Originally from East Los Angeles, California, Felipe Esparza is the winner of Last Comic Standing and the star of his own Showtime stand-up special. He's been in feature films, appeared in numerous television shows, and still finds time to perform his stand-up act on stages across the country. Zoiks! Online recently had a chance to catch up with Felipe and ask him all about life on the road.
Q - How did you get involved with stand-up?
A - When I was little, the first comedy album I listened to was Bill Cosby's "My Brother Russell Whom I Slept With." I knew then that I wanted to do that for a living. Living in the projects, I would bag on people and do the Yo Mama jokes, etc., and crowds would grow and grow just to listen to me bag on people in the neighborhood. But after problems with drugs and alcohol and hanging around the wrong people, I lost track of that and was getting involved in gang activity and in a lot of trouble. I was helped by Father Greg Boyle (who later started Homeboy Industries to help turn former gang members' lives around) and was sent to rehab for a year. During that time, we talked about what we wanted to do in life and made a list of five things we wanted to accomplish. One of those things for me was to start following my dream of becoming a comedian.
Q - You were the winner of "Last Comic Standing." What was the best part about doing the show?
A - Winning of course, but really it was putting my short sets together that tightened up my longer set in the end. Also, all that weekly exposure to the middle of America helped build my audience so that I actually have an audience when I go to clubs in smaller towns around the country.
Q - Your first one-hour special, "Felipe Esparza: They're Not Gonna Laugh at You" premiered on Showtime in December and will be available online in February. What can fans expect from the special?
A - It's going to be in retail stores too (Walmart, Best Buy, etc.). The special is some older jokes that people may remember mixed in with some newer material. It's a lot of stuff about growing up in the hood, not always being the best parent, relationship stuff. So far, I've heard from a lot of fans that they have watched this special four or five times and they still are laughing hard. They're sharing it with their family members young and old. I think everyone will relate to it.
Q - You’ve performed your act on a variety of stages (and still continue to tour). What’s your favorite road story, whether it’s silly, embarrassing or just plain awesome?
A - Well, a lot of my road stories have become well known by Gabriel Iglesias because we used to tour together and he tells a lot of "my friend Felipe" stories that people love... and they're all true, by the way... but one time I was doing a show with Gabriel Iglesias and Armando Cosio in El Paso. Then out of nowhere, Paul Rodriguez showed up (he was doing a corporate gig in town). He wanted to take us all to Juarez Mexico to get tacos. It was one in the morning and Gabriel said, "it's too late, everything's closed, we can't get tacos." Paul said, "everything's closed if you only have 5's on you..." and we ended up eating tacos that night.
Q - You've also appeared in feature films (including “I’m Not Like That No More," which is based on your stand-up). What's the funniest thing that's happened on set?
A - I don't know how funny this is but I had a stand-in for that movie and he had the same skin tone, same height and was a little chubby. I was obsessed with him because I had never had a stand-in before, so I kept going around asking everyone on set, "hey, is that guy fatter than me?"
Q - Who are your favorite comics, and who influences you?
A - Rodney Dangerfield, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Paul Rodriguez, Mitch Hedberg… I have a lot of favorites.
Q - What’s the best advice about entertainment you’ve received, and who gave it to you?
A - Paul Rodriguez once told me, “don’t worry about crossing over to a certain audience (i.e., non-Latino)… if you’re funny enough, they’ll cross over to you.” And I see that when I see middle-aged white soccer mom types at my shows all over the country. All ages, all ethnicities (I even have a Sikh fan base that shocked me… maybe it’s the beard), every type of person can be found in my audiences.
Q - What’s next for you? What can fans expect from you in the future?
A - I have a couple pilots I shot last year that will be airing in the spring and then I will be working on my next one hour special that should be ready in another year.
Kate Brindle is a stand-up comedian from Ann Arbor, MI. For more information and for tour dates, visit her at http://www.katebrindle.com/ Email Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.