Calling someone “fool” brings back so many memories. It’s what my tios say when they’re even slightly annoyed with someone or roasting their compadres. It’s endearing, or it’s degrading based on the context. You use it with people you know exceptionally well or just passed on the street. It’s versatile; it’s also how I immediately knew I was the target audience for This Fool, the latest 10-episode series from Hulu. Inspired by the life and stand-up of star and co-creator Chris Estrada, This Fool is an irreverent, half-hour comedy set in working-class South Central Los Angeles. The series stars Chris Estrada, Frankie Quinones, Laura Patalano, Michelle Ortiz, Julia Vera, and Michael Imperioli.
The series is all about Julio (Estrada), a 30-year-old who still lives at home and has been dating his girlfriend Maggie (Ortiz) on and off since high school. Not the best with conflict, he finds any excuse to avoid dealing with his problems. But that personality doesn’t always gel with his day job. He works at Hugs Not Thugs—a gang rehabilitation nonprofit—where he butts heads with his older cousin Luis (Quinones), an ex-gang member who just got out of prison and moved in with Julio and his family.
While Julio is central, it’s actually Luis whose chaotic cholo energy pushes the story. An aged cholo who went to prison in 2005 and uses Austin Power jokes to cope, Luis is somehow the most annoying and the most endearing part of This Fool. Despite his machismo toxicity, especially towards Julio, he learns, however small, to change elements of himself for the better while never losing his identity. Because, in This Fool, being a cholo isn’t something to necessarily throw out; it’s just something to grow from. The style remains, but the petty gang stuff falls away, shown in one of the early episodes where Luis tries to reassemble his crew.
For his part, Julio looks like every Mexican-American who listened to Morrisey growing up, and well, he is. While he knows who he is, the fact that he’s the odd-man-out among the cholos in the neighborhood is played up and used to showcase why he’s in a completely opposite position than Luis. However, his conflict-adverse nature gets him into trouble that he can’t always get out of, especially when someone thinks he’s a good person because of it. With posters of The Clash in his room next to Public Enemy, Julio is honestly a personality we don’t see too much on television for Latinos and Mexican-Americans, despite that being a huge part of who many of us are.
This Fool manages to weave in all kinds of Mexican-American stereotypes that never feel like stereotypes. Instead, they’re dynamic characters that push comedy by being recognizable to those in the culture. We see cholo, punk rock, the completely detached millennial, and an overbearing mom and abuela. It’s here that the series manages to find its humor but also its heart.
In fact, the humor fits how those of us who grew up in “bad neighborhoods” see much of the community we’re in. Retelling stories of drivebys that somehow make you laugh, highlighting the circumstances that get you into the prison system, and of course, primos that are “too hard” for their own good. How every element intersects in an authentic way makes the series work beyond just surface-level elements.
A bilingual series, This Fool uses Spanish naturally—both Spanish and English are spoken throughout every episode. While Julio’s mom and grandma are the primary Spanish speakers, it’s clear that they understand English, with the next generation speaking a mixture at the table. It’s the way we talked in my house and one that can feel like home when done well, especially when featured over dinner with pots on the table to serve from and no matching plates.
But while all of this works for me, especially when it comes to comedy, I can easily see how This Fool won’t be for everyone. Whether it’s offense taken at the jokes told by aging cholos (granted, Luis is checked by pretty much everyone when he crosses lines) or the sitcom-adjacent delivery of some of the acting, this won’t land with everyone. But, This Fool hit home for me.
It’s hilarious and introspective while never feeling preachy or belittling toward anyone who made bad decisions in life. This Fool is just damn funny. From Julio being told he has “Edward James Olmos face” to his mom learning that Ronald Reagan is actually a Republican she should hate, everything in this series works because it hits authenticity. Latino-led television series are becoming few and farther in-between. With the canceling of Gentefied and, most recently, The Gordita Chronicles, I’m terrified for the future of This Fool. But with an ending that is perfect and almost necessary for a season 2, I hope it gets the chance
This Fool season one is streaming now exclusively on Hulu.
It’s hilarious and introspective while never feeling preachy or belittling toward anyone who made bad decisions in life. This Fool is just damn funny. From Julio being told he has “Edward James Olmos face” to his mom learning that Ronald Reagan is actually a Republican she should hate, everything in this series works because it hits authenticity.