Review: Chingo Bling 's 'Freedom of Speech' Comedy Tour at Houston Improv

Although the former rapper has been known to support conservative views on social media, his best comedy doesn't rely on politics.

By Chris Vognar November 9, 2021

Local rapper and comedian Chingo Bling's comedy tour recently stopped at the Houston Improv.

Did you hear the one about the Mexican American rapper-turned-comedian who went from ripping Donald Trump to becoming a fount of right-wing talking points?

This is the story of Houston’s Chingo Bling, aka Pedro Herrera III, who touched down in his hometown over the weekend for a three-night stand at Houston Improv.

If you checked Chingo’s Twitter account before hitting his show, you might have expected an evening devoted to jabs at Anthony Fauci, Big Bird, the infrastructure bill, vaccine mandates, and --- you get the point. The thing is none of that is terribly funny.

The closest he came to ideology during his early show Saturday night was a nod to cancel culture (bad!) and the one-size-fits-all notion of “freedom.” Most of his set consisted of well-crafted anecdotes and observational humor, the kind that would offend only the thinnest-skinned audience members. “I’m controversial,” he said as he took the stage, but he really wasn’t.

An early bit focused on the emasculation of receiving the gift of a fanny pack from his wife. From there, he got good mileage out of a trip to Mexico and a conversation with an Uber driver, or, as Chingo called the rideshare south of the border, “Uberto.” It seems Mexicans have their own immigration fears, of Hondurans. “They’re not sending their best,” Chingo recalled his driver saying, a parroting of Trump’s deeply racist 2015 presidential campaign announcement.

Chingo’s takeaway?

“Mexico has wetbacks, too.” The bit was a shrewd exercise in shifting perspective from the comedian who named both a 2007 album, and a  2017 Netflix standup comedy special “The Can’t Deport Us All.”

He spoke warmly of his father, a Mexican immigrant: “I’m glad they consider this a real job, because my dad doesn’t.”

He detailed his dad’s struggle to pass his citizenship test and had some fun with his dad’s quickness to shut the door on others looking to follow his path. “We’re full,” he would say, wasting no time in becoming an America Firster. But Dad, Chingo would remind him, you just passed the test. No matter. “We’re full.”

It’s a potentially cruel sentiment, but Chingo didn’t use it to rail against anyone. Unlike those whose word he spreads on social media, he doesn’t go in for rage. Instead, he tells stories.

One of his best involved his wife, who works with the deaf community and is fluent in American Sign Language. As this story went, one day at Starbucks, a deaf man approached Chingo and handed him a card asking for help paying for basketball uniforms. Ever suspicious, he sent his wife over to see if the guy was really deaf. He really was, and he got along really, really well with Chingo’s wife. Here the hearing person becomes the minority, fuming as he can’t understand what this guy is saying to charm his wife. The story was told with texture, pacing and precise physical comedy, and without cruelty. If anything, Chingo was the butt of the joke, showcasing the comedian’s imperative to put himself (or herself) under the microscope.

Political humor will always have its place, but it will never be as important as empathy, the ability to take a walk in another person’s shoes (or have another person walk in yours). The destination doesn’t have to be particularly profound. It could be the universal energizing effect of Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up,” presented by Chingo as a sort of clarion call in clubland and beyond.

Such routines need no ideological grounding. As it turns out, neither does Chingo Bling, at least not onstage. Why make just one side of the aisle laugh when you can hook everyone?

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