Comic Steve Treviño Sounds The Alarms About Latino Underrepresentation In “Racist Hollywood”

One ring to rule them all for married man Steve Trevino
One ring to rule them all for married man Steve Trevino Photo by Terry Stewart

Texas-native Steve Treviño was in Houston not so long ago, back in 2020. But obviously, it's been one hell of a long year – especially since the pandemic hardly kept the comic at home for very long.

“I feel like life is in fast forward, if I’m being honest with you,” he says in his straight-shooting manner. “It seems like everybody is doing everything to the max now. Halloween came around and everybody was having a party and everyone was decorating. I have just been working every single week to make up for lost time.

"Before the pandemic, I would take a week here, and a week there, hang out with the family. But lately, it is literally been life in fast forward. I think it was a valuable lesson for people to realize, hey, you can sit at home every day and do nothing, or you can wake up every day and enjoy life. I’ve always enjoyed life to the fullest, and I think people are starting to realize that. But I told the wife that next year, I’m gonna go back to taking the weeks off that I need, and really take time for my family and regroup.”

But with seven big shows to fill the house at Houston Improv from December 30 through January 2, clearly the married funnyman is pushing that cool-down period deeper into 2022.

Among the highlights professionally for Trevino was the opportunity to open for rapper Pitbull for a captive audience of over 20,000 fans. “I’m lucky that my management also manages Pitbull,” he notes. “Pitbull and I very much see the world in a very similar way when it comes to Latinos. Pitbull and I both upset at the fact that Latinos do not help each other out in the entertainment business. We’re upset the way are portrayed in TV and movies, we’re upset the way we are portrayed in commercials. The black and the white community are both very big on rappers with their comedians and comedians with their rappers, or musicians with comedian. As Latinos, we don’t really have that. So I feel like Pitbull and I literally made history.”

Diving deeper on the subject of Latino media representation, Trevino speaks passionately and doesn’t hold back. “We are not represented at all,” he states clearly. ”When we are, we are portraying drug dealers, murders, rapists, the wait staff, the servants. It has to change, and Hollywood needs to understand we are just as American, if not more so than the other people. We love this country. We chose to come to this country. You know, my dad was a Vietnam vet, hard-working man and my mom, a hard-working woman.

"I didn’t grow up on welfare, I didn’t grow up poor, I didn’t grow up in the ghetto, if you will. And they need to realize there’s a lot of Mexican Americans out there and Latinos in general, we want to be treated equally. Why do we always have to have an accent? Every single comedian that has ever been on HBO all has the same things in common: they are all from the LA area, they are all from immigrant parents and they all grew up on welfare. The only representation on a huge level that we have is the same narrative. It is very clear that Hollywood is racist.”

Trevino recalls a situation of being bumped from the print-version of an outlet because it was clear the-powers-that-be weren’t sure what his comedy would be before meeting him. “It was mind blowing when the [interviewer] came up to me and said: ‘You know, I watched your special, and I was expecting George Lopez-type humor, and you are different.’

"It's sad to me he was already thinking that. I don’t do what George does, and George is amazing. We need George Lopez. He made history. But nothing has followed? I tell people all the time, George Lopez’s fans. But George Lopez was big in the '90s! That means that his fans kids are 30, and you’re trying to sell the same humor? When does it evolve? When does it change? That’s what I do. I go out there and get on stage, I get on stage and I do my comedy the way I do it. Very Latino proud, but being Latino is not my punch line.”

Compounding the issue for the performer is the seeming lack of interest from the major streamers in producing his specials. “Every special I have ever done has been self producer, again, because Hollywood has never given me the opportunity. So I took it upon myself to say look, I know that what I do people want to see it. Hollywood didn’t think people wanted to hear what I had to say, but I knew they did because of the tickets I was selling.

"So we just started to produce our own stuff, and realizing that I don’t need to ask permission or have people tell me they want to air it.  I just do it. And through social media, we’re blowing up on TikTok and Instagram. My Facebook is at 1.3 million followers. We’re doing our own thing. I’m definitely creating the proof that they need, but when you get these guys who have less accolades than me, they have less social media followers than me and that they are getting these huge deals at Netflix and Amazon Prime and the networks. Wait a minute, what is happening? I have literally a billion social media views (with a B!), and this guy over here sells nowhere near the tickets I can sell, and he’s getting huge deals.

"They’re not Latinos – they’re Indian, they’re black, they’re white. Again, Latinos are pushed to the side. It is not equal and its not fair, but I will say, the Latino people, much like myself, we are not complainers. I hope people don’t read this and think that I’m complaining – I’m not. We are a people who get up everyday and earn everything we have. That’s what I do. I wake up every day and I earn it.”

Laying our his roadmap for being the change he wants to see in the industry, Trevino describes what he’s working for the not only himself, but the next comic like him. “I’m doing the best I can which is I share with the world my family,” he explains. “I show the world that here is this Mexican-American family who lives in a very nice home, who do not have accents, and I try to represent us in a way through my stand-up, and my podcast and all the things I do on social media, that is different than the narrative. I mean, I’m a dad now and I’m very concerned that its 2021 and there is not a family on TV that looks like us.

"Lupe Ontiveros is a perfect example, she has since passed, but I want to say she played a maid 80 times! She was never invited – she was the woman who played Yolanda Saldivar in Selena. She never played somebody without an accent. She never played a judge, a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer, a teacher – she only played Yolanda and the maid. So who are my kids going to look at when they watch media?”

“So it is important to sell out this show: to make some noise. So that we support, so that we go: we believe that Steve Trevino represents us... because when is Hollywood going to start to realize that what I’m doing is working? I love it when Latinos come up to me after the show and say: Thank you for not making fun of us.’ And I want to make it clear, I’m not mad at these comics on HBO, and they are certainly a part of the Latino experience in America — but that’s not the only representations. That would be like only having four Katt Williams representing the Black community. You need a Kevin Hart, you need a Chris Rock, you need a Dave Chappelle, you need a Richard Pryor, you need a Mike Epps, the list goes on and on.”

“I also think these executives live in their little bubble, right? They live in Beverly Hills or the ritzy parts of Hollywood, and the only Latinos they encounter are the ones that serve them. Every meeting I’ve ever taken with the executives, there’s never a Latina or Latino executive. There’s never Latinos in the room that are higher up on the food chain. I grew up in Texas, man. In Texas, Mexican-Americans are everything! You go to LA and we’re all just immigrants. What happened?”

Attempting to predict potential criticism from speaking so candidly, Trevino tries to clarify the important nature between valid criticism and simply whining. “Look, I said it on a podcast with my friend Bert Kreisher and it is unbelievable how I got attacked,” the comic explains. “People were like, ‘Oh my God, dude – stop complaining! Maybe Latinos just need to be better. And oh my God, here we go with the race card again!’

"I’m like no-no-no-no-no! This is not the race card. The black community is over represented, and them continuing to push is not fair. That is at this point, you guys are over-represented. Population wise to how much you guys are on screen is way, way huge. We are literally 20 percent of this country and we make something like .01 percent on screen. This is not complaining, these are facts. Please, look them up.”

As Hollywood reckons with its own history of bias, with luck, Trevino won’t continue to feel on the outside looking in.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. on Thursday, December 30, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday, December 31, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 1 and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 2 at Improv Comedy Club Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway, Suite 455. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $60-360
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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee