Exclusive Q&A with comedian Gabriel Iglesias
In advance of his March 14 performance in Little Rock, comedian Gabriel Iglesias spoke to The Forum by telephone from Palmdale, Calif. Learn about the origins of “Fluffy,” how he handles his hecklers and how he nearly died in Little Rock.
The Forum: You come from a pretty humble upbringing. You grew up in a single-parent home with 5 other siblings.
Gabriel Iglesias: Jacob, Jacob. I don’t know if you heard man, that’s a mess-up and a typo on Wikipedia. I actually come from Mexican royalty [laughs]. I’m f****** with you, I’m f****** with you!
The Forum: You worked for a phone company before you became a comedian. What did your family say to you when you told them you were going to leave your stable job?
Iglesias: At the time, I was 21 years old. I was living with a roommate. Our rent, combined, was about $500-600 per month. I was making, God, I wanna say about 4 or $5,000 per month working at the cell phone company. 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. I had just bought a new car, you gotta figure I work for the phone company, so my phone was free. That was a bill I never had. You know, life was actually good. I had no complaints. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
And so, once I quit my job and I started to do stand-up, I wound up getting evicted from my apartment probably within a few months. 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.
The next thing I know, I get evicted.
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.
And the next thing I know, I’m on my sister’s couch.
So, it was going really good! [laughs]
And the entire time I’m sleeping on these couches and balconies- man, believe me- I’m thinking: ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have quit that job.’ But, at least it freed me up to purse stand-up 100 percent.
The Forum: So, how did you find the strength to persevere and keep going?
Iglesias: You know what? I think I was just very passionate about stand-up and I knew I loved it that much.
The Forum: Who were some of your sources of inspiration as you were growing up and pursuing comedy?
Iglesias: That’d be Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.
The Forum: When did you catch your big break and finally realize that you could be a successful stand-up comedian?
Iglesias: Probably once I got off my sister’s couch and moved into my own apartment. Once I got back up on my feet, I built-up a little nest egg. So I said, you know what, if for some reason I can’t do stand-up for another year, I’m covered. So, like when I moved into this apartment, I had a nice little chunk of change from comedy. I paid a year’s worth of rent, right out of the gate. 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.
The Forum: You’ve been doing comedy since 1997, right?
Iglesias: Yeah, I started in April of ‘97.
The Forum: Would you say the comedy scene has evolved a lot since then? How has that changed your performance and the way you deliver a performance?
Iglesias: I think there are a lot more opportunities for comics to work in a clean style versus a dirty one, now. And I feel that a lot of comics are trying to work that route. 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 Forum: Has that family-friendly style opened up the door to the television and film gigs that you’ve been doing recently?
Iglesias: Absolutely. When people know that you have a fan base that’s broad and not just a certain niche, man it just opens up the world for you.
The Forum: Do you think your appearance in television and film has brought more people in the door to see your stand-up gigs, or do you think your stand-up gigs have opened the door for you to land more gigs on television and film?
Iglesias: You know, I think in my case, I think the comedy is the reason why the films are happening. Versus, you know somebody that’s an actor or whatever and then he’s trying to go out on the road.
The Forum: Do you have any fond memories about a time that you’ve stopped in Little Rock?
Iglesias: 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. 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. Earlier that day, I remember we actually had a driver who was really, really cool. She took us to Chipotle and we had some laughs. So, it was good times.
The Forum: How do you handle hecklers while you are performing? Do you embrace them or just sort of ignore them?
Iglesias: I’m fortunate enough, where the heckles aren’t necessarily like, ‘You suck. Next!’ or ‘Boooo!’ The heckles I get are, ‘Do this joke!’ or ‘I love you!’ It’s a different kind of heckle. People yell stuff out of love. They’re not trying to be malicious.
The Forum: That sounds kind of like a good problem to have: affectionate hecklers.
Iglesias: Yeah, and every now and then if I’m at a club or something, somebody will have one too many drinks and they will try to become part of the conversation that I’m having with the crowd. They’ll try to talk back and I’m like, ‘Yeah I got this. Don’t worry.’
The Forum: You appeared in Magic Mike in 2012. Last year, you were in the animated Disney film, Planes. This year you’ve already appeared in The Nut Job and you’re set to appear in A Haunted House 2.
Iglesias: We’re going to talk about [A Haunted House 2] at the comedy shows and stuff and there’s probably going to be a trailer that plays before the show even happens, but I think most of the promotion that’s going to happen for the film is going to be more direct. They’re going to get me on a bunch of talk shows and morning shows and radio shows and doing press and media and stuff like that. I am mentioning it during my show and I’m also showing the trailer because we have screens.
The Forum: So what exactly is your stage setup, for your comedy tour?
Iglesias: There’s a full production on that stage, man. There’s a couple of screens, there’s lights and trusses and I tell people it’s like WWE meets The Food Network. There’s stuff happening there.
Gabriel Iglesias can be followed on Twitter, where he personally tweets, by searching for @fluffyguy.
“If you get a message from me on Twitter, it was really me,” Iglesias says.
To read our cover story with Gabriel Iglesias, please click here.