Photo by Jay Franco
There are many misconceptions about Gonzalo Cordova – he’s not gay if anyone’s wondering – and while it’d be nice to clear the air, he’d rather play the fool if he can get a good laugh out of it. Seizing every moment for his cause, the 25-year old Comedy Central writer and stand-up comedian takes the proviso of circumstance and the flair of honesty, and uses both to transform any given situation into a sitcom-esque storyline. Like many comics, Cordova comes across unassuming and collected in day-to-day banter; on stage or behind the guise of his pen, however, his artistic spark is flared.
“I worked with this guy in the back of a comic book store once, and he said to me, ‘You’re so lucky because you look so young you can go to a high school and pick up high school girls and not go to jail.’ Ummm….That’s not how the law works…”
While his wit is readily apparent, Cordova never set out to be star of the microphone. Rather it was the destiny of a New York adventure that led him straight into the spotlight. He was born in Panama, raised in Florida, and went to school in Boston, studying film and writing. After moving to the city following graduation, he was lured into the comedy realm after getting his first job writing Twitter anecdotes and web humor for Comedy Central Insider.
“I started going to open mics a few times a week, and of course, I was awful,” he recalls. “I’d bomb every day, then eventually I was not bombing as much…Stand-up takes a long time to even get mediocre at. I’ve been doing it for three years and I’d say maybe I’m mediocre, but that took so much work. It takes so much work to be great. “
The fear of failure or a bad set has yet to deter Cordova from his cause, however. Conversely, he recognizes the skill and perseverance of those who consistently return to the stage and produce material, knowing full well many of their jokes will be underappreciated or, frankly put, bad. He expresses particular admiration for the writers of a show like South Park, who churn out thirty minutes of new work for weeks on end. He notes, “I’m always kind of surprised by that.”
As a cultural theorist and intellectual in the art of joking, Cordova spends a great deal of his time engaging in self-deprecation, namely mocking his peripheral femininity and inferior stature. He continuously plays upon the fact many people regard him as a minor or, on the flipside, a “40-year old lesbian.” He talks a lot about personal jibes, telling tales of teenage ridicule and ill-hearted jests.
“The worst part about being bullied by kids who were bullied is that they work out their insecurities on you… Like they’d come up to me and say things like, ‘You’re gayer than my parents are divorced.’”
For the most part, the audience appreciates Cordova’s sense of confidence and self-awareness. His sets are tightly composed, and most jokes receive generous reception from the crowd, both substantial accomplishments in a competitive scene like New York. His regular joint is The Creek and Cave in Long Island City, a venue he describes as being “second home” for many area comedians. His role with Comedy Central is amusing sage – the voice behind tweets for their Insider pages and Indecision.com. He writes approximately ten tweets a day for the network then hits the clubs most every night. It’s a tiny dream in the greater pursuit of artistic alienability, and ultimately, Cordova believes writing will be the culmination of such labor.
“My hope is that I’ll be able to make money writing because – and this might be selling myself short – I don’t see myself becoming a superstar from stand-up,” he admits, depicting the latter effort more as a daily fitness regimen than a platform for his career. “At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever quit doing stand-up though. It’s become so much of what I do. I go to work then I go to open mics. It would be a hard habit to break.”
Nor would Cordova’s growing base of steady admirers want him to cease such a routine. He’s already a regular at his spot in Queens, and has additionally picked up shows at legendary stand-up haunts like Comedy Cellar in Manhattan. His appeal stems from a no holes barred approach – anything goes and everything is discussed, from getting carded when purchasing condoms to his racist grandmother.
“I’ve never understood why old people are racist…I’m like, ‘There are a ton more people that hate you and it’s for stuff you actually do. Like people say black people are lazy; you use a machine to breathe for you, Grandma! Who the fuck’s lazy now?!’”
On that point, he adds, “I once asked my grandmother why it is she doesn’t like black people and she cited Michael Jackson as a reason and I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, that old black stereotype – how they’re all eccentric millionaires!’”
Funny, from Cordova’s perspective, is as innate as it sounds – it’s having fun. He prefers comedians who naturally enhance the stage, who go into their sets without doing much “homework,” and who have a conversation with their audience rather than ingenuously reciting lines. Perfection comes with time, and those who are truly remarkable at the craft, don’t have to think about it. It’s like a projection of self. That, according to Cordova, is the goal.
As far as more commercial strands of comedy go, the young entertainer appreciates a film like Bridesmaids, in which every scene builds to a crescendo and ends with a flash. He’d also like to see a return to the one-camera sitcom movement that briefly became a trend before recoiling to its multi-cam predecessor. He explains, “It’s all very low brow, mimicking what Chuck Lorre has done with Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men… It’s very boring to me.”
Nevertheless, Cordova insists he watches little television, as he’s always on stage earning his own laughs. He’s a pragmatic artist no less, never overstating his goals nor falling victim to reasonable expectations. Rather, his life resides somewhere between realism and fantasy, and accordingly, his comedy feeds on their dueling relationship.
“When I first got here, I moved to Williamsburg, and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, it’s not real enough; it’s not edgy; it’s not New York enough.’ So then I moved to Bed-Stuy, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, there are no muffin shops here. Retreat, retreat!’”
The good news for Cordova: he is quickly leaving his mark everywhere.