Defending the Bomb: Standup Comic Julio Torres’ Hard-To-Explain Cate Blanchett Impression

June 24, 2015 | Liam Mathews

Every comedian has jokes that he or she believes didn’t get the laughs they deserved or tweets that didn’t get enough faves. Defending the Bomb gives a comedian the opportunity to explain one of these failed jokes and make the case for why it’s actually funny.

Julio Torres is a rising star in the New York City standup scene. The El Salvador-born comic’s drolly sharp wit and surreal fantasies about acclaimed actresses have earned him recognition as one of Comedy Central’s 2014 Comics to Watch. He’s had two sold-out stage shows at Ars Nova, “Space Prince” and “Myth & Beauty,” and headlined at Caroline’s comedy club. He co-hosts an excellent monthly standup show at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg called Fresh Perspectives. Here, he tells us about an impression that doesn’t quite come across.

What is your joke?

I’ve tried this one onstage numerous times and it only kind of works if I preface the joke by saying essentially what I’ve told you now – I like it, but people don’t like it. I only do it when I think a set is going particularly well, and I can afford to throw it in there.

It’s an impression, and the setup is I ask the audience to imagine that two-time Academy Award winning actress Cate Blanchett is in her home. She is eating a chalupa —

From Taco Bell?

From wherever. She’s eating it, and it’s messy, and it gets all over, and then she glances over at her two Oscars, and she becomes concerned with the idea that her two Oscars are looking back at her and judging her. So that’s the setup. Then I sort of pretend that I’m eating a chalupa, and I pretend to wipe my face, and then I look across to the other side of the stage where presumably the Oscars are, I set the chalupa aside, and I walk over to the other side of the stage, and I pretend that I am turning the two Oscars around, and I say, “Nothing to see here, boys, nothing to see here!” And that’s it. It’s almost like too much stage direction for a joke.

And it’s way too long for a tweet.

I think maybe it was too long, so I thought maybe it would be good to do live, but it isn’t, because it’s too wordy of a setup and also I don’t know if the audience understands that I’m spinning the two Oscars so they won’t look at me. It might just look like I’m messing with two knobs. It’s too subtle of a motion, maybe. The only way it might work is if it was filmed. I often think about scenarios, and lines from those scenarios become jokes, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, because they’re too visual, maybe. I’m talking to you and realizing that I have something else that I want to try out, but I already know that the problem will be the same. I always found it very funny that Rose from Titanic wore that giant hat, and when she stepped out of the car and saw the Titanic for the first time she had to make like a full, almost neck-breaking motion to get the hat out of the way to look at the Titanic. I think that joke would be like me tilting my head back and looking up at the Titanic and going, “Oh, it’s big!” And I think the problem with that is going to be the same as the Cate one, that it’s too long of an exposition for a very little payoff.

As concisely as you can put it, what is funny about this joke to you?

The idea that someone feels judged by their accolades, is the thesis statement of the joke? Like feeling like she’s embarrassed to eat front of her Oscars.

How is it received?

I think that people like that I’m humored by this, like “Isn’t it funny that he thinks this is funny?” as opposed to “this is funny.” I think that by that point in the set, people have enough of a concept in their heads of what I’m doing that they’re like, “Oh, this person is really into this whole thing.”

Why do you think people are wrong not like this joke?

I don’t think that people are wrong to not like the joke. I think that I’m providing the wrong medium for it, and asking a little too much for them to picture. The setup is me painting a picture that I don’t have time to fully paint.

(Photo: Mindy Tucker)