Like Chris Rock, who regularly ranted about issues affecting African-Americans, and Paul Rodriguez, a pioneer for Hispanic-American comedians, George Lopez has made it his business to examine Hispanic culture in the only way that makes sense to him: through humor.
Lopez is a larger-than-life figure — like that uncle who turns every family gathering into a true party once he begins telling boisterous and outlandish jokes. The drunker he gets, the louder and funnier he becomes. That's Lopez, and that's the guy America fell in love with in the mid-2000s while watching his self-titled ABC sitcom, following in the (very) limited tradition of Desi Arnaz and Freddie Prinze of other Hispanic-led TV shows.
In addition to making multiple film and TV appearances, Lopez has continually toured, often selling out wherever he goes. This Saturday, he'll bring his latest, the #ThatsTrue Comedy Tour, to Hard Rock Live (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 866-502-7529; seminolehardrockhollywood.com). In honor of his upcoming show, here's a look at five of the best Hispanic comedians past and present.
(Note: Carlos Mencia is not on this list, nor will he ever be on a list of great Hispanic comedians because he's a joke thief and about as funny as cancer.)
Tom Segura. Born in Ohio, raised across the Midwest, and doing stints in Wisconsin and Florida, Tom Segura may seem like an odd choice for this list, but he does come from a Hispanic background. It's his use of the Spanish language that can surprise people when he peppers his standup with names and phrases like those in his bit "Pregnant While Mexican." Never shying away from polarizing or uncomfortable material, he also does an incredible impression of an aggressive black man and encourages all white people to give it a try (if you feel you must).
Gabriel "Fluffy" Iglesias. More often than not, Gabriel Iglesias, affectionately known as Fluffy, is charming rather than laugh-out-loud funny. Still, it's obvious he always works hard for his audiences. He once played an epic four-hour show at the Palm Beach Improv that featured five openers — all his friends and all hilarious — before he did an extended set that ended only because of curfew. One of the buddies to join him that evening, Felipe Esparza (made famous by his catch phrase "What's up, fool?"), is making a name for himself thanks to the exposure provided by Iglesias and his goofy stories about (amicable) run-ins with cops.
John Leguizamo. Starring in classics such as Carlito's Way and clunkers like Ice Age: Collision Course, John Leguizamo has had an uneven film career. His standup, however, always delivers while simultaneously dividing people into camps that either love it or hate it for the very same reason: It's raw — not "raw" as in "dirty," the way Eddie Murphy was, but emotionally raw. More than anything, Leguizamo is a storyteller. His tales dip in and out of his troubled childhood and absurd escapist fantasies before returning to a place of true pain and reflection.
Greg Giraldo. Perhaps one of the smartest men on this list, Greg Giraldo was also one of the funniest — and a tragic case of squandered talent. A native of the Bronx, Giraldo was of Colombian and Spanish descent. A graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law School, Giraldo used his brilliant mind for dark observational humor that meandered and twisted deeper and deeper into the abyss. He gained a cult following for his insult humor on Comedy Central roasts and was poised to be an even bigger star before his demons dragged him down. He died at the age of 44 from an accidental overdose of prescription pills. He took his wealth of venomous put-downs with him, and we're all the worse for it.
Al Madrigal. Although he speaks perfect English, grew up in the United States, and does a great Southern California-surfer-guy accent, Al Madrigal is a Mexican comedian — despite what some may say. As a man who's been told he's not "Latino" enough, Madrigal has made a career out of being stuck between being a white guy who doesn't quite fit in the barrio and just Mexican enough to be put on HBO Latino by white folks. When he's not doing standup, he's the senior Latino correspondent on The Daily Show, where he often tears apart ridiculous stereotypes.
Bonus honorable mention: Louis C.K. Perhaps the greatest comedian of his generation regardless of ethnicity, Louis C.K. looks like a white Irishman from Boston. Nope! He's a white Mexican from Boston. Seriously.