Double-header comedy shows at the Ford Theatre by L.A.-based Chicano Secret Service and Asian-American troupe OPM — Saturday, Aug. 4 at 1 p.m.

HOLLYWOOD—Operating more overtly than covertly, two L.A.-based sketch comedy troupes — the Chicano Secret Service and OPM (Opening People’s Minds) — that tap into the shifting demographics of L.A. and America will perform back-to-back at the Ford Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 1 p.m. This performance is part of The [Inside] Performance series in the Ford’s 87-seat indoor theater.

Chicano Secret Service is an edgy, topical and political troupe that represents the increasing voice and presence of a new generation of Chicana/o Latina/o performers and activists. The troupe is a cross between the radical theories of Franz Fanon and Paulo Freire and the high jinks of Monty Python. In “Strange Rumblings in Aztlán,” outlawed activist leader Zeta breaks out of prison and attempts to mobilize a massive Latino community with the help of Arab-Latino alliance-builder Sadam Jose and religious leader El Atole Kekomi. The cast stars comedic actors Tomás Carrasco, Elias Serna and Susan Carrasco.

The Chicano Secret Service was founded in 1988 by working class Chicano students from Southern California who were studying at UC Berkeley. From the politically charged Berkeley campus, CSS then trained with notables such as Luis Valdes, El Teatro Campesino and Dan Chumbly of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Since then, the group has been boarding first class Greyhounds and flying around the country showcasing political sketch comedy to diverse audiences.

The troupe takes swipes at political and cultural figures, trends and mainstream media. In the aftermath of Propositions 187, 209, 227 and the Three Strikes law, Chicano Secret Service returns to the crime scene to protect and serve outcast communities.

Sharing the bill with Chicano Secret Service is another homebrewed comedy troupe, OPM (Opening People’s Minds).

OPM gives voice to the Asian-Pacific-American experience, due in part to the heritage of its cast members and the abundance of comic material yielded by an immigrant upbringing. The troupe keeps their humor fresh with universally accessible themes.                               

In their new production “Exotic Messages,” OPM satirizes immigrants going mainstream, Hollywood in 2107, racial tensions, the Iraq invasion and the U.S. showdown with North Korea.

Leroy Chin, Roger Tang and David Kobayashi originally founded OPM in Seattle in 1996. The group moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and added stand-up to its comedy production in 2002.

OPM has performed in Seattle, Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last year, their production “Get Laughs or Die Tryin’,” which skewers celebrities such as Tyra Banks, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-II and Iron Chef America Bobby Flay, won “Best Sketch Comedy” at the 2006 San Francisco Fringe Fest. OPM also is featured in “Telemongol,” a nationally-touring sketch comedy production directed by award-winning television director Henry Chan.

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Copyright 2007, Roger W. Tang

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