USALA MAGAZINE PRESENTS MOVER AND SHAKER OF THE MONTH – Che Guerrero “American Immigrant”
Che Guerrero has always had a great knack for conveying one of his signature jokes about being undocumented for over 20 years. In the joke version of his life, his arrival to the United States is met with arguments from his mother about wearing sweaters to blend in. In real life, Guerrero, his sister, China and his mother left the Dominican Republic to escape an abusive father.
Guerrero was 18, in high school and preparing for a life in medicine of some sort while living out of his uncle’s house. He was dissuaded — hard — from furthering his path to college. “‘You’re an immigrant, what are you thinking of college for?’” his family would say.
So Guerrero did what anyone who doesn’t know something would do: “I Googled ‘funny jobs.’” Luckily, the job of stand-up comedian in New York City was pretty close to the top, especially considering that he didn’t realize Manhattan’s role as a comedy Mecca. “I just wanted to do something where I wouldn’t be a loser, and something that paid cash as I had no working papers,” he said.
So stand-up it was. He couldn’t afford to suck at it since he desperately needed the money and saw the luxury that comics with money in their pockets had at their disposal. “If I was bad, and didn’t get money or a follow-up gig, I didn’t eat,” he said. Starting with open mics in 2007, then shows at the New York Comedy Club in 2008, Guerrero was good, stayed good and made his nut. “I did so well that I couldn’t go back for three months. I figured I had plateau.
Fast forward to 2015-16, Guerrero seemed to be a fully-formed member of the Philadelphia stand-up comedy family, but not before he wound up in Indianapolis at the urging of another comedian. “So I’m there, right before Trump announces his run for the Presidency, then Pence as his running mate,” he said, “me, an immigrant, right in the middle of Trump Country. I had gone from the Dominican Republic to New York City to Indiana without truly knowing what the political dynamic of this country was. As an outlier who was told he deserved little due to his undocumented status, Guerrero doesn’t beat down the Trump train too heavily, but he does keep his finger on the hot-button pulse of the socio-political now.
Guerrero managed to play Indiana’s comedy circuit and book commercial ad work during the year that he was there but ran through the gamut of options quickly and plateau hard, again. Family members suggested a return to Blackwood but with a focus and concentration on Philly.
“So I did, and I wanted to start fresh,” Guerrero continued. “I burned all of my old jokes and worked up new ones. I waited around at Raven Lounge [on Sansom St.] to do five minute bits at 2 a.m. I made my way through the scene fast. And Philly is a beautiful city when it comes to comedy, especially to start over. People allow you to grow, find your voice, hone it and do what makes you unique.
Change is a big part of Guerrero’s new set. Claiming Philly as his new home; joining the USALA family with his new podcast show “American Immigrant,” and recently obtained his Pennsylvania casualty and property license for a gig with State Farm Insurance. He’s using side hustles like these to fund the following goals: moving from his current home in Blackwood, New Jersey to Northeast Philly in order to be closer to Spanish language communities and “build a small Spanish language club for comedy.”