Louie Anderson – Baskets (TV)

March 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

Although considered to be at one of the high points of his 30-year-career as a stand-up comedian, Louie Anderson wouldn’t mind if journalists scrapped the word “resurgence” for something a bit more poetic.

“This isn’t really a resurgence,” Anderson, 64, told the me during a phone interview earlier this month. “This is a brand new third act of my life. It’s like the window has opened and people can hear me. They have rediscovered me.”

What they have rediscovered is Anderson doing what he has been doing ever since he made his professional TV debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1984—making people laugh. The only difference this time is that he’s doing it while wearing colorful blouses.

In the hit FX comedy series “Baskets,” Anderson plays Christine Baskets, the mother of twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets (both played by Zach Galifianakis). The role earned Anderson an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series last September.

During our interview, Anderson, who is making a tour stop at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, March 26 at 7pm, talked about his success on his new TV show, growing old, and why he doesn’t do political humor on stage.

Did you actually come to San Antonio to shoot your scene in “Cloak and Dagger” in 1984?

Um, I’d have to look that up. Was I in that movie?

Yes, you had a small role. You played a taxi cab driver.

Ah, OK. No, we were on a street at Universal Studios.

Oh, that’s too bad. Compared to other cities, San Antonio doesn’t have too many major films we can claim.

So, then, yes! Let’s say yes. Yes. That’s how you fix that. You can start the rumor.

You made your first appearance on national TV in 1984. A lot of what you did back then was self-deprecating humor, which I know you still do now. How much has your material changed?

I like to tell people I do all the F words—family, food, father, being fat, being over 50. All the clean F words, I guess. I do a lot of food stuff. Did I mention food? I have a lot of fun. Stand-up is my first love and the thing I would put at the top of my résumé.

You’re turning 64 on Friday (March 24). Do you plan to use the Beatles’ song as an intro to all your shows?

That’s really a great song, isn’t it?! I was at a birthday party recently for somebody who was turning 64 and they played that song when they walked in. It’s certainly a song of my era. But I’d rather be 46. It’s always better to be younger because parts wear out and you can’t just go out and get them like knees and the back. I’m in pretty good shape, but I think 64 might change it all—change the perspective. If you were to ask me if I feel 64, I would say no. I just did a Funny or Die and I felt very young.

When you go on stage now to do stand-up, does it feel like a job or is it still as fulfilling as it was early in your career?

Oh, yeah, if not more so because now there is a whole new group of people getting to see me. It’s like I have a whole new audience. That gives me a boost right there. I’ve always believed this: You have to get up for your show. You have to be there—be present. You have to do a great job. Don’t mail it in. If you’re there 100 percent, your audience will also be there.

You mentioned that you are a clean comedian. Do you think there was a time in your career where you could’ve made the decision to go the other way and become offensive or controversial?

I think I could’ve been a completely different comedian, yeah. But I think for me, it wouldn’t have worked. What’s innate for me and comfortable for me is what I’m doing. If the dirtier or edgier stuff became more important to me, I would do it. So, I think for me I wanted to reach the family. I wanted people to be able to bring their kids and their parents to my show. Also, you get a lot more jobs on TV when you’re clean. At least that’s how it was when I started out.

So, along with staying clean, something else I noticed, especially now that everyone is doing it, is that you don’t talk politics. Why don’t you go there?

Yeah, I don’t talk too much about politics. In real life, if you did a survey of your audience, you might be surprised who your fan base is. [Politics] is not my thing. I guess I could be very political. I think everyone is political with their own beliefs, but I want people to have the greatest time they can [at my shows]. I want them to be able to forget their troubles. I want them to leave behind the newscast and just relax.

But you’re active on Twitter, so all you have to do is tweet something to Donald Trump and you’d be in the headlines the next day if he tweeted you back.

Oh, yeah. I do do an impression of him in my act. People can come and see that. [Trump] looks a lot like my oldest brother, so whenever I see him I always think of my older brother. But [politics] really isn’t me. It’s not where I’m going. I have a lot of beliefs and I love this country, but I’m a stand-up comedian. I mean, so many people are doing the political stuff and I’m glad. I think there’s an appetite for it, but my appetite is for a taco shell made out of chicken.

I know you pulled your inspiration for your character Christine Baskets on “Baskets” from your mother. What would she think of your portrayal? Would she find it funny?

Yeah, I think she’d really like it, but then she’d try to correct me. She’d be like, “You know when you’re doing that one thing, Louie? It’s not the same way I would do it.” I get it, mom. It’s OK. I get it. So, she would love it. She would feel special because it’s definitely a homage to her. She’s be thrilled.

The second season of “Baskets” is coming to an end this week.


Do you hope the ride continues and FX says yes to a third season? What would that mean to you? (Editor’s Note: After this interview, Netflix renewed “Baskets” for a third season).

Well, what I love is what’s next for the family and what’s next for Christine. The writing is so good. The people are so terrific. There’s just so much great stuff going on. I just feel the ride is getting up on that big hill and getting ready to go on another season. Everybody, I’m sure, would be excited to do it. I try not to think about that too much. I try to be present. I miss working on it when I’m away and I love working on it when I’m there.

You’ve joked before that you’re the most successful Anderson child—you come from a family of 11 children. Can you give me an example of what your brothers and sisters do for a living?

Oh, yeah. I had one brother who was a locksmith and also spoke to police departments about crime. Two of my sisters were homemakers. Both had six kids, so they were full-time moms. My other sister was a hairdresser. My other sister owned a flower shop. So, they had small businesses. I have a brother who is a carpenter and another who worked for a pawn shop for years. My other brother was a high school janitor. He’s the brother that was much funnier than I was, actually.

What is an Uncle Louie like?

You know, I love all the kids. I’m doing a benefit for one of my nephews who is deaf to help raise money for his school in Minnesota. I try to give advice, but try not to tell people what to do with their lives. I try to be loving and caring and kind and understanding. I want them to know they can confide in me. I want the best for them. I have one nephew who is a stand-up comic. He’s doing really well. He doesn’t mention he is my nephew, which I really think was the smart way to go. He wanted to make his own way. I want them to be able to do things and try things and get the most out of their lives.

Chingo Bling – comedian

July 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Trinity University graduate and self-proclaimed Ghetto Vaquero, Chingo Bling, will bring his No Mames Comedy Tour to the Guadalupe Theater July 17. A native of Houston, Texas, Chingo Bling was born Pedro Herrera III to Mexican emigrants who came to the U.S. to achieve the American Dream for themselves and their children. He began rapping under the alter ego Chingo Bling in 2000 and has since rose to fame with fans who enjoy his style of Latino hip-hop and satirical comedy. Chingo took some time earlier this week to talk to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center about his tour stop in San Antonio and his venture into the stand-up comedy industry.

How exciting it is for you to come perform a stand-up show in San Antonio for the first time?

It does feel like the first time because I’m new to the world of stand-up. It’s a different way of expressing myself and communicating with fans. It’s a different way of getting my ideas out. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. When I do my music, some people don’t really know how to take me or how to figure me out. It’s like, “Is this guy for real? Is he a joke? Is he making fun?”

What does stand-up allow you to do that you weren’t able to do before when you were doing parody hip-hop and your other comedy?

I feel like I’m able to give people a more pure product because of the nature of the art form. It’s just a guy and a microphone. It’s a totally different experience. There are no backup dancers. There’s no music. I mean, we have music and it’s still a party type of atmosphere, but you can’t hide behind the beat. A comedian’s job is to make friends with everyone in the room and bring everyone in together. There’s a lot of trust involved. I have to make sure people trust that they we are going to go on this journey together. I need you to give me permission to act a fool.

Do you feel pressure because you are new to this type of platform?

Yes, but I think allowing yourself to be vulnerable is the key to good art because people want the truth. People want honesty and if you’re not giving them the truth and you’re not being honest then you are hiding behind something. So in a way you are naked up there. My opinion of good comedy and good art, whether it’s an essay, a novel, or a song, is that it has to come from the heart. It has to be real, especially for my people from San Antonio. You can’t fool them. They know when you’re speaking passionately about something. They know when you believe in something. They know when you’re authentic, because they are. We value that authenticity and being genuine. That’s what we pride ourselves on.

It seems like there’s going to be a lot of laughs happening at your show but is there also a message you want to convey as well? Do you want to spur conversation about real issues?

Yeah, I mean it’s not like super deep or anything like that but I do want to kind of make people think. I do want them to walk away with some kind of substance. I do want to raise some questions. There are certain topics, just like in my music, that I want to tackle in my comedy. I have an audience and a stage and a microphone, so I feel like it’s my obligation to explore different things in a creative way so that these ideas are a part of a discussion.

What are you looking forward to the most when you come back to San Antonio?

Well, hopefully my family can come with me. Hopefully we can all ride down as a family and hit the Riverwalk. I want to show my daughter the Trinity University campus. I want to take a little tour of San Antonio, hit the West side, and stuff like that and just get a feel for the city. That’s usually good for a comedian to do. You want to hit the streets a little bit and get a vibe of what people are feeling and talking about. That way people are like, “OK, this guy knows what’s up. He didn’t just fly in from some far away place and tell a generic joke.”

Bonus Ep. 7 – Comedian Jerry Rocha

May 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, Cody speaks with friend and comedian Jerry Rocha. Fresh off of his late-night TV debut on “Conan,” Jerry speaks about unpleasant sports memories, building a late-night TV set, his comedic philosophy and much more. Jerry will be headlining Rivercenter Comedy Club on Saturday May 16th and Sunday May 17th.

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.


Gilbert Gottfried – comedian

April 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, best known for the scratchy voice work he has used to create such characters as Iago the Parrot in the classic 1992 Disney animated film “Aladdin,” and as the former spokesduck for Aflec Insurance commercials, will be performing stand-up at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club in San Antonio from April 10-12. I caught up with Gottfried, 60, earlier this week on the phone to talk about his new podcast, how the entertainment industry has changed over the years, and why he would never accept an offer to eulogize someone.

Do you remember the last time you performed in San Antonio?

God knows. I totally lose track of places I’ve been to. Whenever they show those clips of a politician or rock star yelling out, “I love you, Oklahoma!” and they’re in a totally different state, I completely understand how that happens.

Well, when you think of San Antonio, Texas, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

I think of a tumbleweed going by. (Laughs)

San Antonio sounds like a pretty boring place!

(Laughs) Yeah, maybe an occasional shootout happens, too. I’m used to it though. Usually during my shows someone pulls out a gun.

You started your podcast Gilbert Gottried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast about 10 months ago. So many comedians have taken this route in recent years. What made you want to do it?

I don’t really know. People were telling me to do it and I don’t really give things that much thought. It’s what everyone is doing nowadays, so I thought I would start. I didn’t know what I would talk about, but I really like talking about stuff that has to do with old show business. So, I aimed for that for the most part. So, we’ve had people like Boris Karloff’s daughter on the show. We had [TV and radio personality] Joe Franklin on right before he died. We’ve had Henry Winkler and Adam West on.

Yeah, so far your guests have been pretty diverse. What do you look for when you’re deciding who to bring on?

I look for guests I find interesting to me. Usually the guests that I have on are ones that people haven’t heard of. It was a surprise because I thought no one would like the podcast if they didn’t know the person. But I’ve been getting all these Tweets from people saying, “I had no idea who you were talking to or the people you were talking about, but I loved listening to it.”

Did it ever cross your mind that maybe they love listening to it because you have such a great voice for podcasting?

(Laughs) Yeah, I think I have that classic radio voice. It’s always between me and Morgan Freeman.

Have you ever been asked to do any voiceovers like Morgan Freeman? Would you ever eulogize someone, maybe?

I think one time someone ask me if I would do their eulogy. But I’m afraid those gigs don’t pay much.

That’s why you have to ask for the payment before the guy dies.

Oh, yes. As soon as the guy starts coughing, I want to get paid.

You started as a stand-up comedian in New York City when you were a teenager. Are comedy tours still fun for you or does it feel like a job now?

Sometimes when I’m coming into a new town with my suitcase, I feel like Willy Loman. So, it depends. Sometimes I enjoy it. Other times I just have to force myself.

When you come into new cities, do you try to craft your material for those audiences?

Not that much. Every now and then I’ll say something that has to do with the city. It varies if something hits me. I was lucky enough to be booked in Toronto when the mayor, Rob Ford, was in trouble with drugs and God knows what else. So, I was there right on the day that scandal started. So, all you had to do was say his name and people started laughing and applauding. It’s like the jokes didn’t even matter. Hopefully some big official in San Antonio will be found with a dead hooker when I get there.

Well, the only controversy in San Antonio right now is that our city council won’t allow Uber to operate in city limits. Not sure if you can do anything with that.

(Laughs) See, that’s already funny.

Do you ever think about your comedy legacy as your career progresses?

I’ll have these people say to me, “Isn’t it great that years after you’re dead people will still remember you as Iago the Parrot?” I always think, “Well, I’d rather they totally forget about Iago the Parrot and I just stay alive forever.” (Laughs)

You’ve gotten in trouble for things you’ve said or tweeted in the past. You were famously fired from your gig as the Aflac duck for making what the company thought were disrespectful remarks about the Japanese tsunami in 2011. Do you have a filter as a comedian or is controversy not really something you worry about?

Well, now when think about saying something, I think twice and say it anyway. (Laughs) I guess I’d be more gainfully employed if I thought about it.

Do you feel people are too sensitive when it comes to comedy?

Oh, yes, especially on the internet. I always say the internet makes me feel sentimental for old-time lynch mobs. At least a lynch mob had to actually go out and get their hands dirty. (Laughs) Show business used to be separate from everything else. If we had the internet back then, we’d probably see Clark Gable tweeting that “Gone with the Wind” sucked.

As someone who appreciates how Hollywood functioned back in the day, what do you think about people who get YouTube famous?

It’s scary. Show business years ago featured actors and singers who were big stars. There were newscasters and columnists and writers you’d look up to and listen to. Now, it’s everybody. It’s a weird thing. Nowadays being a star means you filmed yourself squeezing a blackhead and 20 million people watched it on the internet.

Now that you have your podcast going, is there anything else you’d like to try or learn about when it comes to new media or technology?

I have a cell phone that I barely know how to make calls and get calls. I still haven’t figured out how to put people on hold. The technology of podcasts or anything like that, I don’t know what I’m doing.

But at least you can work a toaster, right?

(Laughs) I’m starting to get the hang of that, yeah. Maybe when I’m 80 I’ll know how to make a good piece of toast.

Lisa Lampanelli – The Leaner Meaner Tour

February 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

She’s lost over 100lbs. since having weight-loss surgery in 2012, but stand-up comedian and self-described “Queen of Mean” Lisa Lampanelli still has a big, fat attitude and likes to flaunt it on stage. Currently on her Leaner Meaner tour, Lampanelli, 53, will swing by the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts on February 21. During an interview with me, she talked about what it’s like to be skinny, if she thinks she will ever lose her edge, and having a show possibly hit Broadway.

The last time I interviewed you was in February 2013 and you had already lost a lot of weight. For this tour, it looks like you’ve repackaged your image and style, too. Would you consider this a rebranding of sorts?

No, I’ve never been calculating in what I do. I’ve never thought, “Oh, I think I’m going to reinvent myself.” I lost the weight and now I get to dress better and wear better clothes and have fun with it.

Explain the hair.

The hair was basically just me getting mad at having to get blowouts all the time and having a fight with my ex-husband who only liked long hair. One day I got in a little bitch mood and went and cut it all off.

You’ve always struck me as somebody with a thick skin, but in past interviews you’ve said you wanted to lose weight because you didn’t want to be the butt of the joke anymore. Were those jokes upsetting?

Well, when it comes to the [Comedy Central] roasts, those were not hurtful because most of them are usually jokes that are well written. But nobody likes to know there’s something they can fix about themselves, but are powerless to fix it unless they take drastic measures. If someone has a big nose, for instance, it probably hurts them to hear that. I don’t think it was the main reason I got surgery. I did it because I wanted to live longer and be healthy and have a lot more energy.

What have you learn about the thin culture now that you’re a part of it?

I learned that people still find things to pick on you about. I talk to thin women and sometimes they aren’t even happy in a size zero or a size two. That’s crazy to me because I used to be a size 24. I’m thrilled to death to be in single digits. Nobody seems to be happy where they are.

What kind of response have you received from your overweight fans, especially those who felt a connection to you because they saw you as someone they could identify with?

They still do identify with me. A lot of them ask me for advice now. They know that I’ve been there and had to struggle. They know how hard it is to be overweight. It’s not easy when you walk down the aisle of an airplane and everybody looks at you and thinks, “I hope that person isn’t sitting next to me.” That hurts your feelings. I think they can still identify with me after 32 years of struggle.

Does getting leaner really mean you’ve become meaner?

I think on stage it’s the same. I haven’t lost any of my edge. I mean, I do like to earn a living! Off stage I’m nicer than ever because I’m happier with myself. There’s a one-person show I’m developing that is not insult comedy. But I’m never giving that part up. If anything I’ll get even edgier as I get older like Joan Rivers and Don Rickles. I don’t think I’ll ever change even if I become a born-again Christian.

Is that one-woman show going to Broadway?

I got two Broadway offers I just couldn’t do because of scheduling, but I think that’s where it’s headed. It felt really nice when they asked me to do it. It was like getting asked to the prom by the quarterback.

How is it different from your insult comedy?

Well, I’m addicted to the laugh so there is still going to be eight laughs per minute. But it’s more storytelling. There are about four or five stories I tell that are more meaningful and emotional. You can sneak some of those moments in if the show is funny enough.

Do you think you could’ve done a show like that 10 years ago?

No. I think you work up to whatever you’re ready for. In five years who knows what I’ll be ready to do. I had to work up to this. I had to be brave enough to do this and that just came recently.

You’ve done a handful of Comedy Central roasts over the years. What do you think about them roasting Justin Bieber in March?

He’d be a great subject. Comedy Central is a business, so they want somebody who people are interested in – somebody people either love or hate. You’re going to get every teenage girl who still loves him to watch. You’re going to get every person on the planet who hates him to watch. It’s a great idea. There’s a lot to make fun of. He was a joke before he was badly behaved, so now it’s even better.

You’ll be in San Antonio the night before the Academy Awards. What did you think about the fact that all the nominees in the acting categories where white this year?

Well, I could joke around and say that they had “12 Years a Slave” last year so that should hold them over for a while, but I won’t. You know who was awesome was that Asian guy who played Kim Jong-un [in “The Interview”]. I want someone to say, “Enough of these black people complaining! How about getting some Asian complaints?”

Comedians have won Oscars in the past. Even Monique won a few years ago. Do you think you might have some of those dramatic chops to exercise some day?

Probably not. I mean, I think comedians are great actors. Most of them are better at dramatic acting than they are at comedic acting. If you’re a great standup, you’ve got a lot of angst inside. That translates really well to drama. You know, maybe someday. I have no interest in it right now. Maybe if I got a call saying that I got the role as Miss Hannigan in “Annie” I would do it. That actually sounds like fun.

Mick Foley – comedian

January 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

After a long and admired career as one of the most fearless professional wrestlers ever to enter the ring, retired three-time WWE world champion Mick Foley has found a couple of new callings in life that don’t require him to get smashed into a turnbuckle or drop-kicked in the face. These days, Foley, 49, is taking it much easier and learning that you don’t need bumps and bruises to have adoring fans.

Besides his family, of course, two things are keeping Foley’s blood pumping (without him having to lose any of it at the same time) – touring as a stand-up comedian (he calls himself a storyteller) and performing as jolly old St. Nick, a gig he is featured doing in the 2014 documentary “I Am Santa Claus.” The film follows five men, including Foley, who have dedicated their lives to dressing up as Santa Claus during the holiday season. Foley, himself, is so enamored by Christmas, he has an entire room in his home dedicated to it year-round. Last year, when he wasn’t wearing his customized Santa suit, Foley proved how serious he was about Christmas by dressing in holiday-themed attire every day until just a couple weeks ago.

During our interview earlier this week to help promote his tour stop at the River Center Comedy Club on Jan. 11 at 6 pm, Foley and I talked about what motivated him to become a stand-up comedian and whether it’s as fulfilling to perform on stage as it was in a wrestling ring. We also talked about how he handles when a joke of his bombs and why he’s not a fan of the Iron Sheik’s social media presence.

So, have you finally gotten out of your Christmas gear? You’re not wearing a vest with reindeer right now, are you?

(Laughs) It’s my 11th day without Christmas Day attire. But, actually, I was reading a book to my kids the other day and found out there is a Mexican tradition where you put your shoes out 11 days after Christmas (Day of Kings or Wise Men’s Day). (Laughs) It was the first time I heard of this tradition. So, we put the shoes out and the kids came out with a few more gifts. We try to find any way we can to extend the season.

After a long wrestling career, what motivated you to start doing stand-up performances?

You know, it was really because of the success I had with the book I wrote in 1999 (Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks) that opened the door to entertaining people in a different way. I found the same kind of storytelling that entertained people so thoroughly on the page translated well on stage – sometimes even in a better way. Unlike the written stories – when they’re finished they’re finished – I can work on my on stage stories every night and make them as good as they possibly can be.

Was it a natural transition for you since you’re performing in front of people in both wrestling and stand up? Do you get the same kind of rush?

Yeah, it’s almost exactly the same rush. I’ve had other wrestlers come out and join me for the Q&A part of the show. They remark how fascinating it is that they can get the same fulfillment from a few people that they can from thousands.

Have you found your voice yet on stage or is it still something you’re exploring? I’ve spoken to many comedians who say it took them years to find out what kind of comic they actually were.

It’s taken me a while. I think what I’ve realized is that I’m not a comedian. I’m a wrestle-centric storyteller. Other comics might watch my show and say, “Yeah, he’s a comic.” But I had to learn that I have a role to play and that any time I venture too far outside wrestling, I would go into territory that many others did far better than I did. I can really have fun and entertain fans and non-fans alike, but I do it from a perspective of a guy who traveled the world as a wrestler.

You played a few roles as a wrestler throughout your career, from Cactus Jack to Mankind. Would you say you’re playing a role on stage now or are you Mick Foley?

I’m Mick Foley, but I go into my roles as wrestlers. You can actually see some of the guys in the audience get goosebumps when I metamorphosized into 1997 Mankind or 1991 Cactus Jack. I have a lot of fun. Stand up gives me so much of what I loved about being in the ring without the obvious physical fallout.

You mentioned non-fans. Would you say people will enjoy your show if they’re not familiar with your wrestling career?

You know, it’s always gratifying to me when non-fans come up to me after the show. They’re usually females who tell me they had no idea what they were getting themselves into, but that they really enjoyed it. Unlike wrestling, which is a group effort where 30 different people will try to create an atmosphere, the atmosphere of my shows is really up to me. I really pride myself in creating a welcoming, non-threatening atmosphere for non-fans. That doesn’t mean I won’t give my fans stories of mayhem and bloodshed, but I’ll do it in a way that goes down nicely for the non-fans.

What does it feel like to make somebody laugh? I mean, I guess you did that a little during your career as a wrestler, but I think there were probably more people cheering and oohing at the stunts you pulled in the ring, wouldn’t you say?

I think there was quite a bit of humor as my career stretched on. I think wrestlers that have an extended career try different ways to connect with their audience than they originally intended. It usually involves some humor. I’m proud of the stuff I did in 2000 when I played the [WWE] Commissioner, which was largely a comedic role. But, you know, making someone laugh and making someone wince are things I take an equal amount of pride in.

Who inspires you these days? Other comedians?

I’m always inspired by people who take chances and leave their comfort level to do other things. But I’m pretty content in being my own guy. The biggest mistake I made doing these show five years ago was trying to be other guys; trying to learn too much from other performers. I was losing my own voice by trying to discover theirs.

So, how do you handle if one of your jokes bombs?

Well, now I’ll bomb intentionally. (Laughs) I like to see the reaction of the crowd and then have fun with that. But there’s nothing funny whatsoever about just dying on stage. But we’ve all done it. You either come out better for it or you never come out again. It is a very painful experience.

What about hecklers? I couldn’t imagine anyone brave enough to try and purposefully ruin one of your show. Has anyone tried?

You know, once in a while I’ll get an overenthusiastic fan who will yell out random stuff. I don’t tend to get real hecklers. I specifically choose off days like Sundays or Mondays – the nontraditional comedy days – to perform. It’s less likely that people who might say more than they should would come out during those days. I’d rather have people listening instead of hollering, you know? For me it’s the difference between having a great time on stage and punching a time card and doing a job.

You’ve seen how popular someone can get on social media like former wrestler Iron Sheik. Have you embraced that part of the business yet? Do you realize how important it is to be visible online as a comedian?

Well, I don’t believe Sheik actually tweets himself. There’s a lot of substance to the Sheik’s story. I’m not a fan of abusive humor. But, yeah, you have to embrace it. But all my tweets are my own. I read almost everything that comes in. I take stands occasionally when I feel there needs to be a stand taken. It’s a great way to get the word out about these shows.

Speaking of taking a stand, I read that you actually turned down a role on the TV show “The New Girl” last year because they wanted you to play a sleazy Santa. Did you make that decision because you hold this character in such high regard?

Yeah, I mean, Santa is not just a role I want to play. It’s something I want to do for many, many years to come. I have no problem with an actor choosing to play that role, but I want to be the guy in the chair visiting with hundreds of kids every December. I just want to live up to the standards of that iconic figure. It’s my hope that “The New Girl” will come back this year with a nice role specifically for me.

Who would win in a wrestling match today, you or Kevin James (Foley and James were on the same wrestling team in high school)?

(Laughs) Well, Kevin was training for that MMA movie he did a couple of years ago (“Here Comes the Boom”) and I can barely move. So, he could probably take me these days.

Margaret Cho – comedian

December 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

Currently on tour with her new stand-up show There Is No I In Team, But There Is a Cho In Psycho, comedian/actress Margaret Cho (Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva”) is not only making audiences laugh with her onstage performances, she’s offering support to victims of sexual abuse, an issue Cho can speak on from experience. “I am a rape victim and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse,” she shared with followers on Twitter last month and urges others to do the same by using the hashtag #tellyourstory.

Although she wasn’t too interested in talking about the accusations of sexual improprieties against comedian Bill Cosby that have taken up the headlines in recent weeks, Cho, 45, spoke to me via phone about victim shaming and what she feels gives comedy value.

What can we expect from you with this new show?

Well, we’re going through a very difficult time in society right now in that there is a lot of violence against women and issues that I feel are really important topics to address. So, my show is all about that.

You’ve always been vocal about social issues and have even shared your own story about abuse. Is it difficult to talk about something so personal?

You know, it’s not something that ever feels personal to me because I talk about being a victim of childhood sexual abuse all the time. It’s something I’ve always lived with. I’m encouraged to talk about it even more because it seems the tide is shifting where the people who are talking about their own experiences are not being blamed for it. We’re starting to see a real change in the attitudes people have towards those who have been victimized. That is definitely a positive thing.

I know a lot of comedians pull inspiration from their own pain, but how do you find humor in something like sexual abuse?

Oh, that’s the genius of it! There is humor in healing. There is a way to get through it. It’s really important to acknowledge that we’re powerful to rise above all of it.

Why do you think accusations of sexual abuse against someone like comedian Bill Cosby have been largely ignored until recently?

It’s not really apparent to me why that is.

Do you think it’s fair for him to stand trial in the court of public opinion?

I think it’s more important that we as victims talk about what happened to us and find healing within ourselves and outside of the abusers and those doing the victimizing. That’s more of my area. To me, it’s about who these [victims] are and what they’re going through. Assigning guilt isn’t what I’m talking about. That’s another issue.

Is there anything special you have to do to get ready to do a tour through a conservative state like Texas? I know you’ve been picketed here before.

I spend a lot of time in different parts of Texas. I’ve recorded an album there. There is a very conservative side, but there is also a really pioneering progressive side. My shows are always different and unique in that I cater them to wherever I am.

You’ll be here in San Antonio on your birthday, December 5. Is there anything you want?

You know, I’m usually working on my birthday and I really don’t celebrate it. I don’t make a big deal out of it. (Laughs) When you’ve had a lot of them, they sort of don’t mean that much anymore, unfortunately. I’m not really that big on cake.

Your show “Drop Dead Diva” ended this past June after six seasons on the air. Have you had any withdrawals over the last few months?

Yeah, for sure. It’s a show that I love. We were all a family. I was close to all the people who were in it. It was a big part of my life and my development. We totally miss each other.

A few years ago you played the roles of Kim Jong-un and King Jong-il during a couple of episodes of “30 Rock.” How relieved were you in October when photos of Jong-un were released after he had not been seen in public for months?

(Laughs) You know, it’s so weird because images [in North Korea] are so tightly controlled. We have no idea what some of their voices even sound like. We have no idea what is going on with that family. It’s really interesting.

Actors James Franco and Seth Rogen got some flak from North Korean officials for making an upcoming comedy about the assassination of Jong-un (“The Interview,” which hits theaters Christmas Day). Did you ever hear any criticism for your portrayal of the Jongs since North Korea isn’t known for their sense of humor?

Well, I’m so Korean anyway, so I think I have the right to play them. My family is half North Korean, so it makes sense.

Do you think it’s a problem that there are no longer any female comedians in late night TV since Chelsea Handler left her show “Chelsea Lately” this past August? I know you were a guest of hers a handful of times over the last few years.

There really needs to be more female voices everywhere, not just in late night and comedy. I love Chelsea. I think she is great. I definitely think we need some presence in late night now that she’s not there.

You were supposed to be on a TV show called “Cabot College” that Tina Fey was executive producing for Fox, but the show was killed this past summer when former Fox chairman Kevin Reilly stepped down from his position. How disappointing what that, especially since the show was considered a frontrunner to get picked up earlier this year?

Oh, I was very disappointed because I love Tina. I think she’s a genius. She’s a good friend and a role model. I really admire her and enjoy working with her. Every time we’ve done it, we’ve done so well. So, yes, I’m really disappointed, but I know things like that happen. I’m sure there will be another opportunity some time.

How do you feel about Comedy Central announcing last month that they will no longer bleep out the word “pussy” on air because of comedian Amy Schumer’s campaign? She said there was a double standard since the network doesn’t bleep out the word “dick.”

It’s great! Amy Schumer has revolutionized comedy. She is a true visionary. She is an amazing comedian. I’m really fond of her both professionally and personally. I think she’s an incredible person.

What was your experience like working with Weird Al Yankovic on his new music video for his song “Tacky?” I’m assuming he is someone you look up to since you both do parody songwriting.

I love him. I’ve been a big fan for years and years. He’s a good friend and it was a real dream to shoot that with him. It was incredible. All my friends are in that video, too, which made it super fun. We all messed up a lot and had to do it several times. It was hard because it was all one shot. To get it right was a challenge, but those guys are all such pros, so it was great.

Do you ever feel like you have to apologize for anything you say onstage?

I don’t think about those things. I mean, possibly. I’m sure there are things I’ve said that have been offensive, but that is the nature of comedy. You want to ride that line of being inappropriate. That’s the value of it. That’s the artistry.

Ana Gasteyer – entertainer

November 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

Don’t put comedian/actress/singer Ana Gasteyer in a box. She wasn’t put on this earth to entertain audiences in only one specific way. Gasteyer, 47, will show her range as the first of four performers invited to participate in the Broadway @ Woodlawn Theatre Celebrity Series with XM Radio personality/host and pianist Seth Rudetsky over the next six months. During the November 8 show with Gasteyer, who is a “Saturday Night Live” alum and Broadway and TV/film actress, Rudetsky will interview her about her life and career. He will also accompany her on piano while she performs songs from her Broadway past as well as her debut album, I’m Hip, a compellation of some of her jazz favorites, released in late September. During an interview with me, we talked to Gasteyer about what we can expect from her show at the Woodlawn, her new jazz album and what kind of effect she thinks “Saturday Night Live” has on politics today.

Talk to me about the celebrity series at the Woodlawn Theatre. I understand it is going to include musical performances and an interview with you, correct?

Yeah, it’s going to be a really unusual, intimate and fun night of interviews and songs. Seth is incredibly quick-witted. To find a combination of someone that is funny and musical is unusual. They’re two brands that work so well together. [Seth and I] have been friends for a long time. We’ll sing songs from my record (I’m Hip) and from Broadway. It’s like an insider’s peek into the life we live out here in New York. It’s very weird and unorthodox.

So, since Seth is such a good friend, does he have personal stories about you that you don’t necessarily want him to include in the show?

Sometimes he does manage to do that, and I am mortified when he does. I have to tell him, “Can we not tell that one again about my mom? She’ll get really mad.” (Laughs) But it’s always fun to perform with him because he understands comedy really well.

You started on the stage before TV and film. Is it still as satisfying being center stage as it was when you, say, majored in theater in college?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve done a lot of Broadway shows, so, for me, it’s kind of a balancing act in my career. I did “Wicked” as recently as six years ago. [TV/film and the stage] have thrills of their own. They’re very different disciplines in many ways. They’re all necessary for an interesting career.

You recently released your very first album, a jazz album called I’m Hip, which features you singing songs from the late 50s, early 60s. What is it about that era you like so much?

I’m an entertainer, so that era is incredibly fun because it fuses together the two paths of my career. Nowadays I feel people look at you and tend to put what you do in a box, like you’re either a comedian or a Broadway singer or a jazz singer. The thing about this style and era is that it brings it all under one roof. Back then, entertainers were expected to really sell a song and have a great time and tell a story well and still be a really fun on-stage personality without acting. That’s why this era speaks so specifically to me.

Do you feel like you were born in the wrong era?

I definitely was. I think I’m an old-timey performer. It would’ve been a really fun time to perform [during the late 50s], particularly in terms of live music. I would’ve loved to travel around the country with a bunch of boys in a band.

I know the title of your new album is the name of a Blossom Dearie song, but what makes Ana Gasteyer so hip?

(Laughs) My desire to keep up with the kids.

Well, you have two kids, so do they think you’re a cool mom?

I think so. We try to keep it real. I mean, I think they’re pretty embarrassed by me at the same time. I always have to explain to them that I could be a lot worse.

Your “One Mint Julep” music video is great. What was the idea behind it?

It’s the first video we did from the album. The goal was to have a great time and sing a song from the era that I love. That’s definitely what the video does. I wanted it to be a really fun, highly-entertaining song that didn’t take itself too seriously.

You recently met Martha Stewart on ”Late Night with Seth Meyers” and did a funny bit where you fake apologize to her for your “Saturday Night Live” impersonation of her. Was that the first time you actually met her?

No, I had met her a few times, but this time was very memorable and fun because she was up for the challenge. Back when I was on “SNL,” she was pretty big about having me come around. She always understood imitation is a form of flattery. She’s always been gracious about it.

Have you ever run into anyone else you’ve spoofed before?

I’ve actually met all of them—Celine Dion, Hillary Clinton, Joan Rivers—at one point or another.

As a comedian, was Joan Rivers someone you looked up to in the industry?

She was like heroine for those of us who grew up under her influence. She had a great sense of humor about herself. She was self-deprecating, appreciative and kind.

It’s been 25 years since you graduated from Northwestern, and they just invited you back to lead their homecoming parade. I’m guessing you might be the funniest alum to come out of that school even though I’m sure Stephen Colbert would disagree.

Well, Colbert and Seth Meyers were both there, so I’m not sure I am the funniest. Chicago is the birthplace of improvisational comedy, so it had a huge influence on all of us and what we became. It was incredibly fun to go back and celebrate with my classmates. I was so proud.

You parodied Hillary Clinton during your time on “SNL.” How much influence do you think a show like that has on politics today?

The job of the show has always been to reflect back what’s funny about the state of politics. It’s getting messier and messier now, so there is more to make fun of. Hopefully, that’s in a positive way, but I’m not so sure.

It’s more than likely that Clinton is going to run for President in 2016. Do you think the actresses that are playing her now on SNL have more pressure on them than you or Amy Poehler did?

I don’t think any actor goes in hoping to have a voice in an election. I don’t think it’s in our agenda. Our job is just to have fun and be entertaining.

It’s the 10 year anniversary of “Mean Girls.” Did you ever think that in only a decade, this comedy would become such a classic?

It’s crazy. It’s really exciting. I mean, I think part of it is because it is set in high school, and everybody likes to make fun of high school in movies like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Heathers.” They do have this timeless quality to them. It’s nice to be a part of that for people.

Ana Gasteyer w/ Seth Rudetsky, $75-100 (Use promo code 25OFF for $25 off your ticket price), 7:30 p.m., November 8, Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg, (210) 267-8388, woodlawntheatre.org.

Brad Garrett – comedian

November 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

As a way to honor the military men and women of San Antonio, comedian Brad Garrett (TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”) will serve as the Master of Ceremonies at Comedy Under the Stars, a standup comedy show sponsored by Humor for Heroes on November 9, two days before Veteran’s Day. Along with Garrett, other featured comics include Bobby Henline, Raul Sanchez and Joe Kashnow. Garrett, 54, talked with me via phone a few weeks ago about what makes him such a big troop supporter.

How did you get involved with Humor for Heroes?

I have a good friend named Bobby Henline, who is a wounded warrior and a comedian as well. I got to know Bobby about four years ago when he came back from Iraq where he was severely burned in a Humvee accident. He was the only survivor of the accident. He lost all his fellow soldiers in this horrible crash. I heard he wanted to get into standup. He really has a knack for comedy. We talked about doing this event to honor the veterans, so that’s just how it ended up.

Does it ever surprise you how Bobby can find so much humor in life after everything he’s gone through?

I have a very strong feeling Bobby was a funny guy before his accident. This is just something he always wanted to pursue. His standup has literally changed him. It’s amazing and inspirational to me on every level that a guy can go through everything he’s been through and get up on stage every night and make people laugh. It’s tough enough to do when you don’t have all these other obstacles. He is the epitome of how humor starts—pain plus time equals humor. He definitely has that gift.

When I think of comedians entertaining troops, one of the first things that comes to mind are the USO shows that started back in the 1940s.

I think America has always been grateful for our men and women in the Armed Forces. Of course, Bob Hope started all this off. It has become a tradition. Many comedians I know tour abroad. We should always take care of our soldiers. I just can’t imagine not helping them.

Now, back in the day, soldiers would be entertained by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth. Why are you a better headliner?

Because I have bigger tits. That’s really the only reason why. I’m sure the last thing the soldiers need to see when they’re away is a 50-year-old comedian, but I don’t know how much Marilyn made them laugh. It’s a good combo—a little T&A and humor. It’s all good, right?

You started your career in standup. How has the business changed over the years, and do you still find it as fulfilling to be on stage today as you did when you were in your 20s?

I think when you get older as an artist, it should be fulfilling. When it’s not, then you should stop doing it no matter if it’s music or comedy or painting. Standup has changed in that there are a lot less successful clubs around the country. There are so many outlets for comedy on television and online and being able to access all kinds of media. There are so many portals for comics to be seen. But it’s also given platforms to comedians who are not ready to be showcased yet. When I started, there was no YouTube. There was barely cable. Now anybody with their own iPhone can make their own movie or do their own standup and put it out there. It doesn’t mean they’re ready. It just means they have access. Standup is really something that is innate. I don’t think you choose it. I have people come up to me after a show and say, “Hey, I’m 31 and I’m a lawyer and I’m really bored, so I want to do standup.” I don’t think that’s how it’s done. I know it’s corny and cliché, but I think standup comedy is something that chooses you at an early age. You learn by the time you’re 8 or 9. You have a bit of a funny bone, and it grows from there. Then you just keep evolving and taking risks. Standup comedy is one of the scariest art forms in the entertainment industry. For Bobby, it’s second nature. You can’t scare a guy like that.

I read somewhere that you were banned from “The Tonight Show.” Is that true? I couldn’t find anything online to prove or disprove it.

It was really a rumor. I wasn’t really banned. I did a joke that was off color that [the producers] didn’t want me to do. I did it, and I wasn’t asked back. I did a joke about sperm, and it was a little risqué. It wouldn’t have been risqué today. The media spin on it was that I was banned. But it’s totally untrue.

Someone who was really banned was comedian Joan Rivers. She was finally invited back earlier this year after 26 years by Jimmy Fallon. Do you think when things like that happen, people just need to put stuff behind them and move on?

Yeah, people have to move on. That was unfortunate with Joan. [Johnny] Carson just got pissed off that she got her own show, which is kind of odd because I would think when you mentor someone you would want them to do well and grow. But Carson was a little bit like that. It was so cool when Jimmy Fallon had her back on. I know that meant so much to her. She was so hurt because of the ban. But it’s just so odd [Carson] mentored her and encouraged her and gave her her first break. You would’ve thought he would want her to fly. But we’re in a business that has a lot of greed and a lot of envy and a lot of insecure people. Sometimes that just comes out.

I read that you’re going to be traveling to Australia soon to do some standup and that this is going to be your first time performing out of the country. Would you like to go anywhere else?

Yeah, I would love to perform in maybe London or Ireland. I have my own comedy club in Las Vegas, so I’m not very big on traveling. But I do hear that Australia is really great for standup.

There was a great documentary a few years back called “Exporting Raymond” where Everybody Loves Raymond creator Philip Rosenthal attempts to help the Russian TV industry create a Russian version of the TV show. Did you see that?

I did. It was a great movie.

Oh, it was great, I agree! What there anything surprising to you about what that film uncovers in terms of how comedy gets lost in translation when it crosses cultures?

Yeah, I was in Europe recently and Raymond was playing there. It plays in over 100 countries. In most countries, it is dubbed in their language. I think the main thing the documentary asked is, “What is funny?” as opposed to what can be translated. Humor is a very personal thing. I think shows like “Raymond” and “Seinfeld” and “Friends” work well overseas is because there is a common thread—friends hanging out and relationships. The funniest thing about Phil’s documentary was the way they approached the industry and comedy and how backward a lot of it was as far as the process. It was really fun to see.

Speaking of “Seinfeld,” any chance we can see you on the web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld?” If so, what car would you want to drive around in?

Ah, well, I have a ’48 Chrysler that I would love to drive in. If Jerry asked me, I’m there. I would love to do it.

I know you got to work with Robin Williams on the TV show “The Crazy Ones” in the last year. Earlier you mentioned pain being a big part of a comedian’s life. Do you think sadness really is an inherent thing in most comedians? What did you learn from him on the set that you can use in your own life?

Working with him was really on my bucket list. If you go to my comedy club, I have portraits painted of him. He was one of my heroes. To work with him was a dream of mine for a very long time. What I picked up on the set was his brilliance, which is unparalleled in my opinion as far as how he worked and how he was able to work in the moment and on the spot. There was never a quicker mind, and I don’t ever think there will be as far as being able to go off the written page and just create. Robin had an incredible graciousness and kindness that I witnessed ever day—to the crew, the writers, the actors. He was just one of the kindest, caring and hardworking people I’ve met. There was zero ego and no pretense. He was the first to get there and the last to leave.

Sometimes they say when you meet your heroes it’s disappointing, but when I met him it was enlightening and encouraging. He was a great force to be around. His loss was a huge shock and hard to explain. Performers have a dark side. People have a dark side. Depression is a very real thing, and I think Robin’s passing has opened a lot of eyes to disease. Hopefully, we’ll bring it to the forefront so it won’t be so taboo anymore.

Comedy Under the Stars, $20 advance, $25 door, 8:30 p.m. November 9, Floore’s County Store, 14492 Old Bandera, (210) 695-8827, liveatfloores.com.

George Lopez – comedian

October 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

It is evident comedian George Lopez is still a little sensitive about the on-again, off-again relationship he’s had with television. Whatever the issue, I pushed some buttons when we talked to him last week in anticipation of this weekend’s tour stop in San Antonio. I managed, however, to draw him back in for the homestretch.

What is it about San Antonio that makes you come back time and time again?

Well, San Antonio has great people. It’s a great city. It’s historical. I’ve been coming through San Antonio for a long time. I did my HBO special there at the AT&T Center (“Tall, Dark & Chicano in 2009). The Majestic is a great place to work, so I always try to come back every year.

There always seems to be a place for you in the TV landscape, but your last three shows (“George Lopez,” “Lopez Tonight andSaint George) were cancelled. Has the instability of the TV industry taken a toll on you in any way?

What does that mean—my last three shows?

Well, “George Lopez was cancelled in 2007 and then “Lopez Tonight…”

Wait a minute, wait a minute. Every show ends, OK. “George Lopez went 120 episodes and it went into syndication. It hasn’t been off the air since 2002. I wouldn’t necessarily call that show a failure. It’s the opposite. It is still on the air. It is the only show in the history of TV with a Mexican American lead that has been syndicated. It’s a little bit of an insult to look at that as a failure.

I didn’t call it a failure. I said it was cancelled.

It got cancelled because all shows get cancelled. “Seinfeld got cancelled. (Editor’s note: “Seinfeld did not get cancelled). [Shows] end. You look at “M*A*S*H,” one of the greatest shows. It ended. The fact that “George Lopez got to 120 episodes should be celebrated not looked at as a failure. And “Lopez Tonight went two years. “[The] Chevy Chase [Show] went one month. “[The] Arsenio [Hall Show] (the revival in 2013) went one year. Instead of looking at it in a negative way, maybe look at it like I paved the way for other shows to be on TV. How about without “George Lopez,” you don’t have three shows on the air that have employed actors and put people to work. And “Saint George was a 10-90 (a network contract where a TV show will get picked up for an additional 90 episodes if the first 10 hit certain ratings; “Saint George did not) and it went all 10 episodes. It didn’t get picked up, but I don’t look at that as a negative. You try something and if it works, it works. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not a failure. It’s a failure if you don’t try.

Do you think 10 episodes was enough time to see if “Saint George could find some traction?

I don’t think 10 is a good enough amount and the [ratings] number was so high to reach. Those were all good shows. I don’t look at my career as a failure in any way. I’ve done things that no one else has done. I’ve got a star on the [Hollywood] Walk of Fame. I’ve got a wax figure (at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Hollywood). I’ve performed all over the world and in front of presidents. I don’t look at my career as anything other than a success.

Since the way people watch TV has changed so much in the last few years, do you think something like the Nielsen Ratings system is a fair way to measure how many people are watching a specific show at a certain time?

That system was created in the ’50s and has never been equal to the people who are watching TV. The diversity of viewers and the people who have the [Nielsen] boxes are underrepresented. We used to talk about that when [“George Lopez] was on 10 years ago. The people that were watching it didn’t represent the country. Also, if you want a show to succeed, you’re going to have to have a certain amount of people watch who are non-black and non-Latino. Sixty-five percent of the people who watched [“George Lopez] were white. If you can’t cross over, you don’t belong on TV. That’s not just me saying it. That’s just the way it is.

You recently wished comedian Cristela Alonzo good luck via Twitter on her new ABC sitcom “Cristela.” Having worked on that network in the past and because you are both Latino, is there anything else you want to tell her that she might not know yet?

I would wish her success. I wouldn’t know what to tell her because I don’t know what’s around her. I would say, in general, to anybody, that whatever decisions you make, let them be your decisions and not somebody telling you what to say. I’m saying that to everybody, not just to her. Ultimately, you have to live and die with your decisions. If it succeeds, you can say, “Wow, I made the right choices.” If it doesn’t succeed, you can say, “At least I did it the way I wanted to do it.”

These days everyone is always apologizing for something they say that offends somebody else. But you always seem to express yourself and are not afraid to say when someone pisses you off. From a professional standpoint, do you ever worry about burning bridges? I mean, you never know when you’re going to cross paths with someone again.

I try not to [burn bridges], but if I need to speak up for myself then I do. I really don’t think there is one person in the business that can make it hard for you to succeed. Some people ask, “Is he good to work with or not?” My reputation has always been that I’m someone good to work with. I’m sure there are some people that don’t like me, but there’s probably a reason they don’t like me. I’ve fired some people for not doing a job correctly—the way I wanted them to do it—so I’m sure those people wouldn’t be happy. But in whatever I do, I try to make sure that people are comfortable with the work.

On “The Howard Stern Show earlier this year, you said there was a “camaraderie between Latinos that wasn’t there 20 years ago” in Hollywood. I can believe that, but I would’ve also assumed there is still some competition between Latinos, too. I mean, if someone like comedian Gabriel Iglesias was tapped for a gig, would you wonder why you weren’t called instead?

You know, I don’t really know Gabriel that well. We’ve been around each other, but I don’t see him. He’s doing great. I have no ill feelings toward him and wish him success. I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I’m happy with what I’ve done. If you like [Gabriel], go see him. If you like me, come see me. If you like Felipe Esparza, who is also great, go see him. We can’t be narrow-minded and think that we all get along or we all know each other, but the ones that do know each other tend to be very friendly with each other. That is what I was saying wasn’t around 20 years ago.

When you were doing press for “Saint George earlier this year, you opened up about your drinking habit and said you had been sober for a couple of months. Are you still sober?

Yeah, I am. It’s not easy, but I am.

That’s interesting because around the same time you mentioned you were sober, news came out that you signed on as a spokesperson for the tequila company AsomBroso. I’m being facetious, but how do you know the tequila is any good if you can’t even try it?

Well, I drank it before [I was sober], so I know that it’s good. Listen, I’m telling you to buy it. I’ll sign the bottle, but I won’t take part in what’s inside. Also, I drank for a long time and never had a good relationship with alcohol, which I’m sure a lot of people, including Latinos, have. At some point you have to address that. My life is probably a little bit easier without that in it.

Since Day of the Dead is coming up, what would you put on your own altar to enjoy in the afterlife?

I’d put a cigar. I’d put a golf ball. I might put some Tajín (brand of chili seasoning) on there. I’d put some hair gel because wherever I go I’d hate to be without my gel. Then I’d probably put a bottle of tequila because if I’m going to another world, I’m drinking in the other world. I won’t drink in this one, but I’ll drink in the other one.

Carlos Mencia – comedian

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

It’s been nine long years since the first joke-stealing allegations surfaced against stand-up comedian Carlos Mencia. Although the outcry by fellow comedians and the public is no longer at the fever pitch it was back in 2007, the aftereffects spread like hellfire and were devastating to Mencia’s professional image. Despite this, the Honduras-born stand-up, best known for his four seasons as host of the Comedy Central TV show “Mind of Mencia,” has persevered and says he has come out on the other side mostly unscathed. “All I know is that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone anymore,” Mencia, 46, told me during a phone interview a few weeks ago. “I want people to just come out to my show and leave laughing so much that their stomachs are hurting. I’m a comedian so it’s my job to make people laugh for a living. That’s all I care about.”

How do you deal with the negativity still aimed at you and just focus on what you do? I mean, it’s not nearly as rampant as it was before, but I just saw on your Twitter feed someone wishing you were dead.

They’re just words from some sad, pathetic human being. What kind of pain, hurt and negativity has this dude been through that he wishes me dead? I mean, kids are killing themselves today because they’re being cyber-bullied. Of course we should try to stop it, but there are always going to be people like that out there that exist—the ones who want attention. I’m sure whoever posted that about me wanted me to respond.

When all the joke-stealing allegations were at their peak, did you feel like other comedians in the industry were bullying you?

Of course! The thing about my situation was that it happened during the early part of the internet. It was the one place people could go and be utterly negative and do it anonymously. I will never live in that place again.

You’ve been open about going to therapy during that time and have also mentioned you thought about suicide. How bad did it get that you thought about ending it all?

Well, I never had a plan, but I thought, “If I kill myself, I’ll just kill myself.” Then I thought, “No, because then the haters will win.” I would think things like, “Man, I could get a gun right now and go to a comedy club and shoot all the comedians. I won’t kill myself, so they can interview me over and over and I could scare all these comedians so they could see what happens when you try to ruin somebody’s career and life without ever thinking about that person as a human being.”

So not only were you suicidal, you were homicidal?

Oh, God, yes. It’s funny now, but in the darkness of those moments in your mind, it really is a whole different place. I mean, what was I thinking? What was wrong with me? Those thoughts in somebody else’s mind, though, could become real.

You’ve said in the past that the best stand-up comedians always have something to say. What are you trying to say these days when you’re on stage?

You know, I was processing that idea the other day. I’ve always been that comedian who goes on stage and tells a joke and a certain amount of people will be like, “Oooh!” I’m like, “Why are you saying ‘oooh’? We’re all just having fun. There is no ill will here. These are all jokes!” I think the message in my act has always been that it’s OK to laugh. You’re not a bad person if you laugh.

Do you think it’s because people are just a lot more easily offended these days?

Yeah, but I don’t understand why people go to comedy shows and freak out and don’t laugh. I think I make the world a better place when I serve my purpose. My purpose in life is to make people laugh about everything and anything. We should be able to laugh at each other and laugh at ourselves. In America, we’re OK with jokes about reality. We just want those jokes given to us by somebody who is not real. What I like to do in my stand-up is to say, “Let’s laugh at all that same stuff and do it amongst each other. Let’s not have a cartoon or a puppet be our go-between.”

I have to say, you sound a lot less angry than you have in the past.

I’ve been doing this long enough to say, “If you like what I do, great. If you don’t, I don’t care. If you wish me dead, God bless you. If you want to come see me perform, I’m going to put on the greatest show I possibly can. Hopefully it’s the best you’ve ever seen.” That’s where I live now. It’s a great place to be.

Gabriel Iglesias – Planes

August 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In Walt Disney Animated Studio’s new film “Planes,” stand-up comedian Gabriel Iglesias (AKA Fluffy) works double duty to give voice to the characters Ned and Zed, two disruptive airplanes that fly alongside the film’s main antagonist Ripslinger in hopes of helping him win a big aerial competition. During our interview, Iglesias, 37, talked about how lucky he was to land a role in the film after missing the first audition, and shared his 15-year-old son’s sentiments when he told him he was starring in a summer movie for Disney.

What’s up, Kiko?!

Hey, Gabriel! What’s going on, man?

Ah, nothing. Just sitting here waiting for my bagel.

Ah, nice. What do you put on it? Cream cheese?

That or butter. I’m weird.

How did you get pitched this film and why did you say yes?

It was a no-brainer. If Disney calls and you don’t go, you’re kind of dumb. (Laughs) Originally, I had read for the character Chupacabra, but I did not make myself available for the table read. I was out of town doing stand-up. When I missed the table read, someone else filled in (Carlos Alazraqui). But you don’t send in Mike Tyson to fill in for some regular fighter. [Carlos] is amazing with voices. So, he came in and they liked him better for that part. Luckily for me they had two other characters in the film (Ned and Zed), so they called me up for it. I did not miss that table read.

It’s pretty unique you got to give voice to both characters.

Yeah, two characters, one check.

How did you differentiate between the two characters’ voices?

Well, for one character, they let me use my regular voice, so I sound just like this. The other one sounds like a 60s hippy guy.

What did you think when you first saw what Ned and Zed looked like?

I was excited. I was like, “I want the toy!” The movie hasn’t even come out yet and I already went and got the toy. It’s pretty cool.

Are you going to try and get your hands on everything that features Ned and Zed in the toy aisles?

I’m going to go get all that stuff. I’m going to stockpile it at my house and give it away as Christmas presents.

Who’s most excited about you being in this movie? Do you have any kids in your life that flipped out when you told them you were going to be in “Planes?”

I have a 15 year old at home. When I showed him the characters I was playing he said, “That’s nice. Wanna play Call of Duty?” (Laughs) “Are the planes going to be shooting anything?” was his question. I was like, “No, they’re not going to be shooting anything!”

What experience as a stand-up comedian do you take into a gig like this – doing voice work for a major animated film?

Well, I basically walk in there and do what I do on stage. The cool part was they let me ad-lib a little bit. I would tag up some of the lines. I’d add a sound effect or change the tone a little. They let me have fun with it. So, yeah, doing voice over work was a walk in the park. On stage you only have one shot to do it, but in the studio if you don’t get it right, you can do it again and again. I was able to knock out the whole movie – both characters – in about four hours.

That’s not even a full day’s work, come on!

I know. I walked in, they made me an omelet and I got to work.

We’ve been seeing a lot of Latino characters in animated films this summer. Michael Peña and Luis Guzman voiced taco vendors in “Turbo” and Benjamin Bratt and Moises Arias had roles in “Despicable Me 2.” Do you think studios are starting to realize they have to hit that demographic?

I think that’s part of it. But I also think that guys like me – and this is going to sound crazy – can go either way with it. I’m a Latino, but I don’t necessarily have to go into that vein. But I do think people see there are a lot of dollars in the Latino market. We go to the movies a lot. It’s nice to see there is something there that connects. I think more and more studios are going to start doing that. Having the Chupacabra character (voiced by Alazraqui) in [“Planes”] adds so much to the movie.

We’re around the same age. We didn’t grow up with computer generated cartoons on TV and movie screens where the planes are flying at you in 3D. Do you like cartoons like this or are you more old-school?

I love it. Back in the day we didn’t have high-quality televisions like we do now. The best movies I had at the time were “The Fox and the Hound” and “101 Dalmatians.” I love that a “Cars”-type movie or a “Turbo”-type movie or a “Shrek”-type movie looks so lifelike. It adds so much to the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I still like cartoon animations, but I definitely think this is what people want to see right now.

What cartoons or TV shows did you grow up watching?

Let’s see, “Dukes of Hazzard,” “Knight Rider” “A-Team,” and “Three’s Company. Those were the shows I watched.

Big John Ritter fan, huh?

Oh, man, he was the best. He was funny and very physical with his comedy. He was really good at slapstick and falling.

I think he’s one of the very few recent comedians that did slapstick right. He wasn’t just some fat dude falling over something for a cheap laugh.

I could not pull that off successfully. Well, maybe I could do it once. (Laughs)

I know your first love is still stand-up comedy, but have you started to keep your options open when film opportunities come up?

If it’s something like “Planes,” definitely. But for the most part, I’m not trying to chase a film career. If a great opportunity presents itself, I’ll go for it, but my love and my passion is stand-up. I don’t want to be one of those guys that just uses stand-up as a stepping stone. My goal was always to be a stand-up comedian. All the other stuff is frosting on the cake.

I heard you were going to start working with NUVOtv.

Yeah, there’s a potential project in the works right now – in animation as a matter of fact. We’re doing a pilot, that’s for sure. It’s an animated series called “Hey, it’s Fluffy.” It’s basically me as a kid.

The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the cartoon was Louie Anderson’s cartoon “Louie,” which I always thought was underrated.

That’s funny. I just had a conversation about that a few minutes ago. Yeah, [“Hey, it’s Fluffy” is] in that vein. It’s my voice. I’m not changing it up. It’s me surrounded by my friends and what life was like as a kid.

What was Gabriel Iglesias like as a kid in comparison to as an adult now?

Not a whole lot of difference, bro. I got a little more grey hairs now. (Laughs) But, actually, I was pretty quiet as a kid. I definitely talk a lot more as an adult. I listened a lot more when I was a kid. Everybody was always telling me to be quiet, so that was my childhood. I was real chill, but as soon as the curtains opened up, I was on. The first time I got on stage, I was 10 years old.

I would’ve guessed you were the class clown.

Nah, I was never that guy. There are some guys that are always on and never turn it off, but I need a break. I need to use the restroom, check my Twitter. I can’t be trying to entertain everybody all the time.

When was the first time you realized you could make someone laugh?

Probably when I was 9 or 10 years old. The first time I got a laugh on stage, it threw me off. I was a big fan – and still am – of impressionist Rich Little. When he would do some of his stuff, people would applaud. In my head I thought that’s what they were supposed to do. When they started laughing it was like, “Whoa, wait a minute!” But once I got the second and third laugh I was like, “OK, this is working!”

Now that you’re in “Planes,” are you going to try to get some kind of cross promotion deals with an airline and fly around for free for the rest of your life? I hear stand-up comedians travel a whole lot.

Man, if I could, that would be great. I fly so much! I fly SO much! I’m at an airport right now! That’s funny to me that we’re doing this interview and I’m at an airport. (Laughs) I’m in an airport at least 300 hours a year.

What’s the longest layover you’ve had?

About nine hours!

Oh, man. You’re like the Edward Snowden of stand-up comedians.

Yeah, like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal!”

What do you think Snowden does all day long in the airport?

I don’t know. You can only go to the gift shop and restroom so many times.

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