A True Story: How Gustavo and Lalo got on Fox’s ‘Bordertown’

by GUSTAVO ARELLANO on January 8, 2014 in Cultura, El Now

twoamigosWant proof that Jesus does more than appear on tortillas?

Refry this: Lalo and I are part of Bordertown, the Fox animated show that’ll satirize the Mexicanization of America through the lens of—yep!—a border town.

Think about it: two of America’s most locos Mexicans, outrageous cartoonist of La Cucaracha and POCHO Jefe-in-Chief Lalo Alcaraz and the notorious author of the ¡Ask a Mexican! column, are on a primetime network TV show. Together (photo, above.) To raise DESMADRE. In an industry that still mostly casts Mexicans as cholos, maids, or…

We’re still pinching ourselves about it, about how awesome Bordertown will be and how lucky we are. And we want to tell our story, not only to allay any fears that the show is going to be a watered-down disaster but to show that the Reconquista has even reached Hollywood.

The story began in September, when I got a call from my agent saying that a Mark Hentemman wanted to talk to me about Bordertown. I Googled Mark and found out he was a veteran of Family Guy, a show I have always loved for its anarchic humor but accepted as a laugh-a-second romp that didn’t aspire for the heights of, say, Edward R. Murrow.

Before our meeting, Mark’s assistant forwarded me a copy of what’s called “the bible”—a detailed outline of the show, from the arc of the show to character bios to episode possibilities. I liked what I read, but wanted to meet Mark to see if he was the real deal or one of the many Hollywood pendejos I’ve encountered in my career (I’ll still never forget the guy who said I could be the next Cantinflas).

Not only was Mark the real deal—nice, funny, and trusting in the opinions of others—he was refreshingly honest. He told me that, while he knew comedy from his years with David Letterman and Family Guy, he wasn’t going to pretend that a gabacho from Cleveland like himself knew much about the Mexican experience in the U.S.; he wanted the best and brightest Latino writers to give his show the right perspective, to tell stories that not only have never been told before on network TV but have them told by the right folks.

He asked if I had any interest in being a writer for the show, and I said no—I love my job being the Mexican-in-Chief at OC Weekly too much. More importantly, though, I told Mark that I felt that this show was already so important that there was no way I wanted a novice like myself (I hadn’t written a television script since my sophomore year at Orange Coast College in 1998) to have a writer’s slot on the show.

I would love to help out on the show in any way possible—but if he wanted a writer, I insisted, the guy he had to hire was Lalo. As it so happened, Mark told me, he had read about Lalo in my ¡Ask a Mexican! book and was going to interview him the following day.

As I left the Family Guy offices, I got a text from Lalo. He was wondering what the hell was this Bordertown and why did a Family Guy producer want to talk to him? I wish I had saved the text, but I essentially told him I had talked him up, so bring the menudo home. He did, because about a week later, Mark, Lalo and I had breakfast at Guisados in Boyle Heights, where we discussed Bordertown possibilities over the restaurant’s fabulous tacos y horchata.

The rest, as they write, is historia. Lalo got hired as a writer, one of five Latinos on staff (and if you count the Jewish guy who grew up in Miami, that’s nearly half the team!). The show was announced, and everyone immediately started hating because of Seth MacFarlane’s role in it as executive producer. Then Lalo wrote his piece defending a show that hadn’t even aired, and people became rightfully excited. And now, I’m involved.

I’m only a part-timer, as a consultant who’s mostly going to be offering notes, but I’ve already seen scripts—amazing, hilarious, and spot-on about what it means to be Mexican in America right now: the pochos, the immigrants, the nerds and narcos. SB 1070 and Zacatecas. Hispandering and the military-industrial complex. Pozole and “El Son de los Aguacates.” The writer’s room is a perfect mix of young guns and vets from legendary shows (South Park, The Simpsons, Mr. Show, The Daily Show, and the Family Guy empire, among others), all knowing full well that they’re writing a pioneering program—and that it has to be pinche funny, or no one will care.

Is the show going to offend people? Of course—that’s what comedy does. But with Lalo and I on board, we’re going to do our damndest to make sure that when Bordertown offends, it’s for a reason—just like we’ve done during our respective careers. Already, our suggestions are being appreciated and being worked into the show; already, Lalo is writing a script and suggesting art and music.

We know that un chingo of people have high expectations for this show, especially given Hollywood’s horrific history with raza — hell, we’re two of those people. Bordertown marks a coming-of-age-in-Hollywood moment for Latinos, especially for immigrants, Mexican-Americans and Chicanos, (and Zacatecan-Americans) because of the casting, the themes and the writing behind this groundbreaking show.

And like Lalo says, it’s time for Raza to put on their big boy and big girl chonies and prepare to experience some of the best, outrageous satire that only cartoons can deliver!

See ustedes in November, and tell your 386 cousins to set their DVRs NOW!




Will S January 8, 2014 at 1:49 PM

Looking forward to this show. Make us proud.

Danny January 8, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Sounds like it’ll be a good show – planning to go to Comic Con to promote it?

Mike Sandoval January 9, 2014 at 6:48 AM

how can i get a spot as a voice actor for this (car-tune) como dice me madre!

Maritza Flores January 9, 2014 at 3:40 PM

Best thing I read. If this is good then for sure Boardertown should be awesome..Love it.

Rosemary rosa Apodaca January 16, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Wow being from San Diego. Logan, shelltown. I think this great. Lalo this will be one more of your fabulous adventures. Keep us in San Juan Bautista posted.
Rosa la Mas. De San juan

Don't speak for the rest of us Mexicans. March 15, 2014 at 2:01 PM

You’re complaining about Mexican’s being typecast as CHOLOS and self-assigned pocho-king Lalo there is wearing a T-Shirt that has CHOLO/Gang Banger/Low Rider imagery?

Come the fuck on.

Lalo Alcaraz March 15, 2014 at 7:46 PM

It’s a Dia de Los Muertos tshirt, anonymous dumbass! LMAOOOOO

Don't speak for the rest of us, Mexicans. March 18, 2014 at 4:59 PM

Pocho – That’s a SKULL LOWRIDER T-SHIRT no te agas…

It’s the Lowrider Magazine LOGO (you know, the kind of visuals that influence “Hollywood” into typecasting Mexicans as ‘Cholos’) BUT instead of sunglasses and the cholo mustache, it’s a skull graphic with the classic vato hat.

Don’t front hypocrite. We all know that whole DDLM Chicano artsy fartsy bee-essery imagery. Please.

lalo alcaraz March 19, 2014 at 7:07 AM

Lowriders are not cholos, you dumb ass stereotyping idiot. Also, no self respecting cholo would wear that shirt, LOL. Have you ever met any cholos, or Chicanos for that matter? I have no idea if you have, or who you are, since you are such a cowardly hater you can’t back up your posts because you won’t put your name on them. HATER!

Don't speak for the rest of us, Mexicans. March 19, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Cholos, cholas, vatos y vatas, are gang bangers and a sub-culture of Chicanos, with the lines very blurred as to what is what. Cholos, again, AKA – Chicano Street gangs are the ones that started the LOWRIDER their tradition of lowriding.

I grew up around them, I know.

Hater? Gang bangers are haters. And the word ‘hater’? Seriously, act your age homie. Oh but wait, you draw cartoons…

Lalo Alcaraz March 19, 2014 at 2:41 PM

We got it, you hate cholos and you hate me, and that’s that. Gotta get back to drawing cartoons, and writing them for tv, bye bye, anonymous crybaby!

Don't speak for the rest of us, Mexicans. March 19, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Not so fast.

Did I say anything hateful? Where? You accused me like a child in a schoolyard that I was a “hater”.

So, is that in fact a Lowrider style Skull graphic t-shirt? And… do you confirm it’s not a “dia del los muertos” graphic as you stated?

And do you also acknowledge that ‘cholos’ are also known as gang bangers? Yes or no?

Simple questions TV cartoon drawer. Simple.

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