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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He was launched on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1989, where he guested 16 times in its five-year run: “He and I became friendly, which was amazing, because I was just starting out and he was . . . Arsenio! I was spending my whole check on new clothes so I’d look good. And he’d call me into his dressing room everytime and we’d talk. It was like a ritual.
“I didn’t think about being famous or popular. Getting on ‘The Tonight Show’ was my ultimate dream and I made it in 1991.”
But while Lopez was working regularly and making money, he wasn’t feeling the satisfaction he thought he would.
“I was playing Caroline’s in New York and was having a horrible week,” Lopez recalls. “This was 1996 and I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I was doing stand-up I didn’t believe in just to make money. None of it meant anything but it got the bills paid. But nothing was really happening for me.
“Chris Rock’s manager came to see me and told me afterward, ‘Nothing about your act tells me anything about you. You need to get more in touch with that.’ ”
Lopez took the advice to heart and began talking about his own life: about growing up poor and Chicano in America. In his pinchpenny, withholding grandmother, he found his muse: “Whenever I went onstage and started talking about her, there it was,” he says. “I locked into something that wasn’t even Mexican in its viewpoint. It was about the social order, about the economics.”
He began to develop a following, including actress Sandra Bullock. She happened to see Lopez perform at a point when she and producing partners were trying to find the face for a show that would speak to a Latino audience. She brought Lopez on board, building a breakthrough sitcom around him and his life.
“George Lopez” was a hit, though ABC, the network that aired it, kept moving it into new time slots, including pitting it against ratings powerhouse “American Idol.” When ABC announced it was canceling the show in 2007 after five seasons (replacing it with “Cavemen,” a show ABC itself owned, unlike “George Lopez”), Lopez took it personally: “TV just got a whole lot whiter,” he said then, noting that the network had put 170 people out of work who had been employed by the show.
Meanwhile, the “George Lopez” show itself—or rather, his dedication to it—nearly killed him, literally. Suffering from a degenerative disease that had already cost him one kidney, Lopez waited until after the final episode taped for the 2004-05 season before undergoing a kidney transplant.
“My kidney was so bad it wasn’t even showing up on an ultrasound,” Lopez recalls. “But I knew that, if I stopped before the end of the season, there would be no one knocking on my door. I’d go on dialysis and they’d cancel the show.
“It was tough rolling the dice on my own life like that. A lot of people said, ‘You’re too sick.’ I was so toxic I couldn’t sleep. Nothing about me was fresh. But I went to work everyday. What kept me going was that I was already doing something I never thought I’d do—a sitcom. I didn’t want to lose that.”
Comments 1 comment(s)
Eric Walker — Charlston , WV, USA, — August 30, 2011 8:49am ET
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