MIAMI (AP) -- When it comes to late night talk show hosts, Alexis Valdes says he's just like one of the guys.

But then again, Letterman or Leno don't break into a song and dance during their monologue, unleash a bunch of zany characters on celebrity guests or perform in racy skits that would make even Howard Stern blush.

The enter-at-your-own-ri sk approach of "Esta Noche Tu Night," or "This Night Is Your Night" — a live Spanish-language variety show on Mega TV — has been drawing in Latino artists willing to submit to the antics of the show's slightly gap-toothed host and his troupe of actors.

Millions of loyal viewers from across the U.S., including Puerto Rico, tune in nightly to Valdes' inspired lunacy, making "Esta Noche Tu Night" one of Spanish television's most talked about shows.

The host and his show have become a hot property for the South Florida-based network, which is also broadcast in Puerto Rico and is available nationally on DirecTV. And Valdes, 45, knows it, drawing such guests as Latin Grammy Award winners Juanes and Enrique Iglesias.

When Iglesias showed up, he was confronted by a youthful-looking impersonator of his father, Julio Iglesias, who claimed that he was Enrique's long-lost brother — a clear jab at Julio Iglesias' reputation for fathering several children.

No one is spared in this hour-long circus, but Valdes says it's all in good fun.

"When the artists come here, they talk about real things, you know, their work, their lives," Valdes explains from his dressing room. "But our job here is to always mix reality with fiction, and we break the seriousness of the interview by introducing our guests to our fictional characters."

The performers who make up the sketch comedy group under Valdes' direction include Carlos Marrero, who transforms into "Elvis-Conde," an unassuming, but passionate big-eared character who dreams of that big break in the music industry. Barack Obama look-alike Gerardo Puisseaux has become a permanent fixture in many of the show's skits since the presidential primaries. Valdes' alter-ego "Cristinito" is just as popular today with viewers as he was more than 20 years ago when the host started his acting career in Cuba.

Venezuelan actor Gustavo Rios' portrayal of a gay pirate, a parody of Captain Jack Sparrow from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies jolts audience members into a laughing frenzy whenever he "mistakenly" sits on the laps of male guests. Ernesto "Monico" Pino, who stutters, does weather and traffic segments.

But perhaps the most popular character is "Magdalena La Pelua" or "Hairy Magdalena," a dazed and disheveled woman from Cuba who proudly shows off her lush body hair.

"She's entertaining, sweet, very innocent and that's why I think so many people love her," says Cuban actress Judith Gonzalez, who plays the pudgy character. "She comes up with all these outrageous, and sometimes gruesome, jokes and stories about her childhood, and you don't know if it's true or part of her imagination."

Before finding his niche in front of the Miami skyline set of his show, Valdes was an accomplished actor in his native Cuba. His career and celebrity status skyrocketed on the island after performing in several movies and television series. But when he moved to Spain in 1990, he said he had to learn to perform for an entirely different audience "who didn't share the same childhood or culture."

"It was extremely difficult to relate at first, but it drove me to work even harder to understand that culture," Valdes says. "I learned to be open and expand, and if you just perform for your own people, I think it limits you as an actor."

By the time Valdes moved to Miami in 2005, the husband and father of two had starred in 10 movies in Spain and directed and wrote his first film "A King in Havana."

His work in the Spanish versions of three animated films was instrumental in establishing Valdes as a voice acting star. He used his voice talents as Marty the zebra in "Madagascar" and in the 2006 film "Open Season," as a domesticated bear who finds himself stranded in the woods. Valdes later voiced the role of Chicken Joe, an easygoing surfer in the film "Surf's Up."

"It was such a unique and learning experience to portray these animals, just like it is for us in doing these characters on the show, because as an actor you get the chance to go to a place where you never thought you'd go," he says.

———

On the Net:

http://www.mega.tv/estanochetunight.shtml