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An Interview with Juan Lee
Written July 1, 2019


Background:  I follow a blog by retired TV writer Earl Pomerantz.  He pointed out recently that a pizza, while delicious, lacks variety.  It's eight slices of exactly the same thing.  The first slice is great, the second is just like it but not quite so hot, the same goes for the third, and eventually one puts aside the remaining slices for later.

I like pizza too.  However, I really enjoy menu items like this “Cracker Barrel® Sampler.”  It also comes in eight parts, but they're all different:  meatloaf, country ham, chicken n' dumplins, carrots, fried okra, turnip greens with vinegar, corn muffins, and a beverage.  Diversity!

Anyway, the day before, Earl had posted a comic sketch.  As envisioned, it could not easily be performed for monolingual Americans because the dialogue is in two different languages.  As written by Earl, both languages are English.  That required cluttering the script with parenthetical explanations.

I've decided to steal his sketch, replacing most stage directions with hopefully- easier-to-follow typography.

Imagine, if you will, a Major League Baseball pitcher.  We'll call him Juan Lee.  His native language is Spanish or Korean or something, which we'll denote in red letters.  Not yet fluent in English, he uses an interpreter to communicate with the media. 

Juan has just won a game against the Yankees despite giving up an unlikely home run to Wee Willie Keeler.  A local female reporter is interviewing him.  Between them stands the interpreter, pivoting back and forth.





It’s the standard post-game compliment.  You want to answer yourself?  Or you want me to take it?

Great game today, Juan!  Seems like all your pitches were working.

Say whatever you want.  I just want to get out of here.


The Yankees are a great team.  I feel lucky to have pulled out a win.”


She wants to know if you came in, knowing you were going to do well.

Did you come in, knowing you were going to do well?  It seems, from the first pitch, you were in total command.

Every time I go out there, I have no idea where the ball's going to go.  My pregame bullpen session goes great, then I go in and pitch terrible.  I just don’t have a clue.


“The pregame bullpen session went great.  I went out knowing I had good stuff and feeling confident of my success.”


She wants to know about the home run you gave up.  Were you surprised it went out?

You had that one hiccup, when Keeler took you deep.  Were you surprised it went out?

I was very surprised.

He was very surprised.

The stupid right fielder totally screwed up.  If he had taken the right route to the ball and timed his jump properly, it was an out instead of a homer.


“Our right fielder gave it his best shot.  But Keeler is a great hitter.  When he beats you, you have to tip your cap and just try and do better.”


She wants to know about the relationship between you and the catcher.

You and your catcher seemed really in sync tonight.  How much does it help, being on the same page like that?

I hate that catcher!  Ignorant and annoying.  Yesterday he said, “Do you want to have dinner?”  Can you believe it?  The idiot thinks that we’re friends.


He and I are quite close, both on and off the field.  We were supposed to have one of our regular dinners last night, but I had an important charitable engagement and I had to beg off.”


She wants to know if you guys can win the World Series.

One last question.  Do you feel like this team can go all the way this year?

There are a lot of great teams in this league.  None of them are us. Check my statistics.  Without me, we're nothing.


“There are lot of great teams in this league.  None of them are like us.  We play as a team.  I’ll check my statistics when I retire.”


Just the standard “great game” wrap-up.  Any final remarks?

Once again, great game.  Good luck for the rest of the season.

She’s hot.

“Thank you.”


(She leaves.)

Nice going.  You got “me” just right.


Wait.  You speak English?

You want to keep your job?


(Robotically.)  You do not speak English.

(She comes back.)  But I speak your language, Juan.

Oh no!

Oh no!

You guys are hilarious.

Thank you.  ...I mean, what was she saying?

Too late.


A similarly confusing bilingual sketch was actually performed, using subtitles, on the 6/25/19 episode of Alternatio on Comedy Central.  Arturo Castro plays a nervous first-time interpreter who's been told simply to translate exactly whatever two criminals say to each other.  Unfortunately, he begins translating whatever they say to him.





El Jefe!  I got the money.  You got the weapons?

If you want to talk to him, you talk to me.

Oh, you're the translator.

“Oh, you're the translator.”

No.  You are the translator.

“No, you are the translator.”

(Confused) Okay.  I got the money.

“I got the (cough).”  Uh, pardon me.

I couldn't hear you.  You coughed.


“I couldn't hear you.  You coughed.”

“No, I didn't cough.  You coughed.”

No, I didn't cough.  You coughed.

Stop saying that I coughed.

“Stop saying that I coughed.”

“You coughed when you spoke to El Jefe.”

You coughed when you spoke to El Jefe.

Ay, translator!  What are you talking about?


The misunderstandings escalate into an armed standoff, each threatening to shoot the other while the translator repeats their threats.  They can agree on one thing, however:  he's the worst translator ever!  So they both shoot him.


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