John Leguizamo on Ghetto Klown | Interview
John Leguizamo tells Time Out Chicago’s Novid Parsi about his latest one-man show, Ghetto Klown.
John Leguizamo calls at 8am, after walking the dog and taking the kids to school, and before rehearsing his new show, Ghetto Klown. (“Kids,” he says with a laugh. “I used to wake up [at], like, 11am.”) Following Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, Freak and Sexaholix…a Love Story, the New Yorker’s latest solo show covers the actor’s life from his adolescence in Queens (“I was the class clown”) to his start in avant-garde theater to his Hollywood career. Billed as the “unplugged” version of Ghetto Klown, the pre-Broadway show, John Leguizamo Warms Up, plays the Royal George Theatre February 1–12.
After Sexaholix, about a decade ago, you said you wouldn’t do these one-man shows anymore. So why Ghetto Klown?
I didn’t want to come back because my shows are too masochistic. But I always write down stuff, the shit that goes bad, and I was like, wow, I’ve got a really good show about my struggle to be an artist. I would get drunk and I would do these college gigs and I would just spew out some crazy stuff, and the kids loved it, and I would run home quickly before I passed out and write it down.
’Cause I’m revealing too much. I’m saying shit nobody wants to say about themselves. Everybody wants to show themselves off, like in a publicity blurb: “Rocking the career!” But it’s not like that, the real story. It’s a lot of downfalls, a lot of your face hitting the pavement.
What have family members said to you about your depictions of them?
“Stop the nonsense!” My mother’s like, “I better not be in this show, John. I’m really sick and tired of it.” My brother and my father won’t come to see them anymore. [Laughs] I can understand that. I would never like anybody to do a one-man show against me.
Also in this show, as in your 2006 memoir, Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends, you dish on fellow stars.
Yeah, but not tales-out-of-school gossipy nonsense. I mean, I go for it.
Hollywood actors generally don’t do that. You’re distinct.
[Laughs] Distinct is a polite word for what you really want to say.
That would be more the word.
Did anyone tell you they didn’t like what you’d written about them?
It was more heavy-handed than that. Steven Seagal said he wanted to punch me out if he saw me on a red carpet.
What had you said about him?
Uh, I [Laughs], I was talking about how he knocked the air out of me just out of nowhere, and I said he runs like a girl. Like a double-Dutching little bitch.
You also called Leonardo DiCaprio “a patron of prostitutes”?
Did I? My God. That’s horrible. [Laughs]
You didn’t hear from him after that?
No, I did, we talked. I think he let it go, he was chill. We were doing Romeo + Juliet, we were a bunch of boys, and we were all nuts, trying to be these crazy, roving hooligans in the Renaissance.
Thus the Hos of your memoir title?
Hell yyyeah.… My father once said to somebody, “I have two children. One’s great, and the other’s an actor.”
You recently said movies haven’t given you creative satisfaction. Yet you’ve done three to five of them a year for about 20 years.
Oh, independent films I love. It’s more the commercial films that are a little bit soul-crushing. There’s nothing to do, there’s no character. But those small little character-driven films, I love them as much as I love theater.
So why keep doing the commercial films if they’re soul-crushing?
Oh, I don’t know, the money? [Laughs]
Yeah. I was getting more money for movies I didn’t want to do and no money for the movies I really wanted to do.
After your parents came to the U.S. from Colombia, they’d speak Spanish to you, you’d answer in English. How do you raise your two kids in terms of cultural influence?
I do that, too. I speak to them in ghetto, ’cause they go to fancy private schools, so I keep them real. I try to make sure they get some values I grew up with, like my parents made me earn everything. I don’t want them to feel entitled.
But they would have to, given that they’re living—
Much more posh than I did, absolutely, and they got a nanny and we have a cleaning person, [but] they still have to do chores and help me shovel the snow. I go out of my way to make sure they see me doing things for myself. I mean, I try to keep my assistants part-time.
So your assistants fold the laundry but you put it away?
Right! A little compromise! [Laughs] You know: Dial the phone, but I’ll talk.
John Leguizamo Warms Up starts Tuesday 1.