March 12, 2008 06:00 PM

In one of the skits from the second season of The Big Gay Sketch Show (Logo), Paolo Andino plays a naïve UPS delivery man in West Hollywood who has no idea his clients are checking out his muscular biceps and toned legs every time he picks up a package.

But despite being openly gay and having qualities often stereotyped as gay – he’s a killer dresser and takes good care of his appearance –, Andino has never played a gay character on the show.

He’s also Hispanic, although you might not know it by looking at him. With his green eyes and overall lighter features, the 33-year-old has managed to land some Hispanic roles, which is just one way he’s challenging people’s perception of what it means to be part of that culture.

“My situation is a little complicated,’ Andino explains, “I’m Latino and gay, but I don’t fit the stereotype, not that there’s anything wrong with me. With light skin and green eyes, a lot of times in castings a blue-eyed Hispanic person doesn’t register, even though there are so many.”

Getting hired for The Big Gay Sketch Show was much easier. The Rosie O’Donnell production was actually looking for a Latino to participate on the show, and Andino’s talent for comedy made him the obvious choice.

“They told me to imitate three celebrities, and I’d never done impressions of anyone. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ So I rented some movies to inspire me. So then, you know that Nasonex bee? Those commercials that Antonio Banderas does, I actually do all the demos. When they pick out what they like from my voice, they send them to him, and they tell him ‘that’s how we want you to do it.’ But of course they pay me $200 and him thousands,” he says between chuckles. The casting people liked his Banderas impression so much, that they’ve even done done two sketches based on it on the show.

Born in Miami and raised both in the Florida city and in Puerto Rico, the actor of Cuban descent takes on a more serious tone when talking about the real reason behind his participation on the show.

“In addition to being my dream job – a comedy show – it also does a social service. I think if I were a teenager and had been comfortable with my sexuality, my life would have been different. Not better, but less painful. And even though we make fun of those stereotypes a lot on the show, we have a really diverse cast, and we show every aspect of the gay lifestyle. Imagine those guys in the Midwest, those poor kids can’t say anything to anyone, and they see a show like this on TV, and they could say ‘oh, see, I’m like that,’ or ‘this isn’t bad,’ or ‘I’m not alone; there are more people in the world like me.'”

When Andino was a child, he swore – like so many young gay men and women – that there was something wrong with him, and that he was the only person in the world experiencing “shameful thoughts.” As a result, he locked himself away in his little world, despite having come from a warm Hispanic family that motivated him to be an actor, from the time they gave him the role of the baby Jesus one Christmas.

Andino is in a stable four-year relationship with an executive at Calvin Klein, and things have never been better. He’s breaking gay and Latino stereotypes from the inside out.

“Even on this show they don’t give me gay roles, in fact, in my career, I think I’ve kissed more women than I’ve wanted to,” he says between laughs.

So, why should straight viewers watch it?

“Because the show is hysterical! I’m always watching and listening to straight people’s reactions. [My boyfriend] Matt recently introduced the show to his sister, who has five boys and lives with her husband in Massachusetts, and even though he thought they were a little too ‘closed,’ the show has turned into a family favorite.”

“I think a show like this, a gay comedy, can reach a lot of people and a big audience, and help resolve problems between gay and straight people. Ignorance only leads to fear.”

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