George Lopez has tackled the late night realm on television, and is bringing a quick wit and humor that ranges far beyond his Latino roots.
From the Print Edition:
George Lopez, January/February 2010
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Paratore, who helped create talk shows for Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks, says, “These are hard shows to do, though they look deceptively easy. The hardest thing for anyone to do is be comfortable in his own skin. To do that and entertain—that’s hard to do and look natural while you’re doing it. There are very few who can do that, who can put it all together.
“This is as strong a start-up as I’ve seen. This guy is in control of the show. He owns the room.”
That’s evident even at a rehearsal before one of his tapings. It’s late on a sunny day in Burbank, but inside Stage 29 on the Warner Bros. studio lot, it’s meat-locker chilly—so frigid that, during taping, the makeup and wardrobe women who attend to Lopez during commercial breaks wear quilted ski jackets. Empty now, the room will be filled in less than two hours with the second cheering, screaming audience of the day (Lopez tapes both Wednesday’s and Thursday’s shows the same day, virtually back to back).
When Lopez emerges for the rehearsal, he’s like a boxer at the weigh-in, giving nothing away before they ring the bell, eyeing the empty studio cautiously. Dressed in a black hoodie, jeans and black boots (along with a pair of knit black gloves), he runs through his monologue in bare-bones fashion, reading the jokes off the teleprompter as he figures out transitions between gags and tightens or expands upon punch lines.
Rehearsing a recurring comedy bit, an advice segment called “Dear George,” he practices offering guidance to an in-studio questioner, a 46-year-old man who wonders whether it’s OK to bring a woman home, even though he still lives with his mother. Lopez banters with the writer who’s filling in for the actor who will play the geeky mama’s boy, then turns to his writers: “I need some harder lines than those. He’s 46 and he still lives at home! I need something sharper than this.”
An hour or so later, it’s showtime—and what seemed skeletal in rehearsal arrives full-bodied for the cameras. The quiet, low-energy Lopez has been replaced by a sharp-dressed man: Lopez in suit and tie, strutting and preening, again, like a boxer trying to intimidate an opponent as he approaches the ring, entering to his theme song, War’s “Low Rider.”
“One thing I learned from Michael Jordan years ago—and that was to gear yourself to be at the top of your day when it’s time to play,” Lopez says later. “For years, I was gearing myself for a 9 p.m. show onstage. Now it’s a 5:30 show—except on Wednesday, when it’s harder because I’ve got to do two shows. So I have to get up earlier, gear down between shows, then get back up for that second show. But during the day, I’m practically horizontal, in terms of my energy output.”
The audience—arranged in sections around the massive soundstage that used to house sets for “The West Wing”—is on its feet, hooting its approval as Lopez asks them, “Are you ready to make some history tonight?”
Throwing his arms wide in a gesture of generosity, he smiles and says to the roaring crowd (and the audience at home), “Mi casa es su casa.” Then his eyes pop and, channeling the thoughts of a blond woman in the front row, he says in a Valley Girl voice, “I don’t know what that means, but I’m going to Google it.”
After his monologue, he easily plays host/interviewer in conversations with guests Ted Danson and comic Bill Engvall. Though he consults with Paratore and the stage manager during breaks (and allows the ministrations of the hair and makeup artists), he also keeps the audience involved, pulling women out of the crowd to get up on stage and dance with him as the band plays throughout what will be a commercial break when the show airs.
“I learned to let the music play in the studio all through the commercial break,” Lopez says later. “After all, I’m the host, even when the camera is off.”
On this night, his flow is interrupted when, as he gets ready to move on to the show’s final segment, Lopez is told that they have to go back and redo a moment in the “Dear George” sequence to pick up a line he missed. One retake turns into three and then it seems to take forever to get set for the final guest of the night, guitarist Orianthi Panagaris (from the Michael Jackson concert movie, This Is It).
When Lopez becomes impatient and asks why it’s taking so long, he’s told there’s a problem arranging a swooping camera move that will bring them out of commercial. Lopez finally calls a halt to the time-consuming setup, either in a bit of temper at the end of a long, two-show day or from a lack of patience for artsy flourishes when he’s trying to create a spontaneous party atmosphere.
Comments 1 comment(s)
Eric Walker — Charlston , WV, USA, — August 30, 2011 8:49am ET
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