Gabriel Iglesias’ stand up act is rooted in personal pain. Raised by his mom, the San Diego native grew up without a father. Over the years, he has struggled with weight issues and recently was diagnosed with diabetes, and yet the comedian, who grew up wanting to be Eddie Murphy, has turned those obstacles into material for his act, which has resulted in a successful career. The Mexican-American pours out his heart and soul on stage with an intended result: laughs.
His openness, not to mention his gift for recounting seminal moments of his life in a very funny way, have made him one of the most popular stand up comics around. He’s appeared in movies and he has voiced characters in animated features including “Planes” and “The Nut Job.” Stand up is his first love, though. While his core fan base is Hispanic, his popularity transcends ethnicity or age. Iglesias enjoys the sort of mass appeal that has made other Latin comedians international superstars.
While he has recorded other standup performances that have aired on cable TV, his new “The Fluffy Movie”, a stand up comedy concert recorded earlier this year over two nights at the SAP Center stadium in San Jose, is hitting hundreds of movie screens around the country. For the uninitiated, “fluffy” is a term Iglesias uses for his size, as in, “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy.”
The film opens with a vignette about how, as a kid, Iglesias was turned on to comedy by watching Eddie Murphy’s “Raw.” Then it cuts to his stadium concert, where he talks about his diagnosis and doctor-mandated weight loss, missing fast food, traveling to India to perform for the first time, being a stepfather figure to his girlfriend’s teenage son, losing his mom and meeting his estranged father, among other topics. Having shed 100 pounds by changing his diet, he admits that losing weight is a daily struggle.
He recently spoke about making “The Fluffy Movie,” and why audiences of all shapes, colors and ages can relate to him.
Q: Because you’re touring so much, how do you keep control of your family and stay grounded?
Iglesias: I’m glad you said “control.” (He laughs.) At home, it’s basically my girl and my son, three dogs, a snake and a fish. We’ve got a little wild animal park. For the most part, my girl’s very understanding of the situation, what I’ve been doing, since before we got together. She gets that. My son now gets it because I take him to the shows and he sees everything that’s going on. I say to him, “See, I’m not just out on the road taking off. I’m doing this and it’s great for all of us.” He gets it. He wants to get into the business behind-the-scenes with the stage crew and lighting and sound. He loves all that.
Q: Are you concerned about him getting into the business?
Iglesias: No. He’s more of an attention whore than I am. I say, “Go for it, man!” I’ll help you. Anything to get you out of the house, whatever you want, man!
Q: Do they travel with you?
Iglesias: Sometimes, but then it gets awkward. I have that life at home where I’m just myself and then I go on the road where I put on a cape and go da da da da! It’s two different worlds and I don’t like mixing them very much, except sometimes with Frankie. He’s cool about it. But my girl and I, it’s weird. It’s a little complicated.
Q: Is your son interested in doing standup comedy?
Iglesias: Not the jokes so much, but he enjoys the behind the scenes. He loves being up in the mix. The soundboard and the lights.
Q: Have you thought about doing drama?
Iglesias: I’ve thought about it but it’s not my passion. If I do it, it’s for a check. It’s not what I want to do. Comedy’s my thing. Stand up’s my thing. Everything that comes from that is frosting on the cake. For example, I love voiceover work because it’s fun and it’s fast. I knocked off “The Nut Job” in one day. I knocked off “Planes” in two (days). I knocked down (the upcoming Mexican-themed) “Book of Life” in three days. It’s just in, out, check, movie, poster. Woo hoo! (The live-action) “Magic Mike” took a month and it was a lot of sitting in the trailer and memorizing the script and a lot of showing up on the set. And then they would change the script (right before shooting).
Q: What’s your schedule like?
Iglesias: I go on the road all the time, but I’m only performing for two hours a night, and then I’ll do a meet-and-greet, and then I’ll get a bite to eat, get drunk, pass out, wake up the next day, sleeping the next day, sleeping off the hangover, and then we’re in the next city.
Q: In the film, you talk about the awkward reunion with your estranged father. What’s your relationship with him now?
Iglesias: Since my mom died, we haven’t really talked. I thought of having him come out to the premiere because I wanted him to see the story about us, especially. But I didn’t want to talk to him right after my mom died because it felt like I was replacing my mom with him, and it felt awkward. I haven’t even gone to my mom’s gravesite. Then, I have two (half) sisters, and I my dad wanted me to reach out to them and start talking to them, and I was like, “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but we haven’t mended this yet, don’t try to pump me off on someone else, and I barely have time as it is.” I don’t talk to my siblings (on my mom’s side) right. I talk to maybe one. I’m the youngest of six. Everybody else, it got weird. It got really really weird.