and workboots from Minnesota would turn out to be the most knowledgeable about the subjects?
His director, Martin Steger, keeps everything, including Acuña, moving at a brisk pace. The main prop is a large sheet that serves as a screen for the slides/video that highlight his skits, and it’s surprisingly effective. It just has a sincere, homey feel to it.
Acuña has a large following; the show was oversold and it was pretty funny watching the poor house manager finding more chairs to shoehorn into the space. The good-natured audience didn’t mind the delay and were pretty cheerful about trying to find spaces.
This is a funny show; there were some knee-slapping moments, but also some well-deserved cringing, slap-on-the-forehead moments as he kindly skewered some American perceptions about how sophisticated they really imagine themselves to be about the individual countries in South America.
And besides being a funny show, he also has perfected the art of leaving the audience wanting more. That is an enviable trait and it would be a pleasure to see him in action again.
Advisory: Some adult language, but you really don’t even notice it.
Running Time: 50 minutes with no intermission.
“Acuña, Acuna,” Washington Improv Theatre, Source Theatre, Washington, DC, was on Thursday, December 12, 2019. For more information on Erick Acuna’s shows, please click here. For more information on upcoming Washington Improv Theatre shows, please click here.