The Second City Alum, Ithamar Enriquez, has created his own, one-man show called, Ithamar Has Nothing to Say, and though he doesn’t say a single word throughout the show, he captivates the audience with body language, music, and impeccable characterizations. Having moved to LA a few years ago, he quickly realized the benefits of creating his own work. I had the privilege of interviewing Ithamar to get the inside scoop on the show, and to hear how much he does, in fact, have to say about his creative process and advice for upcoming comedians.
CN: What was your inspiration behind the show?
IE: This type of work is something I’ve always been drawn to. Since I was a kid I really loved all the physical comedians. Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Steve Martin, Jerry Lewis, and, of course, Mr. Bean who is a huge influence. I remember seeing Rowan Atkinson’s One Man Show on video, and that changed everything. There are a couple of scenes in that show where he doesn’t speak, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, you can actually do this’. Once I started getting more into sketch and improv, I tried to figure out ways I can create sketches that aren’t typical. Physical sketches, musical sketches. So this show has been in the back of my brain for a very long time.
CN: Why is it so important to create your own work?
IE: Once I got to LA, I realized it’s very easy to sit back and ask why certain things aren’t happening for you as an actor. ‘Why aren’t I getting an audition? Why aren’t I booking the role’? So the cure for that was to write my own show. As an actor you literally have to create your own job out here. So I decided to write this show. I knew it would be a challenge and really fun, and it’s been all those things. The very first version of the show was 25 minutes long. And since then it’s grown into a 50-minute version and now we’re also working on a web series. In the past year I have worked on it creatively and now see more doors opening for me as well as opportunities for it to be exposed to a bigger audience.
CN: Your characters never speak in the show but are extremely physical. How did you train for this show?
IE: By watching those who did it before me. I always tell students, when you’re in this work you have to throw yourself in completely. Watch every movie, read every book, do anything and everything that has to deal with comedy. It really makes me sad when I mention Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy, and students will have no idea who I’m talking about. If you don’t know those people you should not be doing comedy. You can take every class in the world that you want, but if you’re not throwing yourself into this world and making it your life, then you’re not going to benefit from it. I think that’s what I’ve always done.
CN: What came first, the music or the characters?
IE: It depends. Sometimes I would think of a funny, physical bit and then try to find the perfect piece of music that would try to fit that. There’s one scene I do with a puppet, and at first that scene had a completely different song. By the time it got to the show I changed the song, knowing the bit wouldn’t change that much. For another scene I knew I wanted to do something to the song “White Rabbit” because it’s such a weird and funny song with such a great build, so the bit came after the song.
CN: How did you come up with your bits? Did any of them come from real life experiences?
IE: I think just like any show, some of it comes from personal observation, and some of it comes from just sitting and brainstorming ideas. I think Jazz Face came from noticing how people react to Jazz music. And then the Luchador scene is basically what I was doing as a kid. I’ve always loved wrestling and Luchador masks, so that scene was inspired from that.
CN: You tackle so many variations of body language and physical movements in this piece; you really stretch the audience’s imagination and change all expectations of what might happen next. Was it difficult coming up with so much diverse physicality?
IE: When you give yourself the task of coming up with a 50 minute show where you can’t speak, you have no choice but to vary it up. Just like a standard sketch show will have blackouts, some political stuff and relationship scenes, I had to translate that into a show where I didn’t speak. Some of the scenes have to be high energy, some of them, a little bit smaller. For some of it you use other parts of your body, ‘Oh, cool! I’ll use my hands and only my hands’. Some scenes you play multiple characters and some you just play one character. And variation in music. Making sure I’m hitting a bunch of different time periods. For the most part my taste tends to be really, really old. So I thought ‘Ah, I should throw some Daft Punk in there’.
CN: I love how you use some improv, and audience participation in the show. Why did you decide to layer in that art form, and did you find it difficult?
IE: It was another challenge for me. Can I do pieces that are improvised while not speaking? So I came up with this scene that is mad-libs like, where the audience gives me suggestions and then I act it out. Here’s the thing: I love this type of work so much that I can sit and think about it forever and still come up with ways to do the things that standard comedy shows have, but without speaking.
CN: Can you tell me a little about the web series idea?
IE: It follows a curious, whimsical character as he experiences life without speaking. Frank Caeti (director of the live show) and I are writing and producing it along with Maker Studios, Principato Young Entertainment, and Key and Peele. Some of it is taken directly from the live show, and some of it has been written exclusively for the web series. This character experiences everything from a hipster coffee shop to a jazz club to his thoughts that wander when he’s at a laundromat.
CN: Ithamar Has Nothing to Say is a one-man show, but how important was it to have a creative team to collaborate with, such as working with your director, Frank Caeti?
IE: Once I knew I wanted to do this show, there was no question in my mind who I wanted to direct it. Frank and I have known each other for so long, and we’ve been working together for so long that it’s such a great, fun, working relationship. He is so smart when it comes to comedy. He’s such a good director because he’s such an amazing performer and writer. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this without him.
CN: Can you give some advice to upcoming comedians who might want to create a one-man show but don’t know where to start, and who want to get seen more but are afraid of failing? What are some things you learned during your process of creating, Ithamar Has Nothing to Say?
IE: First thing I’d say is you have to see a lot of comedy and do a lot of comedy. There’s something to be said about creating your own work. Taking all of the stuff that you’ve learned, and really going out there and writing something for yourself. I remember watching this documentary about comedy, and the one thing that remained constant was everyone saying, ‘The whole time we were writing, we were just writing to make ourselves laugh’. Trust your own comedic instinct and just try it. Don’t be afraid of it failing because the good thing about it not working is that you figure out a way to make it work. Give yourself the opportunity to try it somewhere in front of people. You have to be willing to throw yourself out there without a net. Otherwise you won’t succeed and you won’t create. Also know that you’re never done with something you create. There’s always stuff to work around with and a year from now who knows where this show will be? Maybe I’ll be in another show where I’m talking non-stop. You just never know what’s ahead. So do the thing that you’re excited about now and trust that it’s going to grow into something else and might lead you in other directions.