The SNL writer turned TV star (thanks in part to Fred Armisen) debuts a new comedy special on HBO, My Favorite Shapes
Julio Torres is “an alien of extraordinary ability.” On one hand, that refers to his immigration status — the TV comedian moved to the U.S. a few years ago, eventually landing a Saturday Night Live writing job — but it also speaks his quirky style.
After explaining his visa status in his HBO special My Favorite Shapes, Torres, 32, says, “That ability includes this.” He then pours water from a Brita filter down a staircase, filling a pool on the final step next to a plastic “swan with a neck so, so long that he must drag his head behind him.” They’re from previous jokes in the special, literally an hour of commentary on objects.
He giggles. “That’s for me.”
Torres has turned his weirdness into a distinct brand on SNL, with viral sketches including “Wells for Boys” with Emma Stone, who he says “really gets what I’ve done,” and “Papyrus” with Ryan Gosling, who “just committed 180 percent.” Other sketches have featured Sandra Oh as a woman who enjoys writing checks, Emily Blunt as a sink facing an existential crisis and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a young immigrant to North Dakota calling home. (Miranda also voices a cactus in My Favorite Shapes.)
Then, SNL alumnus Fred Armisen brought him onto his new HBO show Los Espookys, recently renewed for a second season, which Torres also writes and produces.
“It was such a dream, for Fred to invite me to make a show with him,” Torres tells PEOPLE of Armisen, who also executive produced his special. “Someone who I think is so brilliant and so compatible with what I like. There’s a joy in us that I think is kind of childlike.”
Torres, Armisen and creator-star Ana Fabrega made a bilingual series, in Spanish and English with subtitles for both languages, about a friend group that makes a business of creating faux horror scenarios. Yet while Torres is fascinated with Latin America’s affinity for horror, he much prefers “the uncanny.”
“I am not a fan of horror,” he says. “I wouldn’t wear prosthetic makeup and I wouldn’t do anything bloody and gory and scary. No.”
That’s not his only departure from his character, Andrés, the blue-haired, high-society heir to his family’s successful chocolate company. Andrés’ parents hope he’ll marry boyfriend Juan Carlos (Torres, who created the character, is also gay), whose own family works in the cookies business, in a sort of merger.
“I don’t think I would be trapped in a situation I didn’t want to be in,” Torres explains.
That could apply to his decision to come to the U.S. as well. Even with a green card, he’s “still paranoid all the time,” but Torres knows all that went into his current status.
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“Given the news and given everything that other people are going through, there is like a bittersweetness to it,” he says, acknowledging he comes from a middle-class family and has supportive friends. “I have had the luxury of being able to somehow do it all legally. So then when I got my green card, it just felt like such a privilege that I shouldn’t take for granted.”
As Torres prepares for the second season of Los Espookys, the 45th season of SNL and potential future film projects, it’s clear he’s not.
My Favorite Shapes by Julio Torres airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.