When asked about how fledgling entertainers become comedians, veteran comic Jim Norton laughed.
“First off something is wrong with anyone who enters this profession,” Norton said. “Comedians are usually damaged in some form or another. They’re dealing with some kind of adversity.”
Gabriel Iglesias, who will perform Saturday on the Riverside Casino’s outdoor stage, has dealt with more than his share of adversity. The portly humorist’s childhood was hardscrabble at best. Iglesias floated from project to project while growing up in Southern California. He lived on the periphery of idyllic San Diego and deep in the heart of gritty Compton.
Poverty, an uncertain future and a perpetual battle with the bulge were the realities Iglesias dealt with as a young Californian.
However, Iglesias, 41, survived it all, even being evicted and losing his car.
“I understood where Gabe was coming from,” the late comic Ralphie May said during a 2017 interview. “He and I were poor comics, who walked to gigs in L.A. It’s true that nobody walks in L.A., but when you don’t have a choice, you do what you have to do. I didn’t have it easy and Gabe didn’t have it easy, but we both wanted it.”
Just like May, Iglesias has made a career out of telling his own stories.
“I don’t know how to tell a joke,” Iglesias said during a 2017 interview. “I rely on what I know. It’s me that you see when I’m up there performing.”
Iglesias will joke about his weight. Unlike burly director/spoken word artist Kevin Smith, who lost it when Southwest Airlines asked him to purchase two seats for a flight, Iglesias used the situation for material.
“If Southwest makes me sit in two seats, it’s double the snacks for me. I call it ‘ghetto first class.’”
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Iglesias appeared in the film “Magic Mike” and voiced characters in “The Nut Job” and “El Americano: The Movie.” However, he’s never obsessed over television or film gigs.
“I enjoy working on movies, but what I love the most is stand-up,” he said. “I couldn’t live without that.”
Questions recently arose over whether or not Iglesias would live. During “The Fluffy Movie,” he revealed that he reached 445 pounds and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. His doctor gave him two years to live. The news shocked Iglesias, who responded by losing 100 pounds. On top of that, he revealed to Billboard in January that he also developed a drinking problem and suffered through a nervous breakdown.
However, Iglesias has been a survivor ever since he was a Section 8 kid. Iglesias has more than lived to tell the tale. He has endless anecdotes to drop every time he hits the stage.
“Experience is what it’s all about,” comedian Norton said. “The more things you go through, the better you are as a stand-up. It’s also good to get all of the crazy stuff out of your system when you step out onstage. This is the greatest job in the world. I couldn’t be more excited about what I do.”
Part of Iglesias’ appeal is that he comes off as a regular guy. A corpulent character with a drinking problem and erratic behavior makes him relatable to many people.
“I’m not perfect,” Iglesias said. “I’m far from it. I don’t talk down to people — I talk up to the audience. After you see me perform, I think you feel better about yourself. I just try and have fun when I get up there and do my thing. No one does exactly what I do.”
Iglesias is at his best when he’s self-deprecating. There’s nothing about himself that he won’t joke about.
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“Nothing is sacred,” Iglesias said. “That’s how it should be in comedy.”
WHAT: Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias: “One Show Fits All” world tour
WHERE: Riverside Casino’s outside stage, 3184 Highway 22, Riverside
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday (6/23)
TICKETS: $30 to $65, Casino Gift Shop, 1-(877) 677-3456 or Riversidecasinoandresort.com/events/outdoor-concert.html
EXTRAS: Gates open 7 p.m.; seating provided in Tiers 1 and 2; Tier 3 patrons should bring a lawn chair; no outside coolers or beverages allowed
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Fluffyguy.com