After Fantasmas, We’re More Obsessed With Julio Torres’s Visual World Than Ever Before

Comedian and writer Julio Torres’s latest creation, Fantasmas, is not your typical New York–based sitcom. The show follows Torres, playing himself, as he traverses the city looking for a small gold oyster-shaped earring. The journey takes him from an urgent care with a large blinking timer that announces just how little time the doctor is willing to spend with him to a gay nightclub that once housed a scaled-down gay nightclub for hamsters, and then to an internet cafe that’s the perfect mix of depressing and bizarre. Throughout the episodes, viewers fall down various sketch rabbit holes that are barely related to the primary narrative. There’s a commercial for a woman who makes clothes for toilets, a televised trial between Santa Claus and one of his elves (played by Bowen Yang), and a dip into the life of an overly committed insurance-call-center agent (Alexa Demie), among many other wonderfully eccentric asides.

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“We were like, Oh, what if the cubicles have little windows, thus defeating the purpose of the cubicle?” Torres explains.

Photo: Monica Lek/HBO

A sensitivity to visuals has always been a key element of Torres’s work. The most widely beloved sketch he penned at SNL, “Papyrus,” is about a man who can’t shake the feeling that the font Papyrus was too basic a choice for the movie Avatar’s logo. In his 2019 standup special, My Favorite Shapes, he displays his power to give everyday objects new meaning. In his first feature film, Problemista (costarring Tilda Swinton), released earlier this year, his character is a toy designer who dreams of creating products for Hasbro. In Fantasmas, working with production designer Tommaso Ortino, Torres has created a version of New York with all of its ironies heightened and oddities in full focus.

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“Julio kept saying, ‘I need him to live in a place that nobody else does,’” production designer Tomasso Ortino says, explaining the vision for Julio’s apartment in the show.

Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/HBO

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