By: John Grossi
Gabriel Iglesias (known as Fluffy) is one of America’s most successful stand-up comedians performing to sold-out concerts around the world. He is also one of the most watched comedians on YouTube with almost a billion views and has over 25 million fans across social media. In 2018, Gabe was included in The Hollywood Reporter’s “Top 40 Comedy Players” issue alongside comedy giants Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Lorne Michaels. The comedian has also had the distinct honor of being one of the few to headline and sell-out Madison Square Garden in New York, Staples Center in Los Angeles and Sydney Opera House in Australia. Iglesias is the star and executive producer of Mr. Iglesias, the multi-cam, Netflix original comedy series, which is currently streaming Part 1-3. Iglesias plays a good-natured public high school teacher who works at his alma mater, Wilson High School.
Feature film credits include co-starring roles in Magic Mike, Magic Mike XXL and A Haunted House 2. Gabriel’s voice has been heard in many animated films over the years, and he will be voicing “Speedy Gonzales” in the highly anticipated film, Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Gabriel Iglesias is the youngest of six children, raised by a single mother in Long Beach, CA. It was during his childhood that he developed a strong sense of humor to deal with the obstacles he faced. In 1997, he set out to hone his comedic skills, and performed stand-up anywhere he could find an audience, including biker bars and hole-in-the-wall joints. Gabriel’s stand-up comedy is a mixture of storytelling, parodies, characters, and sound effects that bring his personal experiences to life. His unique and animated comedy style has made him popular among fans of all ages.
When you decided you wanted to become a comedian, what was the first step you took?
I think the first step was just not to listen to those who wanted to discourage me. There are always people trying to talk you out of stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, these folks are your closest family and friends. They had good intentions but their dreams and goals did nothing for me. Playing it safe did nothing for me. People say you can’t beat having benefits and security. But for me, pursuing something that’s solid and safe? I don’t know if that [security] can compare to the benefits you’re going to get by doing what you love.
So when did you first decide not to listen to “playing it safe?”
Hey, I’ve been not listening to people my whole life!
But I guess the comedy choice sort of started in high school at Wilson. I was on the speech team, which I really enjoyed, and also in a course called “Exploratory Teaching.” Through that program, I was offered the opportunity to go to college on a scholarship and earn my teaching degree for free - as long as I agreed to come back and teach through LBUSD. It was a great opportunity, but even though I liked teaching and I thought it was cool, it wasn’t my passion.
So I turned that down and started just going to bars that had comedy nights, where I pretty much just used this little bit I had, based off a monologue from my speech class. There wasn’t a lot of structure to it but I was able to get laughs once I was on the mic.
The career took off pretty fast. I was at a bar one night and two months later, I was on the road. I met a comic who had a couple gigs in the Midwest with comedy clubs and he was responsible for hiring the openers. He said, “Hey, man, you’re funny! Can you go on at the beginning and do 15 minutes?” So I said sure—you’ve got to be able to B.S. in this business a little - and the next thing I knew I was on my first trip ever to Tucson, Arizona. I got a free flight, free hotel, and $50. Hey, for only 10 minutes of work! And I was like, “Awesome.”
I think a lot of times people get so wrapped up in the money part of it that they forget the important part, which is, ‘How happy does the thing you’re doing make you?’ I still have a giant poster from that night—the first time of me being a comic. July 9, 1997.
When did you finally feel like you had made it?
I’ve done my best to not say that out loud. Once you say you’ve made it, you stop growing and stop climbing. By saying, ‘I can do more,’ it keeps you hungry to always set new goals.
Okay- there are two times I did say, “I’ve made it,” and I got scared both times. Once was when I played Madison Square Garden. It’s a little hard to argue [that you’ve made it] when you’re in the world’s most famous venue in New York City, with a packed house.
The second time, of course, being Dodger Stadium, which hasn’t happened yet but is scheduled for May 7, 2022. The wheels are in motion. I think it’s going to be the biggest show we’ve ever done. Around 40,000 people, at home, and it’s being recorded for Netflix. Whatever happens, by the next day, the top of the mountain, that’s what it’s going to be.
What advice would you give to someone interested in making it in comedy and/or entertainment?
Don’t make excuses. Just do what it is you want to do. It’s easy to say, “I can’t … because I live here,” or “… because this is my situation at home.” “I can’t because whatever.”
I could make a million excuses: I’m overweight… I got messed-up teeth… I’m a minority… when has a brown person ever done anything to make noise in this field? You got to be this or you got to be that… People never ask themselves the question instead to say, “Hey, maybe I can be the first. I can be a pioneer.”
When you follow your dreams, that’s what is most rewarding. When people come up to me somewhere and say, “Wow, I didn’t think that could be done until I saw you do it!” Those bring the moments that make me go to my car and just sit there, to sip my coffee and reflect!
But it really can be that simple. Find out what you’re good at and do it!