Jokes About Tilda Swinton
by Gili Malinsky
Deep in the wilds of grungy New York lives an artist/unicorn named Julio. Well, he’s an artist/comedian, actually, and his name’s Julio Torres, but his work’s so inventive and singular he seems out of this world. During a comedy show, he’ll tell you the following: what he would look like as an airport patrolman (he’d giggle a lot), what kind of garbage collector he’d be (he’ll “take that. And that. And that…”) and what it means to be bilingual, translating phrases from Spanish thinking they make sense in English as well (today he’s “free as pie”). Torres writes for The Chris Gethard Show and performs in shows all over the city. His new web series, Diego & Valentina, about Diego teaching rich Valentina how to live in New York, is streaming on digital comedy channel Mas Mejor, with new episodes premiering each week. Below is an interview with Torres himself, calm, kind and shimmery (with silver hair and glittery nails).
So, what’s your story, Julio Torres?
I’m originally from El Salvador. I moved to New York to go to The New School in 2009. I really wanted to be a playwright, a screenwriter or a television writer. And I graduated still with no idea how to do any of those things. And I came to this very stressful moment where I didn’t know how to stay in the U.S. (because I needed to find work that would sponsor me). I couldn’t afford two years where I was working a service job wondering what I wanted to do - it was like, OK, run! Go! When I started doing open mics [having realized comedy could be an in], I always had that in the back of my head. That these open mics should be good because I want to stay in America.
What did you like about doing stand-up?
It felt right. And I was immediately enchanted by the possibilities. Because I’ve always seen the only rule is there’s a limited amount of time you have in front of people. I eventually found what I like doing - everything I write, including my stand-up, is always infused with some disconnection from reality. I think I’m attracted to concepts and people that are larger than life. I’ll sooner think about a joke about Tilda Swinton than I would about a horrible boss. This past weekend I went fabric shopping because I’m gonna have a lot of outfits made. When I’m thinking about buying or making a piece of clothing, it’s important to me, how does this fit into Performance Me?
Wow, so you really live your work.
I think a big part of it is my mom’s an architect and she was always very definite about being surrounded by things that had a purpose. Everything needed to both have aesthetic and be functional.
Your aesthetic is very futuristic and out there. What inspires you?
Well, thematically space is a big deal for me. I tie it into the idea of otherness and being from somewhere that isn’t here. I’m drawn to the idea of the future a lot.
Did that find its way into your new show, Diego & Valentina, with Veronica Osorio?
Pinning me down to write a show that’s based in reality is a little hard. I was like, “wait - they’re in space? She’s dead and no one knows? They’re twins and they’re incestuous?” But this idea where she’s a very rich girl and I’m helping her figure her life out seemed like something fun. And it was nice placing the show in an exaggerated version of my world.
So what makes you laugh?
I’m very attracted to the funny in seriousness. To people that are humorless. Like, does Naomi Campbell know that she’s hilarious? Does Naomi Campbell know that showing up and doing community service in a couture gown is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life?