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Julio Torres' first HBO comedy special defies categorization: "It’s nothing like any stand-up special you’ve seen before"

  • "Trying to describe Julio Torres’s comedy is like trying to capture a shadow. Even if you could do it, it’d be wrong," says Garrett Martin of Torres' My Favorite Shapes special, premiering Saturday. "The SNL writer and Los Espookys star has developed a voice that’s wistful, melancholic and romantic, and yet strong and confident, with just enough of a pointed bite when needed. Trying to lock his comedy down with words feels like pinning a butterfly inside a frame, as if this almost ineffable beauty is being despoiled by analyzing and categorizing it. Fortunately My Favorite Shapes, Torres’s first comedy special for HBO, defies categorization. It’s nothing like any stand-up special you’ve seen before, but perfectly in keeping with the unique work Torres has created over the last several years. "


    • My Favorite Shapes won't work for everyone: "There is a high bar of weird to clear in order to enter into its world," says Kathryn VanArendonk, "and Torres has little interest in toning anything down or making himself or his ideas more accessible. It’s not a show that an algorithm might produce or something that looks a little bit like lots of other things and can be sold on broad appeal. That’s precisely what makes it tick, of course — the unwavering commitment to the bit, how mannered the show is, how self-possessed Torres is, how deeply he obviously does love his tiny figurine of the villain from the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
    • My Favorite Shapes is an immersive experience, but is it standup?: "What Torres does in this hourlong performance isn’t exactly stand-up; for one thing, he spends much of the show sitting down, sandwiched between a geometric background and a foot-operated conveyor belt that carries shapes to center stage," says Alison Herman. "Torres’s style can also feel influenced by almost every art form except comedy. His micromanaged persona and androgynous bearing don’t bring to mind Richard Pryor or George Carlin so much as Prince or David Bowie. With a muted delivery and studied avoidance of eye contact, Torres eschews comic tropes like crowd work. This is a diorama, not a dialogue."
    • Julio Torres is a virtuoso of extraterrestrial humor with a parade of ingenious absurdity
    • Inside the production design of My Favorite Shapes
    • Torres wanted to avoid the "present mundaneness" of most male comics: “Comedians like the idea of presenting that they were just wandering down the street having their musings and then they wandered onto the stage," he says. But Torres doesn’t want to express that at all, so he intentionally distances -- and defines -- himself through his eccentric choices. “Obviously, I’m not just like you!” he jokes—sort of. “I’m actually not.”

    TOPICS: My Favorite Shapes by Julio Torres, HBO, Julio Torres, Standup Comedy