Review: Ghetto Klown

Growing up In Queens, New York, is a one of a kind experience. The thing is, I did not realize how good I had it until I left home and joined the military. Growing up in my neighborhood got me ready for dealing with people from all walks of life, different parts of the world, and to different languages.

During my time serving, it felt if my fellow soldiers weren’t from major metropolises they had never seen anyone of color. Ever. This became even more apparent when we would visit different countries and I watched as many of the people I came with had never heard certain languages or ate certain foods. Much of what we saw during my time serving, I had experienced right there in Queens years before. As the immortal Rakim Allah once said “its not where you from, its where you at.” It calls for the individual to take their experience where they’re from and apply it to where they are going. In John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown, another resident son of Queens sheds light on his journey for all to see.

We meet John through his parents and their struggle as immigrants, working their hands to the bone, trying do better for him. As he grows up, he soon finds out he has a knack for comedy, one that would get him a reputation in the neighborhood and school. Soon he catches the eye of one drama teacher, one that would introduce him to the plays of Arthur Miller and Sam Shepherd. He eventually goes to school for acting and works under the tutelage of the great Lee Strassburg.  As he gained notice, he was cast in his first film Casualties Of War, one that would prove he was good, but h did not find his voice as of yet. It was not until he wrote Mambo Mouth, his first play, which caught the eyes of his heroes, Miller, and Shepherd, but also made Hollywood take another look at him. He books his next movie and one of my personal favorites, Carlito’s Way, one which he has more than a tenuous relationship with Al Pacino. He eventually books another film, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, which he starred alongside the late great Patrick Swayze and the underrated Wesley Snipes, which garnered him a Golden Globes nomination, and gave him enough influence to write Buggin, his second play. Eventually, he would marry his longtime on again off again girlfriend, Teeny, and have a son and a daughter. By book’s end, he eventually realizes he cannot run away form who he is, an actor, a husband, a father a son, a grandson, and a native New Yorker.

Overall, an excellent memoir that reveals much about the man behind the public personality that is John Leguizamo. The story by Leguizamo, is raw, emotional, funny, and brimming with hope at times. The art by Beyale and Cassano is simply beautiful. Altogether, a graphic novel that proves to part therapy and part memoir.

Story: John Leguizamo Art: Shamus Beyale and Christa Cassano
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy