Just before picking up the phone to call Hair Balls, comedian Gabriel Iglesias has a cookie. The plus-sized comedian says it puts him in a better mood. Not that the comedian has anything to be down about these days. On the business side, he's just released a new DVD, I'm Not Fat, I'm Fluffy -- Live from El Paso which is getting rave reviews. His Houston stop, which includes a New Year's Eve show, is on the verge of selling out and the club is about to add another show to handle the demand.
On the personal side, he's a new dad. He's living with his lovely girlfriend and her ten-year-old son, whom Iglesias considers his step-son. (Iglesias and the boy, who is reportedly also fluffy, are very close. In one bit on the DVD, Iglesias recounts the boy's telling him that he considers Iglesias his "real" dad, and goes on to say he wants his last name to be Iglesias. At which point the boy's mother chimes in with a well-timed, "Me, too.")
Hair Balls: You tell your audience about your step-son for the first time on this DVD. How does he feel about being in the show?
Gabriel Iglesias: I don't think he gets it yet. He doesn't know exactly what's going on. I remember a long time ago, my mom used to work in dance halls and she would take me to work with her. She'd introduce me to all these stars that would come through [on tour], but I was like, "Whatever.'' I didn't care. It didn't hit me until I was in my late 20s, early 30s that I realized who those people were and how famous they were. I think it will hit him a lot sooner because I'm pretty popular with his friends. But right now it doesn't freak him out or anything.
HB: Some of the stuff you talk about is a little bit personal, like him discovering porn...
Iglesias: He has never said, "That's not cool," or "Don't do that." And I tell him, "Hey, I put my personal life out there. If you want to be part of the package, your stuff is going out there, too."
HB: You also talk about your girlfriend, how she walks away from arguments with you because she doesn't want to hear you replay it onstage.
Iglesias: Oh, in the beginning there were a lot of arguments, but then she figured out that anything she said might go in the act, so she scaled it way back.
HB: How do you balance the new and the old bits in your show. Obviously, audiences want to hear something that's somewhat familiar, in the same style as what they've seen you do before, but you have to keep it fresh and add new stuff all the time, too, don't you?
Iglesias: For this show, I'll tell a lot of new stories, things that have happened recently but I'll also ask the crowd if they want to hear any of the classic stuff. Basically, I turn into a comedy mariachi -- I take requests. And believe me, people aren't shy about yelling out bits that they want to hear.
HB: Who were some of the people that helped you when you were coming up as a comic?
Iglesias: No one actually. I don't blame anyone, I'm not bitter and crying, "Nobody helped me!" It just happened that way. I learned things on my own, and, thankfully, pretty quickly. My main thing was that I just went on stage every single night anywhere that I could go up. I would perform in some ugly, ugly places. Places like where the crowd would be watching a basketball game and it'd be the fourth quarter and they would shut the television off and say, "Okay, now it's time for comedy." Man, the crowd would get crazy. There was a lot of those, a lot of bars and grills, a lot of back yard barbeques. Early on I did a lot of car shows, which isn't my favorite, but hey, it was an audience, so I was there.
What really helped me was that I was very focused and I knew what I wanted to do. A lot of people use comedy to as a stepping stone for acting or getting on television. i just want to do stand-up.
Some of the best advice I ever got was to work clean. That's really worked for me. I don't have to compromise or change my show in order to get on television. It's the same; I don't have to clean it up for broadcast, because it's already clean.
HB: What's your favorite part of being on stage -- the attention? The control? The ...
Iglesias: The release. If I'm having a bad day, I put it out there. If something's bothering me, I talk about it. For example, in the DVD, you'll see my mom. She had just gotten out of the hospital because she had gotten real sick -- because she didn't take her medicine like she was supposed to. So she got sick and it was very serious. When she came out, not too long after that she went to one of my shows, and it got real intense. I talked about how I grew up, a lot of things about my mom, how she had been sick. The audience was laughing, but at the same time, they knew that it was all very real and very serious. That was a great release for me; it kept me from blowing up in person. I was able to get my point across to her from the stage.
That was very different for me because I don't get on stage and complain about my family or the government or anything. I don't talk about politics. I try to stay away from the negative stuff, even though you can make the negative stuff funny, it's still negative. I tell people, my show is the feel-good show. When you leave my show, you just want to hug somebody and get a bite to eat. (Laughs) Really, I've had managers tell me, 'Food sales double when you're here.'
See Gabriel Iglesias at the Houston Improv, 7 and 10 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit www.houstonimprov.com. $30 to $50.