Friday, July 23, 2004

Gabriel Iglesias keeps his standup act fresh.

Comic mines issues
for fun

The lone comic steps up to the mic with nothing between him and the potential of a hostile audience. But as any stand-up comedian knows, a life of punishing gigs and belligerent sods in the pit is only temporary.


Gabriel Iglesias

With opening comics Felipe Esparza, Armando Cosio and Martin Moreno

Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

When: 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow

Tickets: $25 in advance; $30 at the door


For Gabriel Iglesias (pronounced In-GLAY-sias), who performs tonight and tomorrow night at Pipeline Cafe, his toughest hecklers, surprisingly enough, have been middle-aged white women at bachelorette parties who pepper the San Diego native with compliments.

"It's always older white women who get really drunk at these things and right in the middle of my routine will start yelling 'Yeah, come on baby, oooh, baby, you're so funny, honey.' So I thank them but they keep going: 'No really, honey, you're f---g funny. I'm telling you.'"

Iglesias is one of those persons who can make you laugh with just a look, a glance, a well-timed pause and, frankly, his chubby, boyish appearance. His mother, who is just beginning to laugh at her son's jokes, wanted him to become a mariachi singer like dad.

"But comedy was always a way for me being accepted," he says in a telephone interview from Miami, where he performed last weekend. "I was a big kid -- now I'm a big adult -- and was someone the other kids always poked fun at.

"Hearing that laughter, I know I'm accepted; the ultimate high.

"So obviously, comics are people with serious issues."

Like many comedians, Inglesias' issues and experiences are fodder for fun, like the recent 10-year high school reunion he attended in Long Beach.

"I got drunk unintentionally because classmates kept buying me drinks; I had 14 shots of tequila," said Inglesias, 28.

Iglesias found a spot away from the crowd where he could try to recuperate. Then the class president-emcee asked over the public address system which graduate had ever been on television.

"Everyone starts looking at me, but I'm not going to say a thing," Iglesias says. "She comes over to me and puts the microphone in my face."

Then the spontaneous comic mode kicks in. He looks around the room, spotting three women who rejected him back in the day.

"But that's OK, because I've been on TV and you've all gotten fat," Iglesias tells them. "One of the girls yells at me 'You're fat, too.'

"I say 'I know I'm fat, but I was fat in high school. I kept my figure, why couldn't you?' "


IGLESIAS understands that comedy may be the most stressful form of entertainment.

"If you're a singer, you rehearse, you sing the song, then people may want to hear those songs for another 20 years," he says. "In comedy, we have to be funny all the time, be fresh, 'cause if you're not, the audience gets hostile.

"It's always in the back of your mind that you have to come up with new jokes."

Iglesias tries to renew his act every two weeks and never writes his material down or records it.

"It's all in my head," he says. "It's always better live and I need that rush, keep it on the edge."

He often talks about his mother in his routines, mimicking her high-pitched voice and Latino accent.

"In the beginning, my mom would say about my jokes, 'I don't geet it, I just don't geet it.' "

When he told her he wanted to be a comic, she said, "Oh, reeeeel funny, hoo hoo hoo!" When she found out that her son was going to perform at the tough Apollo Theater in Harlem, "They're going to go 'boooooo!,' because I don't laugh."

But it was his mom that may have gotten her son into comedy.

One night she took him to the local video store where he rented a video starring Eddie Murphy. Two weeks after he saw the tape, he auditioned for his fifth-grade talent show. He became the star.

"I was stunned that my silly voices and characters left the audience in stitches," he said. "I knew I wanted to be a comedian."

Eleven years later, a friend pushed a terrified Iglesias onto a stage for the first time, and he got asked for his first autograph.

"This girl just pulled down her top and said 'sign here,' " he said. "For a moment, I said to myself, 'I've already made it.' "

He mentions almost in passing that getting a TV series would be "cool," but adds that he's already obtained his goal.

"All I wanted was to be able to quit my day job, perform, sleep in, stay out late, and get free food," he said. "Done."

What's next?


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