By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
There are few things in the world of entertainment that Leaders of Spanish-Language Television honoree has not done. As the producer, director, writer and host of “¡Despierta America!,” his Spanish-language morning show on Univision, Mr. Arau has been a total success. The 8-year-old “Today”-style program is the highest-rated Spanish-language morning show in the U.S.
“I am extremely proud to receive this honor,” Mr. Arau said when he learned he would be honored by the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Arau has a colorful background. He has worked as a street clown, a mime and a film director. A native of Mexico, Mr. Arau grew up in show business. His father is the famous motion picture actor and director Alfonso Arau (“Like Water for Chocolate”), and his mother, Magdalena Corona, is the retired choreographer of Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet. Recently, Mr. Arau appeared in the film “A Day Without Mexicans,” directed by another member of his family, brother Sergio Arau.
Mr. Arau, who is now known for his comic persona, began his career as a dancer. His mother incorporated him in her work by teaching him to tap dance. When he entered the business, it was at Latin America’s most successful TV production company, Televisa. He learned his craft from the ground up, assisting audio technicians, camera operators and other crew members until he got his chance to direct and write.
In his 22 years there he appeared in many musical shows, films and other programs. He directed, wrote and starred in the successful series “Cachún Cachún Ra Ra,” which ran on Televisa during the 1980s. He starred in the 1984 film “Estos Locos Locos Estudiantes,” based on his own screenplay.
Music has also been important to Mr. Arau. In 1985 he founded the New Mexican Rock Movement (“Nuevo Movimiento del Rock Mexicano en Español”). The movement was inaugurated with “Rockotitlan,” and it has been acknowledged as a major launching pad for Mexican rock bands.
In 1987 Mr. Arau turned his attention to comedy, doing stand-up in two variety shows, “Ni Hablar” and “Como Veo Doy.” Mr. Arau was so impressive he was named best comic of the year by the A.C. Humor Academy. Mr. Arau wound up winning the academy’s Smile Award for nine years straight, becoming one of the most distinguished creative artists in the Mexican entertainment industry.
In an effort to promote young comics, Mr. Arau organized the RIATATAN Contest for Amateur Humorists in Mexico in 1995. In addition to continuing with his work on “¡Despierta America!,” Mr. Arau has two major projects in the works: a comedy show called ” … Un Pasaje Se Su-Bida,” and a cookbook he is writing called “Cocinando con Dios” (Cooking With God).