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The whitest and funniest Mexican you don’t know

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That would be Louis C.K., unless you’ve seen his TV show Louie on FX or you’ve caught his comedy show live, on the Internet or on cable.  

He’s definitely white and even sees himself that way, so much so that he has a routine on the benefits of being a “white man.” Yet the large, red-haired and balding comedian is of Mexican descent, something that even some of his closest comedic confidantes didn’t know. 

Louis C.K.’s real name is Louis Szekely, which he pronounces as “see kay,” hence the moniker. His Hungarian-Jewish grandfather immigrated to Mexico and married a Catholic señorita. They had little Luis, Louis C.K.’s father, who must have been pretty smart because he went to Harvard (at least for a summer program anyway) where he met a coed with Irish-American roots. 

But this isn’t about the discovery of a successful Mexican so we can feel better about ourselves. Rather, it’s a look at how someone who doesn’t care much for racial identity can actually have an impact on how Americans view people of Latino descent. 

This point was illustrated recently on Conan when Louis recounted a story that happened in, uh, Arizona. His female driver, not realizing he was Mexican, complained about how offensive it was to have payment instructions in both English and Spanish in a parking garage. When Louis pointed out that the inclusion of Spanish seemed harmless enough, she told him he couldn’t understand what it was like to live amongst so many “Mexicans.” 

His story seemed a little awkward until he pointed out to Conan O’Brien that he himself is in fact one of those “Mexicans,” which was met by enthusiastic shouts and applause. Louis pointed out that his father was from Mexico, where he had lived until he was seven years old. “I came to America as a little Mexican boy,” he said, and then in a funny and high-pitched little Mexican boy voice he added, “¡America es muy bonito!”  

Funny stuff indeed, but he also continued on to say that, according to his Arizona driver, Mexicans are OK, but not if there are too many of them, as if she was trying to say, “Under a certain number they’re fine, above 2,000 they start to get smelly and bad.” 

This was on national television, and Louis’s fans, mostly white, are paying attention. Not that a George Lopez or Carlos Mencia don’t command that kind of attention, but you expect that from them; it’s part of their routine. They’re Latino comedians, whereas Louis C.K. is a comedian who happens to be Mexican. 

He has the ability to make people take notice of their own veiled prejudices and that they’re normal for having them—just don’t be a pendeja, like his taxi driver. 

As for the future for Louis C.K., his show is entering its third season to rave reviews, and GQ magazine recently awarded him the Comic Genius award, another indication that he’s on his way to become as iconic as his heroes George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

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