Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias is one of America’s most successful stand-up comedians and he performs in sold-out concerts across the United States and Internationally. His 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. On July 25, 2014 Iglesias’ highly anticipated stand-up comedy film The Fluffy Movie hits theaters. In the summer of 2014, Comedy Central will air season 3 of Gabriel’s hit series Stand-Up Revolution, which features comedians that he personally selected.
A lot has changed in his life over the nearly two decades touring and doing stand up. Not just his health but his personal life and his professional goals and ambitions. Gabriel was in Dallas promoting The Fluffy Movie and he shared a lot with us about his career and his family life. Here are the highlights from our very candid interview with the hilarious and ground breaking comedian earlier this month.
MC: Thank you so much for coming to Dallas. Great to finally meet you. Now you’ve been making people laugh for nearly two decades right?
GI: April 10th of next year will be 18 years so yeah, it’s not an overnight thing. *laughs* I can legitimately say I’ve been working my ass off for a long time *laughs* and the fact that I’m getting this concert movie is perfect because it’s coming at just the right time in my life.
MC: When we’re young our parents or families tend to think we’re funny and cute. But at what point did you realize you were legitimately making people laugh and made you think “hey, I have a gift for this”?
GI: The first time I got on stage I was 10 years old and I did impressions. I did cartoon characters and I really got the bug for this life when I saw that people were laughing and saw the attention I was getting. I remember seeing Eddie Murphy RAW and seeing people laughing and having a good time and that was the same response I was getting so I thought I was on to something. But like you said that’s the response you get when you’re young like “oh you’re just getting laughs because you’re a little kid and you’re cute”. They weren’t trying to encourage me at all or tell me to keep pursuing this.
But it was a secret dream I kept and I didn’t tell anybody about it until I was about 18. I got on the high school speech team and everyday I would get up in front of the class and just start talking. Sometimes it was funny, other times it was just talking, but it gave me the confidence to speak in front of people after doing that for a whole year. And by the end of the semester I was the only one up in front of the class everyday. Actually I could have passed the class four times over because every time you got in front of the class you got extra credit. That was the only class I got an A in and it was the funniest report card because it read Speech – A but everything else was just D, D, D, D.
So after that I got my first chance to go up on stage for real. I was travelling and was up on stage probably about a month after I started. I caught on pretty quickly and I was really good at networking. I met a bunch of people who were comics and they helped me with booking stuff but I basically worked for nothing. I told them, “don’t worry I’ll fly myself there, I’ll take care of all my meals” and this and that. So they were like “great, even if you suck it’s not costing us anything so get on out there”. *laughs*
MC: Comedians have their signature routines and with you, you’re “the fluffy guy”. There’s not another comedian like you and I think it’s because you bring so much of your personal life up on stage. Some comedians do funny routines, or make up stories, but is it difficult sharing so much about your family? I mean they are great stories but do you struggle to tell things that are so personal?
GI: I did at first but then I realized that it’s because I talked about the stuff so openly that people are able to connect and relate. I put everything out there, and if I’m having a bad time, people know about it. My girlfriend knows that if I’m acting weird at home to go to one of my shows to see what’s on my mind.
For example, in the movie, I’ll talk about why I had to lose 100 pounds, how I’m type 2 diabetic and how I was literally facing death. My legs were all swollen and doctors told me my blood sugar was all out of whack. So I looked into having surgery and that wasn’t going to work so I had to do something really fast to lose a bunch of weight. Stuff like that.
People can relate to someone who isn’t perfect. When people come up to me and ask how they can become a comic I’ll just ask them to tell me about their life. “Are your parents together? Yeah. Okay, are they well off? Yeah. Do you have a job? Yeah. Um, okay, did anybody ever beat you when you were a kid? No. Ok, do you have a girlfrend? Yeah. Is she pretty? Yeah. Have you ever been dumped? No…Then why would anybody relate to you?”
You know what I mean? Why would anybody connect to someone who has everything going for them? It’s the person who has faults that people want to connect to. So people identify with certain insecurities on stage and just by me talking about my diabetes people come up to me after the show and tell me “Gabe, my blood sugar is out of control and I feel you”. That’s the first thing they say, they say “I feel you!”.
If you put your personal stories out there people always connect. People understand when I talk about my son not listening, or issues at home or his real dad coming back into the picture, or even stories about family members not seeing eye to eye with what you’re doing. By putting myself out there the way I’ve been doing people see me as a real person. Even though I do character voices and funny noises the stories are still real and I put them all out there.
MC: By letting your guard down you let people that much closer to the real Gabriel. One of the things that’s iconic about you is your “levels of fatness”. You’ve gone from the five layers to six layers but now since you’re sharing your health crisis with fans will you continue to adapt your staple jokes as your life evolves? Like instead of levels of fatness, will you tell us your levels of being “hangry” because of the health regimen you’ve taken up?
GI: No. I’ve got foundation jokes, the ones that got me where I am, so everything I do just builds on top of that. There are certain bits in my act that will never change. That’s a bit, that’s not really a whole story. It’s a staple piece from my show and I like to tell old jokes on stage after about an hour, or an hour and a half. I’ll bring those old ones back because the fans love them.
MC: Well that’s like your version of the “Seven Dirty Words”. George Carlin turned a corner in his career with that bit and it’s awesome to see you have something that iconic and memorable…quotable too! But it’s a joy to watch you on stage because the audience doesn’t know what’s coming next be it a funny voice, or an outlandish story that really is true. So what were some of the first voices and sound effects you learned to do and what were the more difficult ones to get right?
GI: In the beginning it was just cartoons and when I started it was very dirty. But when thinking about this movie I wanted to make it something that everybody could watch. That’s why it’s PG-13. Every other stand-up comedy has been rated R which is why I intentionally tell people when I’m marketing this one is that “the only F word is Fluffy”.
When I started I was very dirty and I did imitations of cartoon characters having sex. That was my whole thing in the beginning. It was funny but you couldn’t do anything with it. I was up there doing Marvin the Martian having sex with Bugs Bunny saying “oh, my modulator” and people are dying but you can’t do that on The Tonight Show. *laughs*
I also did Popeye and Ronald Reagan and everybody was saying things like “yeah he’s a cute little kid” but I started, little by little, telling stories about people I’d met and expanded my voices. The girl voice is always going to kill because they don’t expect it. People see a big dude and they hear that high pitched voice or “Eglasias with an ‘I’” and love it because they can relate and go “I know that person!”.
MC: The observational humor will only get you so far because it, in a way, is like your cartoon voices. But your life keeps us laughing because your life continually provides you with material, especially the more places you go. I just love the story about your trip to Saudi Arabia.
GI: That was an unbelievable experience. But you know what’s funny? Now people are coming up to meet me at my shows and they’re doing my bits! One guy earlier was at 7-11 and he comes up to me and goes “you want a falcon?”. *laughs* That special, with that bit, is on YouTube and Aloha Fluffy has over 5 million views. I’m glad that people are just loving it.
MC: In that special you said you were the second most popular comedian over there, behind only Jeff Dunham, so did you ever find out what kind of views his stuff got?
GI: *laughs* Well you know what’s funny is that now he has a story about going to the Middle East. I went to go see him the other day and I was like “oh, very familiar!” *laughs*
MC: Where do you go next? Promoting this movie is taking you across the country and your stand up specials helped you break into markets in different countries. But what’s on the horizon that you never imagined being a possibility 18 years ago?
GI: We’ve gone to so many places but definitely South Africa is up there and there are many places in Latin America I’d like to visit. We’ve done Australia and we’ve done Europe. I’ve been to Germany and that’s been more of a military show so I would like to do more of a civilian show. Also Russia and Malaysia are on the list but right now I would like to go to Brazil just to go see the women. Comedy, huh, whatever, I’m there for the sights. *laughs*
MC: *laughs* Well you’ve got your priorities in order so that’s good. *laughs*
GI: *laughs* I told my girl, “If you ever see me book a flight to Brazil we’re pretty much done”. *laughs*
MC: *laughs* Papers would read “Gabriel Iglesias Extends Six Month Tour Engagement Indefinitely” *laughs*
GI: Right! *picks up a pretend phone* “Sorry baby, I’m not coming back”. No, but what I really want to do is keep producing. I’ve already produced one hour specials for other comedians and I have a TV show called Stand Up Revolution where I showcase new talent and so I’d like to continue to do stuff like that and help out the next guy. Eventually I’m gonna fade the hell out so if you help somebody out now maybe they’ll help you out later in life.
Aside from producing I want to direct but I’m also going to get back out on the road. I’m not gonna stop touring and if this movie does well I guess we’re gonna have a nice impressive run after it and start building up to the next special. This one was number five after the Aloha Fluffy special which was the first time I broke the 1 hour mark.
MC: Yeah I noticed that. And aside from your staple jokes every special is totally different. So what are some of the topics and “new material” that’s advertised in The Fluffy Movie?
GI: Well the “new material” is more a marketing strategy. They told me, “we want people to know it’s new material”. So I said, “man, anyone who’s seen my specials knows I don’t put out the same stuff twice”. Originally the big argument was that they wanted to call it “raw and uncut” and I told them I had a problem with that. When you say “raw” it implies that my show is dirty and that’s not the case. As far as “uncut” I think we all know that you guys cut up the special. Originally it was going to be 2 hours plus and it got chopped down so I said “we can’t use those words because it’s not going to represent me right”.
But it is new material and the stuff that I’m talking about now are things like the issues I’m dealing with because of my illness and talking about my relationship with my son. I’m also talking about my Dad who just showed up after 30 years. He was out of the picture forever and all of a sudden he comes to one of my shows so I’m doing a whole comparison with the parallels between Frankie, myself and my Dad. Then I tell a whole story about going to India among a lot of other things.
MC: You share so much about yourself, I think we got that covered, but you also talk about your friends so much we feel like we know Martin and Felipe.
GI: It’s funny, we were walking around 7-11 and people were yelling “Martiiinnn!!”. They knew exactly who he was. It’s pretty crazy.
MC: Well are there people in your life who have begun asking you *in a funny voice* “hey man, why don’t you start talking about me?”
GI: *laughs* Wow! You sound just like my friend Rick Gutierrez which is funny because that’s who you’re going to be hearing me talk about soon. I produced his one-hour special, he’s a very funny guy. I have a motley crew of friends I hang out with so you’ll be hearing more stories about them along with everybody else. This next special also deals with drinking so you’ll see that I have a lot of issues I gotta deal with. *laughs*
MC: Can’t wait. It’s been a real pleasure Gabriel. Thanks!
GI: Thank you man.
Thanks to Gabriel for his time. The Fluffy Movie is in theaters Friday July 25, 2014 everywhere.
Marc V. Ciafardini writes for GoSeeTalk.com, a Dallas-based website that often focuses on movie reviews, interviews, film scores and the composers behind them.