'Alternatino' Review: Comedy Central's New Sketch Comedy Series Is Like 'Key & Peele' For The Age Of Trump

You might know Arturo Castro from Broad City and Narcos. Now he's at the center of his own comedy sketch show on Comedy Central called Alternatino and it hasĀ Key & Peele vibes. Interlaced with sketches is a fictionalized Arturo dealing with his unlucky social life and acting career as a Latino man in New York City. The humor does not shy away from the complexities of identity in a shifting society. Its first episode "The Date," which can be viewed on YouTube, opens with an enlightened boy who schools his heteronormative father on avoiding gender binary talk.The central arcs of Alternatino peel away the everyday absurdities of how society responds to Latino identity or just how to navigate social life. For example, in episode two, titled "Pivot", Arturo tries to "pivot" the conversations away from South American culture. He also confronts moral dilemmas like approaching a racist white stage veteran for acting advice, dating a pro-border wall conservative woman who owns Liberal Tears mugs, or playing a superhero woven from offensive Latino stereotypes.Crafted from Castro's Guatemalan perspective, many of the sketches critique the political climate fraught with concentration camps for immigrants and asylum seekers and "build the wall" mantras from the Trump administration. He and his writing team poke and prod on the consumption and depiction of Latino culture, as marco as a news channel minimizing a hurricane's decimation of the Dominican Republic and as micro as white women fetishizing Latino men.

One sketch integrates archival footage of Donald Trump tossing paper towels to Puerto Rican locals in the wake of Hurricane Maria. A "Best Day of my Life" dance sequence ensues when a local catches a towel and uses it to solve all the debris and other socioeconomic destruction. Another involves a Latino gang that intimidates a rival gang with their West Side Story dance moves, which leads to a great visual shock when you find they are facing off khaki-clad white-collared Proud Boys with torches.Like any sketch show, Castro works with an expansive performative playground: from impersonating Pitbull, undergoing a breakdown when a stranger calling him a "worldwide douche" dents his ego; a sitcom papa in a "vaguely Hispanic show that exists to make white people feel less racist"; or a passive-aggressive Latin singer who fools his audience of white women to sing lyrics that translate to "I'm sorry for cultural appropriation." Many sketches embrace the simple goofiness outside the subject of cultural identity, such as him playing an action star who does his own sound effects with his mouth, a father staging a lame gender reveal party, or a laid-back DJ who marries a girlfriend he doesn't even want a serious relationship with.All around personable in his performance, Castro seems more comfortable in sketch-land than the plotlines. His comedic performance never disappoints, ranging from good to great. The least effective sketches simply drag on. The "miss" sketches include him in drag as a drunk bridesmaid. Even the punch-up intents of cringier sketches may stumble since the current events visuals prove hard to stomach, in particular when Castro plays a white-faced ICE agent "upgrading" conditions for caged migrant children, snatched by their parents, by free-ranging them as an organic farmer would.Outside of the sketch world, while its central episode arcs don't hit as hard or varied as Master of None, which also explores how non-white cultural identity is also navigated through business and society, it shows a lot of promise. The finale, where Arturo is mistaken as a DACA Dreamer, does whimper a bit. But there are more hits than misses to savor in Alternatino. It's just a plus that it's required viewing for the Trump era.

Other sketch highlights:

- Castro as the fruit-fedoraed estranged husband of a fictionalized Carmen Miranda, an actress famous for her fruit headdress, in an outlandish noir.- Game of Thrones-esque warriors crossing swords and attempting to map out the confusing archives of family houses and their history.- 50 Shades of Grey (with annoyingly squeaky tiny little kisses).- An AI servant android programmed with low self-esteem.- A drug deal translation switcheroo that escalates into a standoff.- Castro masquerading as a stereotypical criminal with a machete who wants to recruit undocumented immigrants to break into America and commit crimes like voter fraud. Naturally, they don't fall for it./Film Rating: 8 out of 10