Interview with George Lopez
Posted on 09/03/2019
Comedian George Lopez returns to the State Theatre on September 21! In this episode of All Access, we chat with George about the staying power of his sitcom TV show (George Lopez), his movie career (including working with Christopher Walken), and hitting the road for his new comedy tour.
READ THE TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW BELOW
with Kelly from All Access and special guest George Lopez.
Kelly: And we’re back on All Access State Theatre New Jersey. I’m Kelly Blithe your host, and we have an amazing lineup in September in downtown New Brunswick at the historic State Theatre. And coming back after a sold out event about two years ago is Mr. George Lopez who will be joining us on Saturday, September 21st for an 8pm performance! Of course, the comedian and actor you know from a variety of things and with us today is George. Welcome George!
George: Thank you Kelly. Nice to be here.
Kelly: Great George so we are so excited to have you back to the State Theatre for the Wall World Tour. So tell us about this tour and where it’s taken you?
George: Well you know I did this special for HBO two years ago called The Wall and New Brunswick and the Stress Factory and Vinny and those guys were very instrumental to me to getting the work done. So I had never been in that area before but when I started to go to the Stress Factory the people and the crowds and all the fans that I had there, it was a great turnout, and its just an area I wanted to keep going to because I think it’s such a great comedy area and the people are kind in that area.
Kelly: Yes and the Stress Factory is certainly a well known comedy establishment and we’re so excited to have them here in New Brunswick and we’re happy that you made your way to the State Theatre and you’re coming back!
George: Well you know, the green room at the Stress Factory is the smallest room maybe I’ve ever been in, so to go to the State Theatre I don’t know if it’s so much the club or just wanting to stretch out.
Kelly: [Laughs] There ya go. So George you’ve had an amazing career, dabbling in TV and film and just doing stand-up all along the way. Looking back, who were some of your early inspirations for this kind of career and who did you look up to?
George: Well you know when you start doing, first of all nobody in my family had a sense of humor, that’s number one. So it’s not hereditary, nobody was even charming. So, to have this happen from all of that, I’m not really sure why it did happen or how it happened but the nucleus of the beginning of doing stand-up was that a buddy that I grew up with went to another school, transferred to another school, and there was a guy in high school that was maybe 10th or 11th grade that was going to the comedy store and they wrote an article about them in the school paper, that other school. So he brought it to me and he said “Hey look at this guy he’s going to the comedy store on Monday nights they have this thing” so I decided, we decided to go out there one Monday night and try it out. Maybe because I was a shy kid, I was introverted. Maybe the absolutely most horrifying thing I’ve ever done was to go up there that first time.
Kelly: [Laughs] That’s great. So did you think that all these years later that this was something that you were going to hold on to and actually make a career out of?
George: No I really I didn’t I mean you know nobody anticipates or can predict anything that’s gonna happen, so growing up in the house that I grew up in with my grandparents, they raised me so Richard Pryor was a big influence on me and I knew Richard Pryor towards the end of his life. Cheech and Chong were a big influence on me. And them too, so Cheech and I are good buddies so the thing that I think is most shocking to me is that for whatever reason or for however it happened, everybody that I admired growing up I became friends with.
Kelly: Wow, that’s amazing.
George: Isn’t that crazy?
Kelly: That is crazy! You don’t hear a lot of that, that’s super amazing.
George: No, and you know people get star struck, maybe not so much anymore because you see people everywhere. I think one of the things that’s different now is that everybody has a camera, everybody has a video, everybody takes a picture of everything. Even in an inanimate object. Food comes to the table they send a picture to people who aren’t even at the restaurant. That’s beyond me, but I think people used to be more surprised to see people when there wasn’t social media. And it was more of a surprise, and now everybody’s got everything and it’s not so much of a surprise anymore.
George: And, nobody signs anything! I don’t sign anything. They take pictures. I don’t think any real performers sign anything anymore so as we go back in the future this area, this social media area will be void of anything that looked like a personal connection, or personal meeting with anybody, because nothing gets signed.
Kelly: Right, right. But does that affect being in a social media area, does that effect when you’re doing stand-up and there’s people just filming you the entire time? Does that kind of effect you or are you just used to it at this point?
George: Well you know, we do take precautions to try to help that. You know Dave Chappelle puts all the phones in bags, and we make announcements we have guys and security people and all that. But you know Whoopi Goldberg said that when it first started that it chased her out of the clubs because if you’re working on something that’s not necessarily finished, and the somebody records it, which is almost like piracy. So, I had a meeting at Universal one day and the guy behind the counter says “Oh man what are the odds!” and I go “What do you mean?” and he goes, “I’m watching you.” I went around the desk and he was watching me from two nights ago at a club that I didn’t know anybody was taping.
Kelly: Right. It’s definitely a crazy time but, you mentioned the people that you were inspired by and became friends with them and a lot of people are still in love with your hit television show sitcom George Lopez. I know people that will just watch it over and over. That has to be just a really amazing feeling to have this legacy of this television show just live on for you.
George: Well you know Kelly, thank you for that but here’s the great thing about that. First of all, I saw Tim Allen in the clubs before Home Improvement, and I saw Roseanne in the clubs before Roseanne, and they both had huge, huge shows, and I was back there looking at them especially I remember being in Indianapolis watching Tim Allen and thinking, this guys amazing. That one hour became his television show. And I remember standing in the back thinking “I don’t think I have that. I don’t think I have the stories or the people, or the experience to be able to create a show about my own life. And in the early 90’s, seems like forever ago, this guy says to me “You know, when I watch your stand-up I don’t know what you like and dislike.” And that guy gave me maybe the best advice I ever got was to talk about things that I thought was important, talk about things that I was passionate about, family members, and it changed the direction of my life. First of all, nobody can take constructive criticism but when you do you might learn something that will change your life.
Kelly: Yeah. And when the television show came out, how did your family, obviously parts of it is based on real stories and parts of it is not but how did your family feel overall when it came out? Like, “Oh no! you put it out there!”
George: Well first of all, they didn’t have a problem with it. My grandmother was the person that I based my mother on the show over, she was tough, I mean she was always tough. So, here’s a woman that knows. And I don’t think that you can hold anybody responsible for the way that they grew up. You know, a lot of the older people grandparents and parents that are older, maybe are not the most open and maybe not the most complimentary, maybe they’re not the most supportive. But that’s when you kind of, your grown instinct has to kick in. So my grandmother raises me, I’m the only grandchild that she raised in the house. You get this opportunity to do a television show, I tape the first taping and it goes long because this is the first one. And we’re driving, I’m driving her home and it’s silent in the car and I look over at her and she’s just looking straight ahead and I said, “Grandma what did you think?” and she goes, “About what?”, “Uh about the show!”
George: And she goes, “Oh! You wanna know?” I said, “Yeah” and she said to me, “If I would’ve know it was going to take this long I would’ve stayed home.” And to me that’s hilarious.
Kelly: That’s funny. That’s awesome.
George: So I think comedy comes from the honesty of somebody’s life and the childhood, but I don’t think I had a better ground zero than my grandmother.
Kelly: Yeah, yeah. And what I like about your career is that you really, again, you do a little of this and a little of that and you’ve been in a lot of movies. One of my favorites is Balls of Fury. I love that film! Anything with Christopher Walken.
George: So we did Balls of Fury out here in L.A. by MacArthur Park. MacArthur Park is a notorious hangout for homeless and drug addicts so right across from MacArthur Park there’s a lot of the security guards that wear those yellow jackets that say “event” at places, protect uh sets, so there’s a guy whose a Mexican dude, mustache and short hair and he comes over to me and goes “Hey man you know that fool right there?” I go “Where?” he goes “Right there! That fool right there! By the trailer, that fool. You know that fool?” And I looked and I go, “Oh yeah he’s cool man.” It was Christopher Walken!
George: He was going to put him on like a citizen’s arrest! I go “Oh no he’s cool man! Leave him alone he’s alright.”
Kelly: Oh, that’s funny! That sounds like a Christopher Walken story if I’ve ever heard one.
George: And really he did he had his hair, because you know he kind of played a geisha so he has these black, silk, Japanese pajamas and kung-foo shoes and a white t-shirt. And his hair literally is going in a million directions so yeah I thought they would’ve stopped him too.
Kelly: [Laughs] So of course you dabble in comedic roles but you’ve been doing some dramatic roles as well. When you’re preparing for that kind of role is it different preparation for you?
George: Well yeah, you know that’s a good question. I really don’t do many comedies in movies. But for some reason we did River Runs Red, me and Taye Diggs. Small part, like it was two or three years ago and this guys writes me he sends me a letter and he says, “Listen, I wrote this thing for you and it’s about a parent that loses a child.” And I said “I’ll do it.” So from that came El Chicano and we just did Walking with Herb with Edward Olmos and Kathleen Quinlan so they’ve all been dramatic roles but I think that, you know, in the world of comedy I think it’s more rewarding to be able to do something that no one would expect you to do. Robin Williams won an Academy Award and Jackie Gleason back in the day was an incredible actor. Michael Keaton is a great actor, Kevin Pollak and all those guys that have a center of stand-up. Man, it’s an interesting thing. I never would’ve thought that I would develop that but then when you look at your life being dramatic and a little sad, that’s kind of what actors pull from not the good times.
Kelly: Yeah. We’re talking with George Lopez whose coming to the State Theatre Saturday, September 21st 8pm The Wall World Tour, coming back to New Brunswick. Man, it’s just been a great time talking to you and we look forward to seeing you September 21st!
George: Absolutely. Thank you Kelly I appreciate your time.