Iglesias earning television, film gigs after carving out broad fan base
Comedian Gabriel Iglesias, also affectionately known as “Fluffy,” has amassed a loyal fan base over the course of his decade-and-a-half comedy career. He has more than 6 million fans on Facebook, about 2.5 million fans in his circles on Google+ and nearly 570,000 followers on Twitter.
But, Iglesias, who spoke to The Forum by telephone from Palmdale, Calif., said he took a lot of risks along the way to achieving such adoration from fans.
Iglesias, who was 21 at the time he was beginning stand-up, said he was living with a roommate and paying about $300 for his share of an apartment. He was working at a cell phone company and making about $4,000 per month during this fruitful period in his life.
“For someone who is 21, who has no real responsibilities and your rent is roughly 300 bucks a month, uh, yeah I was in a really good spot.”
“And I had benefits,” he added, topping off a list of things he was prepared to throw away in favor of a pursuit to becoming a successful comedian.
“You know, life was actually good,” he said. “I had no complaints. But, it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Iglesias said within a few months of quitting his job at the phone company and beginning his pursuit of comedy, he got evicted from his apartment.
“All the money ran out, you know? I figured ‘Oh, stand-up is going to pay the bills.’ And it didn’t. All the money went away.”
After receiving an eviction notice, it was somewhat of a downward spiral for Iglesias.
“The next thing I know, the repo-man is looking for the car.”
“The next thing I know, I’m living on my brother’s balcony- of all places,” he said.
“And the next thing I know, I’m on my sister’s couch. So, it was going really good!” [laughs]
Throughout his time of couch surfing and sleeping on his brother’s balcony, he said he hit a pretty low point.
“[I started] thinking, maybe I shouldn’t have quit that job. But, at least it freed me up to pursue stand-up 100 percent [of the time].”
After a string of successful gigs doing stand-up, Iglesias started to generate an income and became more confident. He was making enough money to get his own apartment, which he says is when he felt like things were beginning to look good.
After performing in biker bars and similar venues, he had enough money saved up to pay for a year’s worth of rent, which he did, just in case something happened and he couldn’t do stand-up.
“I said, you know what? I’m not going to take a chance on getting kicked out of here. So, I paid a year’s worth of rent and I had money set aside for utilities and everything. So, if something happened, I was covered for a year.”
In 2006, Iglesias received a lot of exposure on season 4 of NBC’s Last Comic Standing.
His appearance on Last Comic Standing, in addition to his DVD specials, which featured some of his stand-up routines, helped thrust him into the mainstream comedy scene.
Iglesias has been working his way up the comedy ladder since April of 1997 and in that time, he has been a part of an evolving comedy scene that can reach every sector of the entertainment industry.
“I think there are a lot more opportunities for comics to work in a clean style versus a dirty one, now,” he said.
“So, I think in the beginning, a lot of people just wanted to be dirty. Like, I wanted to be dirty. And now, I’m finding that the route that I took, which was staying family-friendly, was the way to go. I think a lot of people are starting to notice that and starting to go that route.”
The “people” Iglesias is referring to are television and movie producers, who have heard his dynamic performances and enlisted him in various television shows and blockbuster films.
Iglesias currently hosts a show on Comedy Central, Gabriel Iglesias Presents: Stand-Up Revolution, which began airing in October 2011. The show’s third season is set to air later this spring.
Iglesias has credits to shows like Family Guy and The Annoying Orange. He has appeared in or done voice work for films such as Magic Mike and Disney’s Planes. He is set to appear in El Americano and A Haunted House 2 later this year.
Iglesias attributes his recent appearances on the small screen and the big screen due to his family-friendly stand-up and his broad fan base that he has built.
“I think in my case, I think the comedy is the reason why the films are happening,” he said. “Versus, you know, somebody that’s an actor or whatever and then he’s trying to go out on the road.”
Iglesias is set to perform in Little Rock at the Robinson Center Music Hall March 14 at 8 p.m., but his last stop in Little Rock was a memorable one, he said.
“The last time I was there in Little Rock, I got drunk at a bar two blocks away. I forget the name of it, but there’s a giant shamrock on it,” he said.
“I remember getting very very drunk there and I ran out into the street and fortunately I didn’t get hit by the car that was coming. But I remember: ‘ooh! Almost died in Little Rock!’ [laughs] Yeah, we partied a little hard that night, but it wasn’t enough to take me down.”
Iglesias’ hard work is not just evident in the good times he has after performing a set, but in his loyal fan base that supports him in just about every venture.
Forbes published a list of the top-grossing comedians of 2013 and Iglesias shared ninth place with Daniel Tosh, each earning $11 million last year. He brought in slightly less than Louis C.K. ($16 million), Kevin Hart ($14 million), Larry the Cable Guy ($13 million) and George Lopez ($12 million).
Click here to see our interview with Iglesias in its entirety.