The Fluffy Movie Funny Man Gabriel Iglesias Finds Passion, Universality in Comedy
Gabriel Iglesias just may be the first celeb I’ve seriously drank with, if you can count knocking back a couple in a suite at Chicago’s James Hotel, ground zero for the star’s junket to promote this weekend’s opener and Iglesias’ stand-up concert film, The Fluffy Movie. Disarmingly sweet-natured and over accommodating, Iglesias, the wildly popular stand-up comedian turned unlikely movie star, is the kind of interviewee that makes your job easy. That is, you barely need to speak.
After warming up we got into it—and if there was any doubt about his quick wit and ability to turn even rudimentary questions into zingers, he quickly dispelled. Warm and accommodating to a fault, his nice-guy-as-comic persona is palpable in person. Over the course of our chat, we talked passion for comedy, highs and lows, universal through-lines and artist-studio dynamics (to put it mildly). One thing is for sure—Iglesias well knows, and loves, his legion of fans.
So The Fluffy Movie is probably more of a collaborative project that you typically are involved with—you had to deal with lots of other opinions, I would assume. How did that go?
It was really challenging for me. It’s my baby and very personal. So the back and forth with the film company; everyone wants their say. It originally was longer and is now 90 minutes. And even on the poster they wanted to use a red shirt, and I said, “No, I wore that in my last special and my fans are going to think they will see what they just saw.” I brand everything with a certain colored shirt so they can identify the special. That was a tough one. You don’t even understand what I had to do to prove my point! And they wanted to label me “raw and uncut” with this movie. I said, “How are you going to call it raw when I’m not cussing?” They said, “Well, people are drawn to the word ‘raw’ because it sounds edgy.” And they wanted to say, “Never before seen material.” I said, “Why would you say that? It makes it sound like all I do is repeat jokes!” I had arguments like that.
Stand-up films are fairly rare these days.
Very few have done it, and that is a big deal. Kevin Hart did amazing with his two comedy films. So they looked at the elements of what he did—social media, YouTube, popularity. And I‘m in a good position with views; we are neck and neck. Plus, Latinos are so high up there with people that go to watch movies. So if we combine all of that, they are taking a calculated risk. This is the biggest thing I have ever done and it is on my shoulders. I think it’s great because the laughs are still the same. I’ve tested the material a thousand times and I am getting the same laughs in a theater that I am getting live! They can actually see better on the screen! Every facial movement and sound is great. It’s funny to watch it in a room with people! I feel like I’ve been cloned! I’m killing it on the screen and in the crowd.
You had an early career with a cellular provider and then did a U-turn. Where does your passion for comedy come from?
I think it is more trying to find acceptance in the laughter. I was shy, bullied, had crazy teeth, acne—everything. I have always seen comedy as acceptance. When I first saw Eddie Murphy Raw, everybody was on their feet cheering for him. I wanted that, but what did I have to do? Two weeks later, I did a school talent show and got people cheering and thought, “This is greatest!”
So you were never worried about not making a living?
Man, I took it in the butt, figuratively, when I first started doing comedy. I was making $4,500 a month working for this cell phone company and my bills were $500. I had a car and a new apartment. The rest was having fun with money—going out to eat, to Bingo and to Vegas. So to give up that security was rough! I was doing both, hung over in the day job and asleep, and then I just said, “Let me take a chance.” And I ended up with an eviction notice.
How did the word “fluffy” change everything?
It took off. That nickname implies that I am not threatening, that the family can be brought and that I won’t get in anyone’s face. Sometimes people think I’ll be dirtier, and I’m like, ‘Fuck it, have a good night.” Sometimes I slip and cuss and apologize to people with kids who have come to the show, and people tell me, “They hear worse at the house!” I try to make the shows accessible to everybody and not get political, religious or controversial. So when I talk about family, relationships or being a fish out of water, everybody can relate to that.
And this is why you play to sold-out audiences around the world.
Yes, because I am not talking about the system or politics or America. Everybody can relate to having their kids give them a hard time, a crazy friend who gets them in trouble and parents with different views. And you can connect with parents and kids at the same time.