There’s something extremely cathartic about watching a Latinx comedian get his own platform to do as he pleases, ripping cliches in the entertainment industry and beyond with invigorating vehemence. With his new Comedy’s Central sketch show “Alternatino,” Arturo Castro has the rare opportunity to tell his own story and skewer the inevitably cringe-inducing perceptions of it, and he seizes it with palpable gusto.
Castro’s best known for his wildly different turns in “Broad City” (as Ilana Glazer’s sweet roommate) and “Narcos” (as an entitled son of a cartel boss), so it’s fitting that he continues to show his range in “Alternatino.” With the help of a prolific hair and makeup department, Castro transforms himself into several different characters per episode, ranging from well-meaning dads to sly sendups of Latinx stereotypes to singing sensation Pitbull (Mr. Worldwide!). In between sketches, he explores the everyday indignities of being a Latinx actor and helpless romantic while acting as a hapless version of himself that feels like just as much of a creation as any of the bewigged characters waiting around the corner. Castro is so enthusiastic that his grin often threatens to leap off the screen, which director Nicholas Jansovec (also of “Broad City”) both captures and grounds with a steady gaze.
And yet: Just about all of Castro’s hyperbolic characters tend to have the same streak of melancholy that gets exposed sooner rather than later. This commonality makes for some of the show’s better moments, but it also speaks to one of the show’s weaknesses. Rarely does a sketch truly surprise; the punchlines are to the point and a little too easy to spot. Sometimes it feels as though the show leans too hard on the basic fact of a bizarre premise like “Carmen Miranda has an ex-husband with a matching head of fruit” to see it through, leading to more segments that end with a fizzle rather than a hilarious bang.
By all rights, “Alternatino” should not be TV’s only sketch comedy show fronted by a Latinx actor; it’s just too much pressure, and you can feel the show straining underneath it while also trying to make fun of it. Still, Castro and company are more than game to try, and the moments when they pull it off are worth the effort.
“Alternatino” premieres Tuesday, June 18 on Comedy Central.