Getting personal with George Lopez

Photo by SebreePhoto.com

Fresh off his third solo comedy special on HBO, It’s Not Me, It’s You, the multi-talented George Lopez is back on tour doing new material and will perform two shows in two nights at the Bayou Music Center at 520 Texas Ave. in Houston on Aug. 10-11 at 8 p.m. Tickets for the show are $61 or $49.50 and can be purchased at the venue or online at livenation.com.

Lopez, 51, has accomplished just about everything. There are his eight comedy specials, with three on HBO including It’s Not Me, It’s You, which debuted in July; the sitcom television series George Lopez, which ran five years on ABC and is now in syndication on Nick at Nite; the late night talk show Lopez Tonight on TBS; dozens of movies; cameos; voiceovers in animated films like The Smurfs and Rio; his New York Times bestselling book Why You Crying; and his work with many charities, including his own Lopez Foundation, whose mission is to create positive, permanent change for underprivileged children, adults and military families confronting challenges in education and health, as well as increasing community awareness about kidney disease and organ donation. Lopez knows about kidney disease as he received a kidney transplant in 2005.

Days before the Houston shows, I spoke with Lopez via telephone about comedy, accomplishments, life and the future.

What can fans expect from these upcoming George Lopez performances?

This last HBO special was very well received. I think nearly 25 million people have watched it in a month. It took me a long time to get on HBO, so it’s not something that happens overnight. I’ve done three — one in Arizona, right before the whole immigration thing, called America’s Mexican, then I did one in San Antonio called Tall, Dark & Chicano, which was about 85 minutes, and this last one I did in Los Angeles. I got a lot of points across on the new stuff and I done what I have never done before, which was go back to clubs and work all over the United States and work the show out in the clubs. The analogy I use is boxing and comedy. You need to go in the gym and work, so I worked small clubs who have never seen the new stuff, then try bigger venues, then go back to the smaller clubs. I went to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Denver – all sorts of places. So basically, heading into that last show I was very prepared, and I haven’t worked since, and this will be the pick-up of the start of the It’s Not Me, It’s You tour.

There are different types of comics. Some are braver than others and aren’t afraid to say anything. Is there a specific line you personally won’t cross? Comedy Central recently stated they are editing out material on the upcoming Roast of Roseanne Barr.

I know all those comedians, like Jeff Ross, who did the roast, so I would never disparage their choices. I know he dressed up as Joe Paterno during the show, but I have a child, so it pushes the line. But in comedy, there are not supposed to be any sacred cows. If you are a boxer, you are in there to knock someone out. I understand why they cut certain parts of it out, but comedy roasts in their inception were not made for television. Now that they are, comedians aren’t as free as they would like to be. I support any comedian’s decision to push the envelope because I am one myself. If I were a football player, I wouldn’t support scabs. Brave is in the eye of the teller. Shocking is one thing, but saying something tragic or hurtful can be completely different. We also live in a society that is very sensitive now. I’m not a politically correct comedian. I didn’t grow up that way, and I’ve been doing comedy for over 30 years. I’ve never apologized for a joke that I’ve said on stage, but I did have to retract some things I said that offended people on my talk show because of advertisers. Comedy is the freest form of speech if you stand by your guns.

I was a big fan of Lopez Tonight on TBS. What did you take away from that experience?

The sitcom was great, and ABC never told me to be anything other than I was. It was produced by Warner Bros. and they were always on board. Then when I got to TBS, they hired me to be one person, and then they told me too many Latinos were watching. Then not enough were watching; then came it was too misogynistic; then too male. But they wouldn’t let it alone where the show could draw it’s own audience and not one they are specifically trying to nurture. The one thing I learned in that is — when you hire someone to do their job, let them do their job. And what happens now is, they are hiring people then trying to neuter them or mute them, and it never works for either side. I think TBS took things too personally. When I was on TBS, I had a huge urban audience, yet my show was never promoted during basketball season and I thought that was the first sign that the show didn’t appeal to TBS. I thought the show had a great flavor and definitely had the greatest band ever — Michael Bearden and the Ese Vatos. It was Justin Bieber’s first late night talk show appearance.With all your accomplishments, is there any particular one that stands out?

That’s a very good question. Ultimately, there are two things (that are) one in the same. I used to walk up and down Hollywood Boulevard when I was 13, 14 and 15 or so, with my friends. I always wanted to be in entertainment, so I would see the stars of George Burns and I would imagine my name next to his, but never ever thinking I would have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was inspired by Freddy Prinze Sr. and when Johnny Grant, who was still alive at the time and was the mayor of Hollywood, told me it was time for me to get a star on the Walk of Fame, I told him I wasn’t going to get a star until Freddy Prinze gets one. Johnny told me that Freddy had one already, but he didn’t. Freddy wasn’t around very long because he committed suicide but he was still my inspiration. So, I told Johnny unless Freddy gets a star, then I won’t get one. I paid for Freddy to get a star. During the ceremony, his mother was on the phone from Puerto Rico, his son Freddy Jr. was there, members of the cast of Chico and the Man were there, so he got his star first, then I got mine. I’m proud of the fact that through all the things I have done, I took care of the guy who helped me first, before I took care of myself.

What’s next for George Lopez?

I just finished Take Me Out on FOX, and I believe next up are the sequels to The Smurfs and Rio. I would love to get back into sitcoms and I have a deal to produce and star in another one. It’s in the early inceptions. The first sitcom was about my life then, and this one will be about my life now.

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