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John Leguizamo, All Jokes Aside

The comedian talks about his dad, his marriage and Ghetto Klown, his one-man show now on Broadway

En español | Ghetto Klown is John Leguizamo: hip grinding, speed talking and break dancing with the energy of a 2-year-old on a sugar high. Four-letter words still fly; the cringe factor still keeps you shifting in your seat.

But this time it's different. Late in his new one-man show, as the greenish glow of a hospital hallway looms on a screen behind him, John Leguizamo hears "Pops," who has suffered a stroke, say to him: "I'm glad you got to be the man I wanted to be."

A disbelieving Leguizamo is left wondering why it took a serious health crisis for him to finally reconnect with his father. The audience is left silent.

See also: A photographic look at Leguiziamo’s career.

 Omar Cruz

"I'm airing a lot of dirty laundry. You cause big problems when you're a blabbermouth."
— John Leguizamo

With Ghetto Klown, the comedian/actor says, he's "putting a lid" on one-man autobiographical shows, which also include Sexaholix...A Love Story and his 1999 Emmy-winning show, Freak. And an end to his years-long feud with his father, Alberto, whose belittling words he accuses "the King of Killjoys" of showering upon him since childhood — the same man who threatened to sue after seeing his portrayal in Freak. The two remain estranged.

Alberto isn't the only family member who's been hurt by Leguizamo's style of humor. Virtually everyone, says his mother, Luz, has been furious with John at one point or another: his brother, his cousins and even her. John doesn't apologize. "He said, 'Mom, that's my truth. I'm not going to tell the story your way. I'm going to tell it my way,' " Luz recounts.

In a recent interview, John talked about the pain he's caused. "I'm purged, but [my family] is left drowning in the aftermath. I'm airing a lot of dirty laundry. Nobody likes that. You know, you cause big problems when you're a blabbermouth."

He calls Ghetto Klown — which is playing on Broadway to sellout crowds — his "most mature" work because it resolves issues raised in his earlier one-man shows. "When you get older, when you get my age, it's more about figuring out how to have closure on certain things," says Leguizamo, on the brink of turning 47. "I'm no longer in my battling years, like when I was in my 20s and early 30s."

Though he's been in more than 100 movies and TV shows, written and performed in award-winning plays, and created House of Buggin', a television show with an all-Latino cast, nothing's come easily for the Colombia-born comic. Not even while he was growing up in Jackson Heights, Queens, which he calls "ghetto lite": "We were the early Latin family in the neighborhood; I got beat up by everybody. I won some fights, too."

Next: Home could be tough, too. >>

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