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'Cristela' actor Carlos Ponce says we all need to lighten up

Tuesday, April 28, 2015,

Whatever happened to our ability to laugh at ourselves?

It's a question that the new ABC comedy “Cristela” blows wide open by poking fun at, well, everyone. Hypersensitive? Get over yourself.

No one is immune, says star Carlos Ponce. The jabs aren't aimed at singular targets — everyone from Catholics to WASPs to Latinos gets their fair share of ribbing. It's self-deprecating without being offensive. It works, he says, thanks to a brilliant delivery by creator and star Cristela Alonzo, a stand-up comedian, and her team of writers.

Ponce, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba when they were children, also has a part in the upcoming Melissa McCarthy movie “Spy.”

Question: Do you see “Cristela” as a reminder that we all need to lighten up a little?

Answer: I do. I absolutely do. But for me, what's more important is that Latinos in general, as a culture, for some reason, we are extremely sensitive. It's something that's been tried by other comedians, and I don't want to name names, and it didn't work so well. I think there's a way you can do it, and the way our brilliant writers do it in “Cristela” — it's very not offensive. And yes, we can laugh at ourselves. We need to lighten up a bit.

Q: Is it a message more easily delivered and received with a comedic tone?

A: Oh, yes, absolutely. And that's the only way to do it, which is our whole point. I mean, when it comes to that, to all the sensitive things, yes, it definitely needs to be done in a comedic way.

Q: The higher you aim, the farther you fall. Is that logic ever justifiable in keeping you where you are?

A: No, not at all. Those are the things that we have to deal with sometimes, people that come to a country and we have a tendency to lay low. Let's not make a lot of noise. And that definitely is not efficient at all, and I encourage you to be efficient in the good sense of the word.

You want to have things that you look up to. You want to have dreams and short-term goals that you can make come true. And then give yourself a whole set of new ones.

But I, certainly, have people in my immediate family that think that way. My parents were babies when they emigrated from Cuba, and it was, “Well, let's not make too much noise.”

Q: Can low expectations keep us protected from harm?

A: I don't think so. I just think they keep us unprepared. If we don't experiment and we don't learn these things when opportunity knocks, it's just going to slip away. From my humble opinion, I don't think so.

Q: So, at the end of the day, should our circumstances ever be an excuse for not improving ourselves?

A: That's a hard one to answer. Because you're always going to get, “Well, easy for you to say.” I think we have struggles, and I'm strong in my faith, and I think God gives us all lessons. And we should absolutely learn from those things and keep going. But, then again, I'm just speaking about myself.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at kbenz@tribweb.com, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.


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