Q&A: Gabriel Iglesias
Gabriel Iglesias has long referred to himself as “The Fluffy Comic,” but he’s shed considerable fluff since committing to a healthier lifestyle. His appetite for comedy remains undiminished, and now when he eats he makes it count. Fuse network’s Fluffy Breaks Even, which debuts Oct. 1 on Fuse and follows his three-season Comedy Central rising-talent series Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand Up Revolution, combines food with workouts and hanging out with fellow comedian friends such as Martin Moreno. Iglesias also reprised his Magic Mike role as Tobias for this summer’s sequel Magic Mike XXL. Iglesias spoke to Las Vegas Magazine’s Matt Kelemen ahead of his Sept. 11-13 shows at The Mirage.
I saw that you were recently given a drone. Have you tried that out yet?
Yeah, the night they gave that to me, they gave me a drone and basically a tombstone, which are two crazy gifts. We charged up that drone and we played with it at the fair. It’s pretty cool because it has flashing lights on it, so it has kind of a little UFO effect going on.
You’re one of the first people I’ve talked to that owns a drone.
I think if they wouldn’t have given it to me, I wouldn’t have bought one, but since they gave it to us, and my buddies charged it up for me… As soon as I got offstage, we were playing with it.
Did the same people give you a tombstone or did you just get those two gifts at the same time?
No (laughs), someone else gave me a tombstone.
What was that about?
I have no idea. I guess the guy makes grave markers for a living, and he thought it would be cool to make me one. He goes,” I’m sure no one’s ever made you one of these.” I go, “Well, not yet!”
So it didn’t get a little eerie for you for a second? “Huh, a tombstone.”
A little bit, a little bit. It’s like one of those “Okaaay, I got to get back on the bus.”
I saw in your Aloha Fluffy special that you’re the No. 2 comedian in the Middle East, right behind Jeff Dunham.
I think at this point from that special ’til now, I’ve taken the title, from the Middle East anyway.
Just in case you didn’t know, you have 808,000 Twitter followers to Jeff Dunham’s 492,000.
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say I’ve taken the Middle East.
Aziz Ansari still has 6.89 million, Chris Rock has 3.4 million, but Martin Moreno has 34,000 so you’re way ahead of him. It looks like Stand-up Revolution is over, right? Are you totally past that or is it going to come back?
No, we had a nice run with that. We had three seasons. It went over good, but you know what? Three’s the magic number for me. I made up my mind that was going to be the last season before we even talked about a fourth or fifth.
So now it’s all about Fluffy Breaks Even, right?
That’s the new show right now. If you don’t know about it, it’s about us going out to eat and having a good time, then the next day we got to pay for it. Whatever it is, we got to do, whether it’s at the gym or rock-climbing or hiking, wrestling or some kind of physical activity to burn off what we had the night before.
I saw a promo for it but I didn’t get that second part.
Yeah, I yelled at the network for that. “Hey! If you show one side, you got to show the other.”
Yeah, because it’s like you lost all that weight, and then all of a sudden you’re eating at Heart Attack Grill. I was a little concerned, until I looked it up and saw that you were going to be trying to work off those calories, too.
Yeah, so hence the term Fluffy Breaks Even.
Was that you idea or did the network suggest it to you?
I came up with the idea about three or four years ago. I’ve always been a big fan of the food shows. I love the food shows. I love the idea that these guys get to go out and travel and eat at these random restaurants. I was “You know what? If I can do that, that’s how I’d get into trouble. I’d have to be accountable.” So I got the idea, how about a show where you’ve got to incorporate a workout. You’ve got to be accountable for what it was, like a “Man vs. Food vs. Gym.”
So you have to arrange a workout wherever you’re going? You’ve got to find a gym or do something else after you eat?
We’ve got to come up with some sort of physical activity that’s going to burn off the majority if not all of the calories that we consume at the restaurant.
I saw the clip with Heart Attack Grill, and that was (Downtown) Las Vegas, right?
Did you do that during a previous tour or did you come here strictly for that?
We were performing that week in Vegas, but we figured since it was Vegas, we had a golden opportunity to run with it. The visual effects and everything we could incorporate from that Vegas show. So that’s why we decided to hit that Heart Attack Grill. Figured “Let’s go big and extreme on this first episode.”
What kind of workout did you do to burn off those calories?
We opted for pole fitness, which is an actual workout. Basically like strippers, stripper poles.
This is going to be on TV? We’re going to see you doing pole fitness?
Oh, yeah! But it’s not just spinning around a pole. I have no idea how many exercises you can actually do there, but it was a lot of fun. I don’t know if you can break even after eating 3,000 calories at Heart Attack Grill, but it was a lot of fun.
Do you have any idea where you plan to eat when you come back for your next appearance?
Probably not the Heart Attack Grill. There’s a lot of amazing restaurants in Vegas. You can eat every day for a year and not have to go to the same place twice. Some of my favorite places are Hash House a Go Go. They’ve got another restaurant off the Strip called the (Red) Velvet Café, and that’s actually kind of healthy. I want to say it’s vegan. I went through a vegan phase, and we were trying to find good restaurants and that was one of them.
Other than that, is this like a normal tour or is it very different with having to accommodate a production crew and arrange this at every stop?
We’ve already done the Vegas episode, so we’re not going to be filming this time around. So it’s just back to normal. We get to go out and do the concerts and then go party during the day.
You’re going to Europe as part of this tour, Are you going anyplace you haven’t been before?
Yeah, we want to do South Africa. We want to do a few places in Europe that we haven’t had a chance to hit. We want to hit Scotland, Ireland, Finland. We did get to perform in Iceland this time, and we’re actually going to go back for Round Two. Looking forward to that one.
I guess, after going to Saudi Arabia, playing before any other country’s audiences is easy.
And we’re going back to the Middle East this year, too, so we’ll be in Saudi Arabia, I want to say Qatar, Dubai. Yeah, we’re going back to Saudi. You know, believe it or not, the shows are not that different from the shows I do out here. Very mild editing, which is cool.
I wrote about you two or three years ago, but since then your popularity has just gone off the charts. What do you attribute that to?
I think just staying consistent and definitely staying in touch with the fans. I call it “grass-roots digital marketing.” I am the one who runs my own social media. I’m the one that’s out there interacting with the fans back and forth, sending pictures, just making myself accessible. Of course putting on a good show helps, but if people don’t know about your show … you could have the greatest thing in the world but if nobody knows about it, it’s not a big deal. I encourage people to share my content. A lot of times people upload videos of comedians and then the comedians get mad, like “Oh, they’re uploading my stuff for people to see, I’m not making money off of it.” Youtube has made it possible for me to have an audience outside of the U.S. If not for Youtube, I couldn’t go anywhere. Comedy Central and some of these other networks I’ve done specials with are great in the U.S., but they don’t have those outside of America.
Has Youtube basically taken the place of comedy albums?
Absolutely, because as a kid growing up I had an Ed Murphy cassette that I would listen to and I’d play it until that tape snapped. I’d have to get a piece of Scotch tape and put it back together. Now I think Youtube and Netflix, and some of these other new types of networks, are definitely taking the place of albums. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still have comics out there selling their CDs and stuff, but not like back in the day when it was like album after album after album, and that was it. Comics strived to make albums back in the day, whereas now they want to make a special so they can put it online so people can see it.
I remember listening to Robin Williams’ A Night at the Met.
One of my favorite ones, yep.
Did growing up in Long Beach influence your comedy, or was it more being part of a big family causing you to want to be heard?
What got me into it was lack of attention. I always wanted attention, and you know what? Other people laughing at you says to me that they’re agreeing with what you’re saying. I’m very quiet offstage, but onstage forget about it. I’m just trying to get attention. I was the last of six kids. I didn’t really have any siblings growing up around me because there were so many years between my sister and myself. It wasn’t like I grew up in a big family. I did but I didn’t, because everyone was out of the house. It was almost like I was an only child.
Sound effects are a big part of your act. Has it been that way from the beginning or is that the result of time and trying things?
When I first got started it was all about impressions and sound effects. I really wasn’t trying to tell a story. I wasn’t letting people in on who I really was. I was just this entertaining dude who did impressions and made noises. Now what I do is I still incorporate that into my show because it does make the show feel better. You can’t just go up there and tell a story, because it’s just blah. When you throw sound effects, instead of saying, “That girl showed up and she was like ‘Hey,’” I’d say “That girl showed up and she was like (affects high-pitched voice) ‘Oh my God, hey!’” All of a sudden, you’ve animated the story. You’ve made it better.
At what point did you feel like you were a comedian?
The first year I started was 1997. Two months after I began doing stand-up comedy I was on the road—Tucson, Ariz.—doing stand-up for $50. I think the airline ticket cost $200, so I was a comedian but I wasn’t really a working comedian. I was like a comic that was taking his losses, the paying-the-dues phase. To call myself a comedian, I can say that I felt that, that I was a comedian. I felt that, I just wasn’t at the level of comedy that I wanted to be at. (I was) at the beginning stages of comedy, but I did consider myself a comedian. Now as far as being considered a professional, or a good comedian, that came years later.
But your self-identity as a comedian was there from the get-go.
Oh, yeah. I knew that I wanted to do comedy. Since I was 10, I knew what I wanted to do.
So years later, when you’re on the sets of Magic Mike XXL, do you look back to when you were starting out in Arizona and think “Holy crap, I can’t believe what’s happened to me.”
I’m constantly reflecting on stuff like that. Not necessarily on a movie set. I’m not a big fan of doing movies, believe it or not. But it’s cool to say you’re in a movie, especially in a hit movie. Doing movies takes away from stand-up, which is what I really love doing. You do a movie, you got to stick to the script, you got to listen to a director, you got to listen to a writer, schedules. You’re out there all day. It’s very different from stand-up. Stand-up, you’re everything—writer, director, producer. And you’re only working for an hour, maybe two.
You enjoy doing voice-overs though, right?
Oh, voice-overs are fun. They hand you the script and you can show up in shorts and a torn T-shirt. You don’t got to shave, they give you a bunch of food and hot coffee, and honey for your throat. And you knock out an entire film in one or two days.
Was this something that you expected at the dawn of your career, that it was something that could become available to you?
Nah, it was icing on the cake, bro. That was bonus. First time I tried it, I was like “This is cool. I like this.” Since then I was offered a lot of other things. I don’t turn those down, by the way. That’s free money as far as I’m concerned. I just got to show up.
You told Las Vegas Weekly that a Disney program (The Emperor's New School) you worked a few years ago on was your favorite. What’s been your favorite since?
There’s been a few. I just did one a couple of weeks ago. They’re doing a new Ice Age project, and I get to be a bear.
The credits for Magic Mike XXL have Steven Soderberg as the director of photography instead of the director (Greg Jacobs), like he was for Magic Mike. Was that a little strange seeing Soderberg and interacting with him less?
No, actually I think I interacted just as much if not more this time around. You got to figure the director and the cameraman are in the same basic position. They’re literally two feet away from each other. That’s how I saw him in the first movie and that’s how I saw him in the second one.
Do you know why he took on that role? Was it less stress?
I think it was a little less pressure and it freed him up to do a little bit more, plus he gets to push his buddies. Greg’s been working with Steve for a while now.
Martin Moreno seems to be your best bud. How long has that been going for?
Fifteen years. Easily 15 years.
Is he one of your favorite comedians, or a great traveling companion?
He’s a great everything, but you know what? He starts the show in only a way he can. Whenever he’s sick or can’t make a show and we have people filling in, they think it’s easy to be a host and it’s not. The hosting position is very important and it’s not something you can replace. He’s been the go-to for the last 15 years. He has job security as long as I’m a comedian.
So he’s the hype man? He gets people going in the beginning of your show?
What’s funny is he’s so popular now because of my show that when he walks out onstage people are already cheering for him. He really doesn’t have to hype up the crowd. They’re already excited just to see him.