The Art Of Comedy
By Steven Joseph
I Got Into Stand-Up Because I Didn’t Want To Be Nobody
The comedy world is filled with rags-to-riches success stories. I guess growing up rich doesn’t make you very funny. Comedian George Lopez is just one of many performers out there who rose from inauspicious beginnings to snag a share of the limelight on his journey from local
comedy clubs, to the silver screen, to talk-show host, sitcom star, and one of the most recognized voices in the entertainment industry.
George first got into stand-up comedy as a teenager, describing his entrance as ‘primitive’ compared to today’s rising stars who gain notoriety with YouTube videos and other technological advances he didn’t have.
“You had to go to a club, sign up, wait in line, do horribly, come back the next week, do horribly again. You had to do horribly for like three years and then finally find some light,” Lopez told Opulence. The funny man never lost hope and, eventually, found success. “I had no idea if there was anything good on the other side of this [grueling comedy club process], but I kept coming back.”
Help From My Pal Ernie and Actress Sandra Bullock
George’s best friend growing up, Ernie, with whom he is still in touch, convinced George that he could do it. “We spent a year
writing material, and right as I was graduating, I went and performed it at the Comedy Store in Westwood (California) that’s now an Italian restaurant.” And the rest is history.
Lopez worked hard on the stand-up circuit, appearing for two decades without ever really crossing into other mediums. Despite two small bit roles in feature films in the early ’90s, George remained a live performer until a big break in 2000. Unbeknownst to him, superstar actress Sandra Bullock was a fan and started lobbying Lopez’s representatives to set up a meeting. Eventually the pair landed a meeting with Bruce Helford, co-creator of the Drew Carey Show. Lopez admits he didn’t think the meeting would lead to anything, “Bruce took the meeting to meet Sandra… and then he met me.”
Suddenly there was a lot more pressure at George’s shows. “You can’t do bad when Bruce comes to see you. So one night, Sandra comes, Bruce comes, the head of the studio comes, and the president of the network comes. I did 20 minutes, and 17 minutes in I was killing them. I thought, ‘If they don’t buy my show now, I’m never gonna get it.’”
The next day, George flew to Houston, and as he got into his Towncar, he received the call that changed his life. Lopez recalled, “Bruce calls and he said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m sitting down, I’m in a car,’ and Bruce said, ‘Well you got a television show. Be happy.’ So I had no one to share the news with. I had to tell the driver, I said, ‘Hey man, I just got a television show’ and he looked at me in the rearview mirror and he didn’t say a word. I had to share it with a Towncar driver who didn’t even have the respect to say, ‘Good luck.’”
George Hits The Big Time
No doubt the Towncar driver regretted his silent disbelief when he saw the TV show, ‘George Lopez,’ which ran from 2002 through 2007 on ABC and made George a household name. From there, Lopez propelled himself to hosting ‘Lopez Tonight’ on TBS for a short while and also lent his distinctive voice to the film series Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Rio. He also co-wrote his biography, ‘Why You Crying?’ with journalist Armen Keteyian. When asked to read for the audio book, however, Lopez found that was one role that was just too difficult. “I got one hour into it, and I couldn’t stop crying. You know it’s one thing to live your life, but it’s a whole other thing to read it. I just couldn’t believe the stuff I’d been through,” Lopez said.
A Hard Knocks Life – And Loving Every Minute
For George, getting to the top wasn’t a joy ride. He was abandoned by both of his parents before his teens, and was raised by his grandmother, a good-natured woman who kept George humble as his star rose. “Whenever we’d be out with a group of people and it would get quiet, she would blurt out, ‘Did I ever tell you about the time George soiled himself after a Little League game?’ She had to hose me down before she let me go in the house. She loved that story,” George recalled with a wry smirk.
Lopez also suffers from a genetic disorder that causes his kidneys to deteriorate. He has dedicated a portion of his life to raising awareness for the disease. The comedian has received countless honors for his work within the Hispanic and entertainment communities, but the award he is most proud of is extremely personal to him. “I got an award from The Nephrology Association, from the kidney doctors last year in San Diego. When I got sick, I didn’t think there were options, but because of them, there were options. But because of me, there are better options, so that was pretty significant.”
George’s journey has come full circle back to stand-up, and his talents will soon be on display at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood in September. Don’t miss an opportunity to see his unique brand of comedy!