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The Avocado Is Teaming Up With L.A. Taco to Laugh at the Stuff that Makes Us Want to Scream

10:25 AM PDT on May 15, 2020

    [dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen I first met Nick Ducassi, he was smoking a fat cigar. He was also wearing sunglasses and a straw hat and what appeared to be cruise wear. It was winter and we were standing in an apartment in Hollywood.  But his energy sold the hell out of the 'fit. Also, Ducassi is a first-generation Cuban-American and this party we were at had big Little Havana vibes.

    Ducassi was funny. Too funny to be contained in any one conversation.

    In just a few hours, in between joke after joke, he told me some of his recent life story, the hilarious history of Fidel Castro's plan to give every Cuban a miniature cow, and about his L.A. specific satire news site The Avocado that he and his equally funny partners run.

    The Avocado blends real news bites through an absurd lens. It's a bit like The Onion but with a distinctly L.A. voice and a mission to get news to people through satire. It was created by L.A. native Justin Winston Ono Wales who lived in Miami for a few years.

    In Miami, Ono Wales was a community activist and created a local satirical website called The Plantain as a way to comment on local and state issues. When he moved back to Los Angeles, he partnered with Ducassi and "1st gen Mexitalian" actor Adriana DeGirolami to help him get The Avocado off the ground.

    They have made a name for themselves in a short period of time with pieces like "L.A. Cops Must Now Wear Masks Following Boyle Heights Beating " and "LA Auto Show Just A Bunch Of Dudes Showing Off Their Teslas" and "New Metro Stop To Open Right After You Get Priced Out Of Neighborhood."

    This month, in the midst of the pandemic, L.A. Taco asked The Avocado if they would be interested in presenting an L.A. centric sketch show on IGTV. Thankfully for us all, they said yes. Their Latinx-led show is topical, wild, and funny as a MF!

    Ducassi and DeGirolami are the show's stars but they have contributions from many other talented actors and writers. It's amazing what they've done with nearly zero budget, a world-wide pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders.

    I was thrilled to get a chance to talk to the demented minds behind the "Quarantacos" sketch.

    A screenshot of on May 15, 2020
    A screenshot of on May 15, 2020

    What is The Avocado and what distinguishes it from The Onion and other satires sites? What's at the heart of it that makes it special? 

    The Avocado is a satire outlet that lampoons L.A. and beyond through our website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. Los Angeles provides us plenty of material to do so. But beyond the roast, our larger mission is to provide our audience with actual news about what’s going on in their city through a satirical perspective.

    Our hope is to create content that drives activism and engagement. Most “satire” websites are click-bait. They try to hook you with a headline, don’t care if you read the article, and most don’t really have anything to say. Our articles are (mostly) well-researched pieces of political or community commentary with links to real news sources that we hope encourages our readers to get informed and involved.

    The artwork from an Avocado story called "Is Your New Boyfriend An Adorably Disheveled Hipster Or One Of L.A.’S 60,000 Homeless?" published last November.
    From an Avocado story called "Is Your New Boyfriend An Adorably Disheveled Hipster Or One Of L.A.’S 60,000 Homeless?"

    Does L.A. really need its own specific satirical news site? 

    No. Los Angeles needs affordable housing and to replace its District Attorney Jackie Lacey and to make sure that its people are not deprioritized out of living in one of the best places to find tacos in the country. But it doesn’t have those things yet, and we think the best way to get them is through impactful local journalism and idiots like us who then spread their message to folks who might not necessarily seek out the news every day.

    Satire is much more than comedy, and it’s not fake news. It’s perspective presented through comedy. And Los Angeles “satire” has to be much more than just jokes about Hollywood, because L.A. is more than just Hollywood. As Angelenos, we have opinions about the things that impact our daily lives. We try to write about those things and will continue to do so until L.A. gets everything it really needs.

    What is it about messed up situations that make you want to laugh? 

    They don’t necessarily make us want to laugh, they make us want to scream. But after years of screaming, we found that people pay more attention to the news they need to hear if you get them to laugh about it first.

    Is it easier to satirize L.A. during the pandemic or does the seriousness of the moment dampen the humor too much?

    The hardest thing about comedy right now is writing something that isn’t about Coronavirus. You can only create so much content about being locked down or the government’s response before you feel like you are repeating yourself and aren’t really adding to the discussion. There are so many ridiculous things about L.A. that we deeply miss and can’t wait to be able to make fun of again.

    It's not just satirizing the news, there are original sketches too. There's 'Guac Bottom,' The Avocado sketch show that L.A. TACO is presenting. Can you tell me about how you've been producing those during the pandemic?  

    With a wild imagination, a bootstrap mentality, and liberal use of green screen.

    Producing during the pandemic has presented some challenges to be sure, but we’re lucky in that we have great collaborators who also have smartphones and a lot of time on their hands. Episode two includes an Ashley Madison parody commercial featuring eight different actors. Our friends shot their scenes on their phones individually and we stitched them all together with some clever editing. Creating remotely isn’t the easiest way to work, but it’s forced us to get creative and has led to some pretty cool workarounds.

    One of the best things I've seen was the “Quarantacos!” sketch. Can you tell us how that idea came about? 

    We wanted to launch Guac Bottom with a sketch that highlighted our new partnership with L.A. Taco and poke some fun at the absurdity of what everyone is going through. We also wanted to roast those overly-cheery Buzzfeed recipe videos and address how the pandemic has complicated so many simple things we took for granted - shopping for groceries these days can feel like going to war (to those who have never actually been to war). The video’s meta dimensions, like the shots of his kitchen in absolute chaos, are our way of pulling back the curtain on what it takes to present a polished face to the world and speaks to the effort it takes to craft and maintain that image.

    As we started “Quarantacos!”, it took on a life of its own, and it ended up getting a little darker than we originally envisioned, which feels right for the times. Because no matter much you try to block out the chaos and existential dread, that window of time it takes to heat up your tortilla is the perfect opportunity for the fear and paranoia to flood back into your consciousness.

    Can you see The Avocado having a sketch comedy series on TV or Streaming? Or how do you see this evolving? 

    I mean, we’d absolutely love that. People have compared Guac Bottom to a mini Adult Swim, and we’re all for that. That aesthetic wasn’t necessarily intentional, but a lot of content on Adult Swim does seem to capture the frenetic, frenzied feeling of life these days and how our brains work (in technicolor, glitchy chaos). We have no idea what will come of it all, but we’ll keep cranking things out and see what happens. For now, we’re just grateful people are watching.

    What is your favorite taco? 

    Justin: nopales. Adri: carne asada. Nick: al pastor.

    Erick Galindo writes the Mis Ángeles column for LAist/KPCC. He is a contributing editor to L.A. TACO and has written essays on food and culture for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. Follow him on Twitter here.

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