Stand-Up Comics

Houston Comedy Venue Creates Show With a Latinx Vibe

Twice a month, The Secret Group's Tuesday nights are aimed at entertaining Latinos.

By Kevin Cruz November 30, 2021

Jessi Saldaña has been doing stand-up comedy in Houston for the past five years. He hosts a show featuring mostly Latino comics at The Secret Group in East Downtown.

Tuesday Gigante is a play on the popular variety TV show that Hispanic households tuned into on Saturday nights. But, this Houston comedy show replaces the iconic Don Francisco with the comedy wits of Jessi Saldaña,  a local stand-up comic.

Saldaña is the face, and host, of the bi-weekly comedy show at The Secret Group that's dedicating stage time to Houston’s Hispanic comics.  While the night of comedy is in English, open to anyone, and can feature comics from any background, it's a very Latino affair. 

On one recent night there was Huapangos dance music playing. It was a little detail that set the mood for what was to come. The show included a diverse perspective of comics from Latinx backgrounds: There was a Salvadoran performer, a “comedy mom”, deadpan humor, Hispanics who don’t speak Spanish, out-of-town comics from Atlanta, Laredo and San Antonio.

The show even included two non-Hispanic comics, one white and one black, the equivalent of bringing a friend to a family backyard party. The comedy night offers a true representation of Houston diversity.

Saldaña spoke more with Houstonia about Tuesday Gigante (pronounced hee-gan-tay), comedy in Houston, and his Latinx roots.

 So, how does something like Tuesday Gigante event get started? 

What happened, the venue came up with this.  They came up with the idea to do an all Hispanic comedy show. They put a bunch of us in a group chat and said, ‘What do y’all think about this?’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah, sounds great.’

We came up with the name in the group chat. And I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I came up with the show, because I didn’t. It was a group effort.

What I did do is I volunteered to host it. I told the venue let me run this show here cause I know I could do it right. I think I put up every Hispanic comic that I know in the city. I got guys from out of town coming and women. So you know, everybody gets a shot. I’m not going to sit here and tell you everyone is funny because that’s not true.

Performers at a recent Tuesday Gigante,  from left to right: Sherrie Wright, Enrique Chacón, Joe Esquivel, George Brito, Angel Contreras (Atlanta), Andrew Youngblood, Juan Perez (San Antonio), Jessi Saldaña, Aaron Suarez (Austin by way of Laredo), Jeff Joe.

Image: Kevin Cruz

I love running this show. I’m proud of it. I love hosting it. It’s really helped me build actual fans that want to come and see me. The Secret Group came up with this show and I love them for it. There’s a huge market in Houston. There’s so many Latinos here and you know, they want to be entertained too.

What’s the reception been like from Houston for your kind of comedy?

I really feel like the city is embracing, even though I’m not originally from here. I started stand up here, so I’m a Houston comic through and through. 

When I started doing stand up other comics would be like, ‘man you’re Mexican for real’, and I’m like no, I’m Mexican-American bro. I know real Mexicans, they think I’m a gringo. You know what I mean?

You remember Selena, the movie, "You gotta watch Christina and Oprah, frijoles and whatever".  But, you can’t make everybody happy. I ain’t trying to make everybody happy, that’s one thing I thought when I first started stand up. Like I want to do stand up for everybody. But now, I’ve been doing this for 5 years, and I’m like man I’m gonna do the material that I want to do and if people like it they’ll come see and if they don’t like it, they wont.

I don’t need to to worry about making everyone happy. I wish I could tell you I’m doing this for all Latinos, but man I’m gonna be myself. You see me right now, I’m wearing a cowboy hat and a shirt with tigers on it. I mean I don’t usually wear this kind of  shirt, but I do go to bailes and dress like this, kind of. That’s the kind of Mexican stuff I like.

 There’s a big opportunity to entertain Latinos in Houston and we’re trying to provide that for them.

Can you talk about your personal approach to doing  these Latino comedy shows?

Whenever I think about comedy my main focus is it needs to be funny. I don’t really care about how the show needs to be this certain amount of diverse, I need my show to be funny. And I will give everybody a chance; but if you don’t got it, you don’t got it. Go back to the open mics and work it out.

I was doing open mics every single night for a year, and working 5 to 5. I just fell in love with it and that’s why I got good at this. And I barely got good. I thought I was good before, but now that I’ve been doing it for 5 years. I’m barely getting to the beginning of being a good comic.

What's your goal with all of this, and your comedy career?

 I want to do stand up as my main thing. I never really thought about writing or being on TV or nothing like that. I love stand up. I still got my day job you know, cause this stuff don’t pay. These shows don’t pay well. The main goal is to tour the country doing stand up. My goal here in Houston is to really build a fan base.

You can catch Tuesday Gigante, hosted by Jessi Saldaña, every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

The next show is Dec. 14, at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St, doors at 7 p.m.; price is pay what you can. For more information and tickets go here, or call 832-898-1088. 

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