To Be published in Rip It Up – September 2014
“You know, sometimes I used my voice for evil, Man,” laughs comedian, Gabriel Iglesias, better known as ‘Fluffy’, “Sometimes I go to the drive-in and they stuff up my order…. I use it to be evil,,,, I drive around again and order with my ditzy female voice… I pull up to the window to get my order… and they are not expecting….Me! They were thinking … say a small, pretty blond – not a 1000 lb Latino in a Hawaiian shirt!” ‘Fluffy’ is not — err? Well, he’s not a petite man. He can fill the space as much with laughter, as with himself. But don’t call him ‘fat’. “I prefer the term ‘Fluffy’. It was a reference used, especially around Latin Americans in 1940’s. Back when people were gentler in their language”
He’s certainly livened my day, as he tells me how that drive-in routine came about – apparently he actually does buzz McDonald’s staff from time to time. Iglesias has always found his comedy on the street. And today those streets were rumbling. “You hear that. We’ve having a tremor.” Indeed half way through our interview (he’s in Northern California, I’m in my jammies back in Wellington) the windows in his apartment start rattling. “But it’s nothing,” he tells me in a broad Latino accent. ‘Nothing’ turns out to be a pretty strong 6.0 on the Richter scale, but he’s not concerned. “When I walk the floor shakes – don’t quote me on that”
Born in Chula Vista, California, Iglesias is the youngest of six children, raised by a single mother. By the way he’s no relation to Enrique or Julio. “However, there’s a story,” he tells me ”of a mother who abandons a baby on the steps of a church. That’s what it means ‘Church’. And in that way we’re all related” More specifically, it’s the comune of province of Carbonia-Iglesias Sardinia, Italy, where the tale originated, but no one’s quibbling on that.
Iglesias grew up he tells me, as a shy boy in poor housing in Long Beach, CA. And then one day he saw Eddie Murphy’s Raw. “I totally loved it. It was amazing. I loved everything – his red leather, the brashness, the rudeness, I was about 10 years old. It changed me.”
Around 1997 has offered the opportunity to compere a music night. “It was these hum drum covers bands in a little dive-club. It’s still there, God Bless. I got paid $20 for 5 minutes. I got the taste and kept going.” Dues were definitely paid: in every biker bar and hole in the wall joint in California but he’d never expected the incredible success he has experienced. Today, Iglesias is one of America’s most successful stand-up comedians. He regularly performs in sold-out concerts across the United States and Internationally. I asked him what the craziest gig was. “Oh, well. One was the North Pole. It’s dark half the year. They actually have a light bulb that goes on for half a day so you know when it’s day and you know when it’s night. I was there entertaining troops up in ‘Santa’s Grotto’ Most audiences hit the boulevard for a couple to warm up before coming into a comedy club. But you can’t do that at the North Pole. It’s a long ride home if you’re DIC”
He also told me the weirdest event was for royalty in Saudi Arabia. “I was expecting ex-pats or something but there were plenty of locals. It was crazy. I was expecting them to be quite conservative; They were very diverse, open, warm. Often the media portray only one side of a culture and you get a mindset about them. I was blown away by their warmth.”
Iglesias’ stand-up is the time honored mix of storytelling, parody, character assassination and sound effects that exaggerate everyday experiences into a larger than life event.
Last month he released The Fluffy Movie a film of his standup to theaters and is also featuring in his first major studio release I (Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum). Info on that is still under wraps but things are certainly hotting up. “Yeah, and then I get to come to you guys in New Zealand,” he notes,” That’ll be cool. Do you have drive-ins down there?” Oh Oh…..