George Lopez talks about his career, upcoming Capitol Theatre show
George Lopez's comedy isn't just successful -- it has become ubiquitous. And with his Feb. 22 show in Port Chester, it will become historic as well.
Lopez is set to be the first comedian to perform a full-length show at the renovated Capitol Theatre, which reopened in September with a steady stream of concerts. The star of the TBS talk show "Lopez Tonight" and his self-titled, long-running ABC sitcom (which still pulls in solid ratings in syndication), Lopez, 51, was slated to earn that local distinction Nov. 2. But after superstorm Sandy swept through the tristate area, his show and his date with Westchester County history would have to wait.
Now that the time has come, Lopez told Newsday Westchester he appreciates his place in the history of The Cap, which has hosted The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Pink Floyd before its restoration and Bob Dylan, The Roots, My Morning Jacket and The Rascals' reunion since.
"When you go into these places, you do feel the presence of the past, but, you know, right now is your time," Lopez said last week. "So it is wonderful to have people come and see me, for one, but if it's attached to something like this, it makes the night even more special."
Known for his brutal honesty, self-awareness and pointed musings on Latin culture on stage, Lopez has demonstrated all three attributes in his stand-up specials, which include "Why You Crying?" and "Team Leader" (2004), "El Mas Chingon" (2006), "America's Mexican" (2007) and "Tall, Dark and Chicano" (2009). But away from the mic, Lopez offered a more introspective tone to Newsday Westchester as he reflected on his local show, his myriad comedy projects and the bittersweet experience of hosting a talk show on TBS.
What does it mean to you that you're going to be the first stand-up comedian to headline a full-length show at the renovated Capitol Theatre?
[I love] theaters that have been around in cities that have had performers more prestigious than myself. ... When you do Radio City, they have a log of signatures in their book that they bring out -- people that you thought were only alive in cartoons. You know: Irving Berlin, George Gershwin. I love that. We can't predict or live in the future, but when you can look back at the past and have fond memories, that's as good as looking to the future.
What should audiences expect from this performance at The Capitol Theatre? New jokes, old favorites or a little of both?
[The material] is pretty new. The problem is Bruce Springsteen sounds like Bruce Springsteen, and Carlos Santana sounds like Carlos Santana. Whether it's new music or old music, they all have a hint of what got them there. So with [my material], it's all familiar to people who are fans. It's about dysfunction [and] clearly about being Latino in the United States. ... You know, I get a lot of "Oh, he's a Latino comedian," [but] a lot of issues that go on in this country are race-related. And if you think they're not, then you're living -- I'd like to be living in that world, where they're not.
Your 2004 stand-up special "Why You Crying?" ends with your listing Desi Arnaz, Freddie Prinze and yourself as among the few Latinos to lead a network prime-time show. Given your heritage, do you feel any additional pressure to succeed?
No, I don't. And that's the beauty, because we're all chasing the same thing, and the business is hard regardless of whatever color you are. ... The difference is that Latinos who are successful in Hollywood, as African-American people are, are probably much friendlier to each other than probably 20 years ago. There are more [success stories]. It's not like we're fighting over the same things. But I'll tell you what is a disservice, because I'm looking to produce a few films, and they'll be very, very diverse: What's a little bit disconcerting to me ... is they'll make a movie that will be predominantly white, and then they'll make a black movie, and that will be predominantly black, but none of it will look like society looks, or a city looks, or a town looks, or an office would look. I know TV is supposed to suspend disbelief, but to think that there's no color in New York is insulting.
You returned to the "Rio" franchise with a voice-over for the sequel. What other projects are you working on?
Well, the animated thing is still going pretty strong. "Smurfs 2" comes out in July, and I'm in "Escape from Planet Earth," which [came] out on Friday. ... And then, within my company, I have a deal to produce another situation comedy; I have the same deal that Charlie Sheen has -- that 10-90 deal [that states if a series is picked up after 10 episodes, the next 90 are guaranteed]. So, I'm in the process of meeting with the writers. It's still early, too early to name names, but it's going really good. And I still love performing [stand-up]. You know, I'm really happy with what I've done in the last 11 years. I wouldn't trade my success or my career or one second of what's happened, good or bad, with anybody.
You were diplomatic about Conan O'Brien's arrival at TBS, when his talk show took over your time slot and bumped "Lopez Tonight" back an hour. Looking back, would you have done anything differently to try to keep that show on the air?
No. Well, clearly, they wanted Conan more than they wanted me. ... They wanted Conan, and asked me if I would move [to the later time slot]. I did. I really did not have a problem moving. I thought they would promote the show more; they didn't. And then I suffered. It's simple. But they ended up with who they wanted, and you know, I ended up with two great years...
What do you find most exciting about comedy these days?
The analogy is in boxing: You throw a lot of punches, but the perfect one-two-three combination or perfect one-two combination is still, as a comedian, what you chase. ... In stand-up, being able to move around and hit-hit-hit, and then lay 'em out, and then come back, and then hit-hit-hit and lay 'em out, it's really rhythmic and soothing to create a chaos, and then basically be kind of calm within it all.
Do you still have aspirations to run for mayor of Los Angeles?
I was at the mayor's house for a Grammy party [this month]. They told me not to, because it's a dirty business. But it is intriguing, further down the line.
What other goals do you have?
I've always wanted to learn how to play guitar. That's the one thing that I've set myself out to do that I never have done. I love it. I've got guitars all over my house, but it's the one that's actually eluded me.
Maybe your next album will be half-comedy, half-music?
That would be nice. I sold flowers on a corner when I was 15 to raise money to buy a guitar. Now I've got to actually play them.
IF YOU GO
Who: George Lopez
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22
Info: The Capitol Theatre, 149 Westchester Ave., Port Chester; 914-934-9362; www.thecapitoltheatre.com; $45-$79.50; audience members must be 18 or older