Episode 510: Frankie Quiñones, Sandra Newman, Steve Almond

Air Date:
Heard On BETA
(L to R) Junior (Kayden Franco), Luis (Frankie Quiñones), Julio (Chris Estrado) in scene from "Putazos" episode of "This Fool"
(C) Gilles Mingasson/Hulu

Comedian Frankie Quiñones talks about his hilarious comedy series, ‘This Fool.’ Also, novelist Sandra Newman, author of ‘The Men,’ takes us inside a world in which all males have suddenly disappeared. And writer Steve Almond shares his BETA thought experiment of a Marxist Football League.

Featured in this Show

  • Comedian Frankie Quiñones is always a character

    When he was growing up, comedian Frankie Quiñones noticed his parents watched a lot of stand-up comedy. Whether it was George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Paul Rodriguez, Eddie Murphy or Louie Anderson, the Quiñones family watched religiously.

    “They always had stand-up on in the house, even when I was a kid,” Quiñones tells Wisconsin Public Radio’s BETA. “They would just tell me to cover my ears in the bad parts.”

    Frankie was inspired by how powerful the humor could be and how it could get his parents through some tough times in their life. He decided that when there weren’t comedy specials on TV, he’d supply them.

    “I found a sprinkler head in my dad’s truck, and I just pretended it was a microphone and I started performing for my family in the living room,” recalls Quiñones.

    “I just kind of never stopped. I got in a lot of trouble messing around in the classroom, but I was just always trying to do something to make people laugh.”

    Frankie didn’t just stop at his dad’s tools. He’d often raid his parents’ closet for props as well. He’d create outlandish characters that were rooted in his Latino upbringing.

    “Whatever I could find. My dad’s clothes. My mom’s clothes. I got some of my sister’s stuff. Anything I could find around the house to just get into some kind of character and just try to put on a show,” Quiñones says.

    Eventually, Frankie’s stage would stretch beyond his living room. His character Juanita Carmelita, a play off his mom’s spiciness and humor, became a popular character and sketch video series on YouTube.

    But it was his character of the cholo, Creeper – based off his “old school” father’s style – that would go viral.

    “Creeper is an extension of my father,” says Quiñones. “He just always represented that style, that culture. Like always had his Dickies creased, his white T tucked in. And always drove a lowrider, but always there for me. Always driving me to little league practice and one of the most positive people that I know.”

    The “Cholofit” sketch video surpassed 4 million views on YouTube and put Frankie on the map.

    “When the Cholofit video went viral, I was like, ‘Oh, man, people are drawn to his physicality and stuff like that.’ So, I started watching a lot of old Buster Keaton videos. Three Stooges. Benny Hill. All those legendary old school physical comedians. Even Mr. Bean,” says Quiñones.

    “Physical comedy is universal and so there was a bunch of people around the world just drawn to it. So, I was inspired by that.”

    Now Frankie’s playing a new character, Luis, for the Hulu comedy series, “This Fool” created by his friend and fellow comedian Chris Estrada.

    Luis – who Quiñones describes as both “likable and dumb” – is a parolee living with his cousin, Julio (Estrada), and his Tia. The show mines Luis’ Austin Powers-like complications with a world that passed him by while he was in prison. Once again, Frankie was able to draw on his own family’s experiences to help flesh out the character.

    “I’ve had cousins in and out of prison as we were growing up and so I kind of drew from them,” says Quiñones. “Fortunately, a lot of them got their act together and they’re all about their family now.”

    “I had to draw from this the side where Luis could be kind of a little bit intimidating sometimes, or just maybe like a loose cannon, like, ‘Oh, what is he going to do?’ Like a Joe Pesci kind of vibe to him.”

    “This Fool” finds another vein of comedy in the Odd Couple back and forth between Luis and Julio, who is a counselor for a rehabilitation program called Hugs not Thugs.

    Julio’s efforts to mentor his cousin and other ex-convicts are tripped up by his co-dependent relationship with his on again, off again girlfriend, Maggie (played by Michelle Ortiz) and Luis’ antics.

    “(Julio) likes to help everybody else, but he obviously can’t help himself,” Quiñones explains, suggesting that in real life the two share a similar dynamic.

    “Our relationship is like that. Chris and I toured for almost four years together where he would be opening for me, and we were always together,” Quiñones says. “I think that a lot of that chemistry translates on camera. A bunch of our costars always comment on that. They’re like, ‘Man, they’re almost the same off camera because we’re constantly talking smack to each other.’”

    The show also centers the working-class Latino community of South Central Los Angeles. Frankie takes a lot of pride in the fact that “This Fool” is telling their story and experiences and spent a lot of time to capture that vibe correctly but doesn’t feel the need to hit you over the head with themes or messages.

    “Even if you’re from a different background, when something is that authentic, you’re still drawn to it like, ‘Oh man, these are real people.’ And so, once you get them in there, the funny stuff just comes up pretty organically,” he says.

    And to Quiñones, who knows firsthand the comfort of laughter, the funny is all that matters. Or as Luis puts it, “Laughter is the best Tylenol.”

    “We just wanted to make something funny, you know, like just give people a chance at something easy to watch,” he says. “We weren’t trying to be like, ‘We’re the voice of all Latinos,’ you know what I mean? We were just like sharing our story, being real and authentic and just being funny. Like, that was the main goal. Just make it funny, man.”

    “This Fool” is streaming on Hulu.

  • How would the world change if all people with a Y chromosome suddenly vanished?

    An orange book cover with black text that says

    It starts in the mountains of Northern California in late August. Jane Pearson is camping with her husband and their 5-year-old son.

    As Jane relaxes in a hammock, it happens. Her husband and son disappear. And they’re not the only ones. Every person with a Y chromosome in the whole wide world also vanishes.

    After the Disappearance of the men, Jane finds herself in a new world in which women rebuild society.

    That’s the premise behind Sandra Newman’s mind-bending, propulsive novel, “The Men.

    “This book was partly inspired by my reading of other such books, which often is where books come from,” Newman told Wisconsin Public Radio’s “BETA.”

    She singled out Joanna Russ’s 1975 novel, “The Female Man,” calling it “a landmark work of feminist science fiction.” She explained that the plot involves men disappearing and women taking on the task of forming a new society over several hundred years.

    “It’s sort of a feminist cliché of second wave feminism,” she said.

    “The Men” follows protagonist Jane as she desperately searches for her missing husband and son, but to no avail. Eventually, it is revealed that all the males have vanished.

    Newman describes what happens when the enormity of what has happened sinks in.

    “It’s a mass grief. The entire world turns into the kind of atmosphere that you get in like a big family when there’s been a bereavement and everybody is desperately upset, but everyone is also sort of bonding around, feeling the same thing around the distress that they have and the struggle to put things back together and continue to live. It’s a strange sort of mix of a new feeling of community with a feeling of mass loss and desperation and confusion.”

    Newman considers “The Men” to be both utopian and dystopian.

    She said that all utopias, even the ones that are intended to be great, try to convince the reader that this is the way the world should be. But they’re often more creepy and terrifying, she said, citing Thomas More’s “Utopia” published in English in 1551 as an example.

    Newman says that the world she has created in “The Men” isn’t like these other worlds that start to feel fascist.

    “You become increasingly aware that there is this weight of all of the people who are sacrificed in order to bring about this world. And they haven’t disappeared. They haunt the world. They’re part of the world that’s been created.”

    Does “The Men” follow the idea that the world would be better off without men? Newman doesn’t say for sure, but she does say that society would probably be different.

    “People without a Y chromosome have been socialized so differently that it would inevitably be a different society. That kind of social conditioning just wouldn’t just disappear that quickly.”

    “The Men” has not been without controversy. Some readers have called the book transphobic because all people with a Y chromosome, including transgender women, disappear. This implies that gender is strictly biological.

    Newman feels she did her best to represent the trans community fairly: “I tried to treat trans people with generosity. But it’s hard to address that particular problem.”

    She said that there’s something interesting about writing a lot about women’s relationships in the absence of men, how women interact with each other, what the norms are for that, and what possibilities exist for that without men.

    “I have never found that the person whistling in public was a woman,” Newman said. “So I think that’s that’s one thing that I really noticed is that women are sort of socialized or taught somehow not to draw attention to themselves in public by making a noise. And I think that really kind of stuck with me and made me think about what it’s like to be in a female body in public and how drawing attention to yourself is a bad thing. It’s sort of like giving an opening to some kind of attack potentially.”

  • Will it be the Green Bay Lumpenbourgeoisie versus the Pittsburgh Proletariats in Super Bowl LVII?

    Who do you think will win the Super Bowl this season? Could it be our hometown heroes, The Green Bay Lumpenbourgeoisie? Or maybe the Kansas City Commodity Fetishism? How about the Pittsburgh Proletariats?

    Well, if writer Steve Almond‘s proposal for the Marxist Football League becomes a reality, it’s a definite possibility. Almond is the author of many books, including “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” One of the highlights of the book is a thought experiment that could totally change pro football for the better.

    “This comes through the writer Chuck Klosterman, who writes a lot about sports,” Almond told WPR’s “BETA.” “And I love his writing. He’s brilliant, but he has this quote in one of his books. He says, ‘The reason the NFL is so dominant is because the NFL is basically Marxist.‘”

    Klosterman was referencing the idea that the NFL owners agreed to divvy up their TV proceeds equally to support the whole league. He called it Marxism as exaggeration for effect.

    “But when he said that, when I read that, I thought, ‘Huh. What would it be like if the NFL, which is to me, kind of capitalism on steroids. What if it was truly Marxist? What if, in fact, the NFL were a completely Marxist organization? What would that mean?’” he said.

    Almond explained that in a Marxist football league, there would be no private ownership and therefore no team owners. Instead, the teams would be owned by the cities that they live in.

    “And they would belong to the state, meaning the government employees would therefore be paid according to this Marxist edict, which we all know — ‘from each according to his ability to each according to his or her need.‘”

    Instead of an MVP like Aaron Rogers being paid $50 million a year, Almond explained, he’d be paid based on need. If he had a couple of kids, he might pull in $100,000 a year.

    And the worker who washes his jockstrap or the custodian who mops the floors of the locker room might be paid just as much as Aaron Rodgers, maybe even more if he has greater needs,” Almond said. “That is quite remarkable to think about.

    Star athletes could still earn large sums of money from endorsement deals from the private industry, but it’d be up to the league to decide if those payments were in line with its Marxist ethics and tenets.

    “You would not have Commissioner (Roger) Goodell earning 60 some odd million dollars a year,” he said. “That just would not exist.”

    The argument could be made about whether Rodgers would be interested in playing football if he wasn’t earning $50 million a year, Almond said. But he added that the fame and adulation that comes from being a professional athlete, and the player’s love for the sport, could be enough.

    “I think that would be enough of an incentive for me to at least consider playing professional football knowing that, OK, I’m not necessarily going to earn billions of dollars. But remember, we’re in a Marxist world. Nobody’s earning billions of dollars,” he said.

    BETA being BETA, we could not resist taking Almond’s thought experiment one step further and imagining a Marxist version of NFL Films. We’d probably call it MFL Films, and it would undoubtedly feature a lot of agitprop.

    “You’re right, the NFL Films are sort of the propaganda wing of the NFL,” he said. “And it’s big on valorizing masculine combat and the toughness and emphasizing sort of in a way that good propaganda does.”

    So what does Almond think MFL Films would look and sound like?

    It would be replete with dramatic music, and there would be a “tough linebacker making the big hit and the dramatic flow of a particular game.”

    Almond envisions the end of the clip saying that this season the NFL has generated something like $13.75 billion.

    “And then you would have a beautiful montage of all the things that $13.75 billion could do for the cities where NFL teams exist — cities like Green Bay or Cleveland or Baltimore.”

    “There’s a tremendous amount that that kind of money could do to improve schools and create economic opportunity and care for the sick and really comfort the afflicted,” Almond said. “And if MFL Films wants to throw in their lot for being a humanitarian organization and publicizing the way in which your fandom of football is helping your community, I am all in on that propaganda film.”

Episode Credits

  • Doug Gordon Host
  • Adam Friedrich Producer
  • Steve Gotcher Producer
  • Steve Gotcher Technical Director
  • Tyler Ditter Technical Director
  • Frankie Quiñones Guest
  • Sandra Newman Guest
  • Steve Almond Guest

Related Stories