Latina laughter: Four female stand-up comedians who are taking the American stage by storm

A wave of women artists is breaking down the walls of political correctness and performing at sold-out venues across the country

Joana Hausmann, Sofía Niño de Rivera, Melissa Villaseñor, Cristela Alonzo
Joanna Hausmann, Sofía Niño de Rivera, Melissa Villaseñor and Cristela Alonzo.Getty Images
Ana Vidal Egea

Latina comedians have a lot to say, they know how to do it, and they know how to reach U.S. audiences with increasing force. Irony has become their best ally: when you denounce things with humor, people are more receptive to the message. These comedians are talking about just about any issue with self-confidence and without restraint, and the freshness of the topics they address, beyond what is politically correct, have made them gain popularity. This is something that the major platforms have been quick to notice, and they have dedicated special programs to them. Some of the names that stand out are Joanna Hausmann, Melissa Villaseñor, Sofía Niño de Rivera and Cristela Alonzo. But how have these women captivated the American public with their jokes?

Joanna Hausmann

The Venezuelan-American artist Joanna Hausmann, 35, began to find success thanks to both the internet and a strong connection to her identity as a Jewish Venezuelan who speaks English and Spanish and lives in the United States. When she started uploading videos to YouTube making fun of her identity crisis, she understood that the situation she was experiencing sounded familiar to many other people. That is how her career began to grow. A video she made called 5 Misconceptions About Latinos went viral, receiving 1.7 million views. “The internet has changed everything,” Haussman says over the phone while she gets her makeup done before a show. “Anyone can become a creator, producer, editor and get up on a stage without needing anyone’s approval.”

Hausmann went from working as an assistant on Univision’s bilingual digital platform, Flama, to becoming one of its main stars with her own digital series: Joanna Rants. When she announced in her last episode that she was leaving, more than 2,700 people lamented her decision in the comments. Many predicted that Flama would die without her. And, certainly, that was the case. Now Hausmann lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is the main screenwriter of Hamster and Gretel, the first Disney series starring for the first time a Venezuelan-American couple. At the same time, she co-directs with fellow comedian Jenny Lorenzo Hyphenated, a hilarious podcast in English about the experience of being a Latina immigrant in the United States.

Melissa Villaseñor

Born in California to Mexican parents, this 36-year-old comedian has become the first Latina to be part of the main cast of the legendary Saturday Night Live, the best-known comedy show in the United States and one of the most powerful catapults to fame for any self-respecting comedian. She was part of the leading team for six seasons, from 2018 to 2022. Known for being one of the best imitators in the world, she was a semi-finalist on the program America’s Got Talent in 2011, imitating the comedian Sarah Silverman. But she can also impersonate Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga.

Villaseñor does not lack talent: she is also an actress, illustrator and singer. One can keep track of her work by listening to her podcast Laughing with myself or reading the book she published in 2022, Whoops. . . I’m Awesome. And although her sketches are always performed in English, on February 1 of this year she laughed at herself for not having practiced her Spanish and not being able to communicate with her grandmother. Something that she seems to be working on.

Sofia Niño de Rivera

Sofía Niño de Rivera, a 42-year-old comedian born in Mexico, is causing a sensation inside and outside her country: 2.4 million people follow her on TikTok; on Instagram, it’s 1.5 million. Her recent shows in Chicago and New York were sold out, and she is on a successful tour through Latin America.

The public adores her. She was the first Mexican woman to have a comedy special in Spanish on Netflix, and in 2022 Amazon Prime published an intimate documentary called Lo volvería a hacer (I would do it again) where she reflects on her rise to fame, as well as other issues ranging from death, marriage, motherhood or life in Mexico. Her public speaking goes beyond mere entertainment; her social media accounts and performances urge her followers to get involved in political life, for example, by voting.

Cristela Alonzo

At the moment, Cristela Alonzo, born in Texas 45 years ago to Mexican parents, has already made history twice. The first time for having been the first Latina to write, produce and star in her own sitcom in the United States, Cristela, which premiered on ABC in 2014, reaching 22 episodes. And the second, by becoming the first Latina to voice one of the main characters of an animated film from the giant Pixar. She did it in Cars 3, which premiered in 2017, where she played Cruz Ramírez (the yellow car, in honor of Colombia).

Her life, however, has not been easy. She grew up in extreme poverty, sleeping in abandoned places with her family, who could not pay for her education. The loss of her mother, who died when she was 22 and to whom she was very close, was what prompted her to take up stand-up comedy. Like many other people, humor helped her face the pain and cope with reality. The surprise was that, since then, her success has been unstoppable.

Now, in addition to a podcast called To be continued, which began in 2016, two specials on Netflix (Middle classy) and a very tight agenda of performances around the United States (Upper classy, which will take her all over the country until November), she has an online store. “I made TV history, no big deal,” she jokes on her Instagram account, with more than half a million followers.

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