Felipe Esparza Talks About the Time He Almost Got Shot Over a Stolen Beach Cruiser
Felipe Esparza might have gained global recognition when he became the winner of reality contest show Last Comic Standing in 2010,but he's been entertaining crowds in actual reality for years. With a laid-back demeanor and an awesome accent, Esparza's riffs on Latino stereotypes are so raw and on point that no restaurant employee, gardener or Rosary-holding grandmother is safe. His comedy continues to pop up on shows like BET's "Comic View," Que Locos on Galavision, and "Comics Without Borders," and have a starring role opposite Paul Rodriguez in the 2010 movie, "I'm Not Like That No More."
This Thursday through Sunday (August 30th- September 2nd) is your chance to see the Boyle Heights native headline the Brea Improv. Felipe will be supplying the jokes that will no doubt have you still laughing long after you leave so grab your tickets now to see him. Come on! Ándale!
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): I read somewhere that you rode your lucky beach cruiser to your 2010's Last Comic Standing audition. Do you still have that thing?
Felipe Esparza: Oh man! I have a new beach cruiser now because my other one was stolen right off my back porch! My beach cruiser that would bring me good luck was stolen to bring someone else bad luck. It was three guys, one lookout, one taking the bike, and one at the bottom looking all paranoid. Being from Boyle Heights I couldn't let them take it all quietly so I yelled at the guy, "Hey! I hope your mom loves my bike!" Then the guy shot at me!
What?! Like, with a real gun?
Yeah with a real gun! Of course when the police showed up they didn't believe me because they weren't there. They looked at me like it was my fault like, 'You're crying over a bike?" I was like, 'Hey man you don't know this bike! This bike brought me to the top ten on Last Comic Standing.'
Wow, sorry to hear that. What was the audition process like for Last Comic Standing?
The first time I ever auditioned I spent the night at the Improv parking lot. If people would have seen that photo, it looked like people were waiting in line for the new iPhone. This time when I auditioned my agent called and said, "They want you to audition again for Last Comic Standing." I was like, for what? So I can make a fool out of myself and cry on the way home again? I was prepared for a 'No' and to curse them out and leave. I wasn't prepared for moving on up. So I rode my bike over there and auditioned. I started doing my jokes and I saw Andy Kindler laugh and saw Greg Giraldo and Natasha Leggero kind of grunt and I knew they liked me. So I stopped and said, "Do you want me to continue or to stop?" Greg said, "You're funny and I don't think this audition shows the rage you really have but, I'm going to say yes." Then Andy said, "You're funny and you've got jokes so I'm going to say yes." I thought Natasha said yes at the audition but on TV, she said no! I think maybe I was so overwhelmed by Andy Kindler because to me, he's like a comedian that does it all. Andy would kill in an urban room and he would kill in a Mexican room. I think in my mind I was so happy that I forgot that she said no.
And you won $250,000...did you invest or did you go buck wild with the money?
I incorporated myself so now I'm in a different tax bracket. [Laughs.] Also some girl filed for child support on me so she became, "The Last Hood Rat Standing."
Whoa! Did you ask Maury to find out if the baby was yours?
[Laughs.] No, it was mine. But people feel like they are owed something when you get some money. It's ok though, I didn't fight for it. It was prize money you know? I also donated to a radio station that was having a "Flood Drive" when I was a guest. I challenged people to match me and of course, I'm a poor man compared to the people at the radio station and they tripled my money! More money I donated to Homeboy Industries who works with gangs. They were going through bankruptcy and then I donated money to them, then more people started donated money to them and now, they're okay. And you can't get a job at Homeboy Industries unless you've been shot seven times. You have to have two teardrop tattoos to let them know you've been to jail three times! [Laughs.]
Damn! Obviously we love you out here because we get it but do you ever have to change your set other places?
When I was in Cleveland the crowds were 85% black and the rest were trailer trash and there was one Latino in the back looking very proud that I was there. What I do is I talk slower. I don't do locality jokes. Like I have a joke where I say, "I'm not a tough guy but I'm sure I could beat up everyone who shops at Trader Joes but at Food for Less, I shut the hell up." I can't say that joke if there is no Food for Less so I change it up like, "At Wal-Mart at two in the morning, I shut the hell up." I just change little things and I try not to do too much Mexican-American slang because in the Midwest, they still see Mexicans being like Cheech! In Arizona they think all Mexicans are illegal and then in Florida they don't think I'm Mexican! There I'm a Cuban or a Spaniard but when I get back to the airport, I'm back to being Middle Eastern! [Laughs.] I've been stopped at every airport in America! I always say, I could never be a terrorist, I'm Mexican! You'd have to be at the airport on time and organized!
Well I'm sure everyone will be on time to see your show in Brea.
I am excited, I haven't been there in quite a while. People need to come out and see me because the Last Comic Standing winner has been wanting to be there for a long time and now it's time to let everybody know, I should have been there years ago! I used to do a Tuesday night there back in 2002 or 2003 and it was so empty you could hear an echo in there. When I was performing there I was being heckled by the air conditioner so this time it should be good. [Laughs.]
Get some great t-shirts and DVD's on Felipe's website www.felipesworld.com and find out what's happening on the daily by following him on Twitter @FunnyFelipe. Get your tickets to see Felipe at the Brea Improv August 30th through September 2nd by logging on to www.Improv.com or calling (714) 482-0700. The Brea Improv is located at 120 South Brea Blvd. Brea, CA 92821.