(Note: The interview with Arturo Castro was conducted before the Gilroy shooting on July 28, the El Paso shooting on August 3 and the Dayton shooting on August 4)
Comedian Arturo Castro is tackling the issue of gun violence and mass shootings in America in one of the sketches on tonight’s episode of Comedy Central’s “Alternatino.” Castro said in an interview with TheWrap he wanted the sketch to come from “a place of kindness,” where we aren’t swayed into thinking about politics, but of our own safety.
“I’m not American, so I didn’t want to come to it by saying ‘ban this,” Castro, who is Guatemalan born, said. “It’s hard to understand the amount of mass shootings. I want to be on the side of the victims.”
In the sketch, Castro (Jaime in “Broad City”) plays an immigrant who is shocked that shootings are so prevalent in the United States. The immigrant is taking a “cultural assimilation” class when his teacher says they should be cautious of gun violence, including mass shootings in schools.
The subject was a tricky tightrope to walk in the ‘Alternatino’ writer’s room last year, a group that includes Castro’s longtime collaborator Brendan Fitzgibbons and David Sidorov (“Billy On The Street”). The idea for the sketch came to mind when Castro wondered how someone could explain to someone else why all these mass shootings happen.
A person that would be naturally confused about U.S. mass shootings and their motives would be someone who is not only a foreigner but someone who fundamentally understands violence differently, so they settled on a Central American immigrant as the lead character.
Castro’s character in the sketch assumes a shooter must be from a cartel looking for money and power, since that’s a reality in countries like Guatemala, Castro said. The teacher tells him the shooter is typically a lonely kid who can’t get girls.
Both the teacher and the immigrant’s pasts are at odds with each other, but there is an underlying thread of fearing the unknown from both of them.
“There’s a lack of faith in day-to-day safety. It’s hard to predict,” Castro said. “In Latin America, the countries are smaller, so when violence strikes, you have two degrees of separation from it.”
Guatemala made headlines recently for being forced to accept a “safe third party agreement” with the United States, where Central American asylum seekers attempting to get to the United States would be funneled through Guatemala. According to a 2018 study,Guatemala had the sixth highest gun death toll in 2016, behind countries like Mexico and the U.S.
Tonight’s episode of “Alternatino” was postponed last in response to the Gilroy mass shooting, and then the episode’s release came into question when it was set to premier days after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Castro said on Instagram Monday that he was going to go through with the sketch because “it’s always going to be to soon.”
“Alternatino” airs Tuesdays on Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. You can watch the sketch above.