Perhaps today’s ultimate everyman comedian, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias’ animated yet unpretentious stage persona is almost indistinguishable from his real-life self.
Iglesias’ observational material, enhanced with uncanny impressions of everything from police sirens to GPS voices, revolves around his adventures as a touring comic and at home with his girlfriend and stepson. For all of his growing fame and critical acclaim (the San Antonio Express-News declared him a “comedy genius”), he’s still that great storyteller in your workplace or the sassy uncle who turns family dinners into laugh-fests.
Though he’s yet to hit 40, Iglesias’ approachable, slightly self-deprecating personality (catchphrases include “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy”), and hilariously relatable tales have already made him a household name. His Fluffy Breaks Even reality television show was recently picked up for a second season by Fuse, he hosts a new weekly show on SiriusXM called Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand-Up Revolution Radio and fills theaters nationwide.
The youngest of six children to a single mother, Iglesias spent his early years bouncing around numerous Los Angeles neighborhoods before settling in Section 8 housing in Long Beach, California, for the majority of his youth. Still an L.A. resident, he was working for a cell phone company before first trying his hand at comedy in the mid 1990s.
Initially, littering his act with references to weight (Iglesias peaked at 437 pounds), including detailing different “levels of fatness” (including “Daaaaamn!!!” and “Oh, Hell No!”), Iglesias moved away from this theme after losing over 100 pounds while battling diabetes.
Fluffy Breaks Even follows Iglesias and his entourage of fellow comedians as they travel the country, asking fans where they should eat in each city and how to best work off the resulting calories. His off-the-road antics may soon grace the small screen too, as Iglesias recently inked a pilot deal with ABC Television for a series based on his home life (provisionally titled The Fluffy Shop).
A loveable and flawlessly polite man, Iglesias also comes across as a keenly focused self-promoter and brand-aware businessman.
CULTURE grabbed a chat with Iglesias about his past, present, future—and this “Fluffy” thing.
Growing up, did people around you tell you that you should be a comedian, or was it more of a “hidden talent?”
It was more of a hidden talent, just because around school I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was actually not the popular kid—I wasn’t the athlete; I wasn’t the loud jokester. I was actually very, very quiet.
It wasn’t until I got on the speech team—for some reason that just brought it out of me … I would just get up in front of the class and just tell a random story about my day and incorporate some characters into it. And they started laughing.
So are you funny to be around in day-to-day life or is your comedic persona something you turn on for the stage and cameras?
I’m a pretty witty guy, but I wouldn’t say that I’m going out of my way to entertain. There are some comics that never turn it off [But] I just hang out and have fun and if I happen to crack something funny or silly, then cool, but if not, I don’t feel like I’m hurting myself by it. I’m just a regular dude.
Is there a history of show business in your family?
Actually there is . . . My whole family is mariachis, from Mexico, [and] also a couple of actors in Mexico. One of them was actually a comedian by the name of Pompin Iglesias [in] the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
So did that help you break into the business?
No, because I had no idea about [Pompin] until maybe a couple of years ago. I just thought it was kind of interesting . . . When they say it’s in the blood, in my case it really was!
How did you break into professional comedy? Who and what were central to getting you to where you are today?
It took a long time . . . From the time I was out of high school to the time I went up on an actual stage where it was called stand-up comedy; there were a few years in between.
A buddy of mine actually pushed me up on stage and after that it was kind of like a slow [process of] meeting people and then finding out where I could go to perform and then, of course, television breaks. My first TV break happened in December of ’97—I went on a TV show called Make Me Laugh on Comedy Central, and that show right there, they booked me three times.
Next thing you know, you wind up on The Tonight Show or you wind up getting a half-hour special, and it just kind of snowballed.
Social media played a huge part of that, because I jumped on the whole MySpace deal when it first came out, after Dane Cook started popping up. And as soon as Facebook came around, I jumped on that right away—then Twitter, then Instagram . . . I just ran with it.
I call it grassroots marketing. You stay in touch with the fans by being the actual person who sends out all the messages and interacts. I have people who help me with social media in the sense that they’ll help me structure the account, but they don’t put out the content for me.
Who and what has influenced your style of comedy?
In the beginning, only in the beginning, it was probably Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams. Eddie Murphy for the characters and Robin Williams for . . . the craziness and for making it look like it was all spontaneous.
I think over the years, I’ve just started trying to incorporate my real life into my act . . . [and] instead of saying something, painting a picture incorporating sound effects and characters.
I never write anything down. Everything that I put out on stage is either on video or audio recordings. I cannot fit structure, myself—I have to go out there and just kind of free-flow it … and if it’s funny then I’ll say it again the same way the next time—and if it’s not then I’ll change it until I find a way to make it funny.
I try to tell stories that are relatable. I try to avoid things that make people uncomfortable. For example, I don’t get political; I try not to get religious . . . I avoid things that get people riled up.
Some people say, well, I’m not taking chances. But I’m also not offending people, which opens the doors to more people coming in to see my show.
For the uninitiated, can you introduce “Fluffy?” Is Fluffy just a nickname; an alter-ego; or is it gradually replacing “Gabriel Iglesias” as your brand?
Fluffy’s always been the brand. Originally, I tried my [real] name . . . [but] for some reason “Fluffy” just stuck more than Gabriel Iglesias did.
I’ll [nowadays] incorporate Fluffy into my name, so it’ll be Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias. So now the name is in there and the branding is in there. I caught onto a word and it was catchy in the beginning. I used to get upset because people would call me Fluffy, and then I learned to embrace it.
Why would it upset you?
I didn’t want people to think I was a character—I wanted them to know that, hey, I’m a real person . . . The last thing I wanted was to not have people know who I really was.
Fluffy Breaks Even was recently picked up by FUSE-TV for a second season. What do you think lies behind the success of the show?
I think it’s a combination of branding and incorporating fans into the show. I incorporate the fans in the sense that we ask fans what’s a good restaurant to go eat at when we’re in that area . . . [and] what’s a good way to work off this [meal]—what’s a good workout; what’s something different than just hitting the gym.
So the success of the show is because the fans want it to go this way. By letting them pick, it’s a recipe for success.
You’re currently criss-crossing the country on the Fluffy Breaks Even tour. How does the Fluffy Breaks Even concept translate to the stage?
I think it went from the stage to the [TV] show; I don’t think it went the other way around. It was something that we always do on the road—that’s why it felt so organic to do this type of show. We’re always going out to restaurant and, because I’ve recently lost 100 pounds, I’m trying not to gain that weight back, so we’re always trying to find a way of working off the meals.
So we said, you know what, all we gotta do is incorporate cameras and let the fans have fun with us and it should be a good show.
You recently signed a pilot deal with ABC Television to write and star in a multi-camera series with the working title The Fluffy Shop. Is that something you can talk about in more detail?
Absolutely! The Fluffy Shop concept comes from the three or four days that I’m home from the road. So I would be playing myself [and] how I come up with the show that people see on stage.
Not just at home, but I also have a merchandising/clothing business called The Fluffy Shop . . . I’m going on auditions; I’m doing other projects; I’m interacting with my son, with my girlfriend. There’s all kinds of things that are happening . . . and so that’s going to basically be the premise of the TV show.
Your weight, weight-loss and eating are central to your comedy. So if you got, like, really skinny, how would you revamp your comic persona?
I think that’s already happened in the sense that I’ve already let the fans know that I got to a certain weight [and] it was unhealthy. I had to lose—not because I wanted to look better, but because I wanted to be around; I wanted to be alive.
My stand-up has very little to do with my weight. I mean, yeah, the title Fluffy’s in there, and maybe I might make a comment or two, but in the course of 90 minutes, you’re not going to hear any fat jokes anymore.
What is your personal history with cannabis? Has it played any role in your life or your comedy?
Between the ages of 23 and maybe 27, I was quite the recreational user . . . It was relaxing. I’d come home from the road and I had a couple of buddies who’d hang out and we’d smoke and watch cartoons. We’d sit around and watch Family Guy . . . they were really good times.
For me, it didn’t help my stand-up. I didn’t write any comedy because of it. It had nothing to do with what I did on stage. As a matter of fact, there was no way that I could smoke and perform—maybe after, but never before, or even that morning.
In your experience with audiences, can using cannabis make things seem funnier?
I think I’m funny regardless of whether people are smoking or drinking or using anything else. I don’t rely on them doing that in order to have a successful career. But I don’t hate on ‘em for it—if that’s what they wanna do before the show, hey, have fun!
What are your thoughts about the current state of cannabis legislation in the U.S.?
I think eventually it’ll get to the point where it’s legal everywhere; it’s just going to take a little bit more time.
And is that something you would support?
I would . . . I mean, people are sure that [cannabis] does help out people with certain issues. If it’s going to keep somebody from getting upset to the point where they do something stupid and it’s going to keep them at home for that night, then I’m all for it.
Obviously, with kids, I think people should wait ‘til a certain time before they allow their children [to be] doing it, even if it is legal—just like with alcohol . . . [There’s] a time and a place for everything.