In Ghetto Klown, celebrated performer John Leguizamo lays bare his early years in blue-collar Queens, his salvation through acting and writing, and his colorful career trajectory. He brings us onto the sets of his films opposite stars such as Al Pacino and Patrick Swayze and with directors such as Baz Luhrmann and Brian De Palma, while also opening up about his offstage life in love and marriage. In this candid graphic novel memoir, Leguizamo offers a strong message of moving beyond self-doubt—and beyond the doubters—to claim some happiness. Originally staged on Broadway in 2011, Ghetto Klown won Leguizamo Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards before being adapted into an HBO special. Now, teaming up with artists Christa Cassano and Shamus Beyale, Leguizamo shares his life story in this vibrant, funny, and moving adaptation.
John Leguizamo offers up a celebrity memoir using the graphic novel format. Here he lays out where much of the inspiration for four separate one-man shows came from, starting with the first, Mambo Mouth, all the way up to the award winning Ghetto Klown. This book is a graphic novel adaptation of the stage work. If you haven't seen the show, if you watch the trailer on YT after reading this book you instantly see the book's text is virtually verbatim from the stage show.
Leguizamo shows you it's been a serious journey to get where he is now. Growing up in a disruptive home, he goes through some troubled kid years before being directed by a teacher to the home of an acting coach he nicknames "Tweety".
After working with him a bit and introducing him to the works of classic playwrights, Tweety connects John with Lee Strasburg, the legendary acting coach and mentor to James Dean, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino (just to name a few). From there, he is on his way! Before long, Leguizamo starts diving into the movie roles we know him for today. There's also discussion of his time bringing the Latin sketch show House of Buggin' to television, though the series was short lived and later replaced by another sketch show, MadTV. Through it all, Leguizamo is battling the disappointment of his parents. His father had kicked him out of the house for pursuing acting and the relationship remained fractured from then on. But he eventually finds peace with his costume designer love, "Teeny" (his now wife, Justine Maurer).
There's quite a bit of profanity and nudity within the illustrations, so this one's maybe not for the younger graphic novel readers. However, the inclusion of it does serve the purpose of setting up the kinds of environments Leguizamo has existed in throughout his life and career, and how such environments affected his work and personality. That said, this was not all that amazing for me. I haven't seen any of his stage shows (except for YT clips), but judging from this book... there's something that rings a little forced about the comedy style. Much of this book felt carried by the great black & white style artwork.
Also, Leguizamo comes of a little douche-y to me here. He talks about banging all the hot girls in his acting classes "and one really grateful chubby girl". By the time the story got to his experiences filming To Wong Foo, I couldn't help but cheer a bit reading about Patrick Swayze going a little Roadhouse on Leguizamo's cocky self behind the camera. Still, part of me did feel bad for the kind of dad Leguizamo got stuck with and how that must have affected his driving need for acceptance throughout his career and personal life. But as a whole, I found this to be kind of a boring read.