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COMEDY | Weekend Chat

Latino Comic Sees More Traffic on 'Kings' Road

August 31, 2000|PAUL BROWNFIELD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

George Lopez, a longtime stand-up comic based in Los Angeles, sees the success of the Spike Lee film "The Original Kings of Comedy" as a sign that Latinos can harness a similar core audience into mainstream success.

The newly released "Kings of Comedy" showcases the stand-up tour starring Bernie Mac, Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley.

Lopez has been doing similar dates as part of a "Yo Quiero Comedy" show with Paul Rodriguez and Carlos Mencia at such venues as the Arco Arena in Sacramento and the Shoreline Amphitheater in the Bay Area. There are more concerts planned, Lopez says.

In the meantime, he'll be at the Brea Improv tonight through Sunday.

Question: Do you think the success of "The Kings of Comedy," both as a long-running live tour and as a concert film, will help make other ethnically themed comedy tours more viable?

Answer: "The Kings of Comedy" has helped us. They did huge numbers. . . . The thing that I take the greatest amount of pleasure in is that somebody like Bernie Mac can hang in there since 1977 and be known but not mainstream. I remember he was relegated to black clubs. Bernie Mac sightings were rare at mainstream clubs.

Q: It seems that a Latino audience for stand-up comedy has coincided with the rise in Latino comics. You play in clubs around town. Has the ethnic makeup of the audience changed?

A: I remember when I was the minority. I did the same act, basically, and I looked out and thought, "Are people going to understand this [stuff]?" [Latinos] go to the clubs, they're comedy aficionados, they come out [even] on Mondays. I went to Kansas City, and we drew Latinos in Seattle. That never would've happened before. I was in Boise, and they came out. It really is a parallel.

Q: There's a unique energy in the way black audiences respond to black comics. It's very participatory and raucous. Is it the same between Latino comics and Latino audiences?

A: Latino people are more passive than black and white audiences. I think the thing with them is, they're not outwardly that emotional. They really rely on [making] the connection between what you're saying. I do a thing about not wanting to be charged. We [Latinos] take pictures, we just don't develop the film. You really gotta get 'em in the core. None of them are going to stand up and pump their fists and wave. I was talking [about] my grandmother [onstage], kind of like a street dude came up to me and said, "I don't like you talking about my grandma." [It was a joke about how] at some point a family has a discussion. . . . If we put grandma in a nursing home, who's going to make breakfast?

Q: You have a co-starring role in Ken Loach's "Bread and Roses," about the janitor's strike in Los Angeles.

A: I turned down so many parts because they are degrading to my people. Being a tall, dark, imposing figure and being affluent--they don't go together. My mailman, when I came out [of my house], he said, "Is the man of the house home?" Hollywood is so much about that, and here this guy gives me a part that gets me to the Cannes Film Festival. The last movie I did was 10 years ago, "Ski Patrol."

BE THERE

George Lopez performs at the Brea Improv, 945 E. Birch St., Thursday through Sunday. Show times are 8:30 p.m. Thursday; 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7, 9 and 11 p.m. Saturday; and 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $15 to $17. (714) 529-7878.

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