Gabriel Iglesias is a Long Beach legend. The comedian and actor, known for his clean comedy and self-deprecating sets, has his own TV show on Netflix, Mr. Iglesias. This week on The Carlos Watson Show, join Carlos and the Fluffy guy himself for his take on a year without performing, the surprising story behind his onstage moniker, and his love of comedy. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.
The Buck Starts Here
Carlos Watson: Gabriel, how did you get into comedy? Did you do comedy as a kid when the bullies were coming or how’d you start doing comedy?
Gabriel Iglesias: I loved comedy since I was 10 years old. I saw Eddie Murphy: Raw, which is probably not what a 10-year-old should be watching, but I loved his performance, I love the humor, I love the characters, I loved everything about it. And I said, “I want to do that. I want to be that.” And it wasn’t until I got into high school and joined the speech team that I found that I had a voice and an ability to just be in front of people and express myself and be loud and over the top.
Watson: And when did you breakthrough? In your mind, when was the moment where…you really had made it?
Iglesias: Now, that’s a kind of a weird one because I guess there’s been lots of transitions. I was actually going through check stubs last night and I was going through old paperwork, and I found a bunch of old check stubs from my job and I’m like, “Wow.” I looked at that check stub and I remember thinking to myself: It doesn’t get better than $350 a week. But when your rent’s $125 and you’re splitting it up between another person, and you’re stealing cable so you’re not worried about that, and your car note is like 80 bucks, $350? I was balling at $350. I made it.
Then fast forward a few years later and I remember seeing a check for $1000, and I had never seen anything like that. A check for $1000. Are you kidding me? And I made that in one night. That was like, “Holy smoke. How does that happen?”
It was just one of those… First of all, it was New Years so it was a specialty show. I thought every day could be a $1000 show, but it was New Years and that’s why it was a special thing. But little by little, word got around that there was this guy, you can hire him, he’s safe. He’s not going to rile up the audience. He can perform, kids can watch, you don’t have to worry, and that’s what started to grow everything.
I got invited to be on this TV show, that TV show, this TV show. So before I knew it, I started having this little following. And keep in mind, this was way before social media. There was no YouTube at the time. It was all about word of mouth, and little by little, it started happening. Then I started getting phone calls. Before, I was the one making the phone calls and before I knew it, I was the one answering the phone instead of making the calls.
What’s in a Name?
Watson: What made you start doing that Fluffy bit?
Iglesias: The Fluffy thing…it was a cute nickname back in the day. I stood on stage, I said, “I told my mom I was fat. She goes, you’re not fat, you’re fluffy.” And the problem was at the end of the night, people were coming up to me and they weren’t saying, “Hey, you were funny, Gabriel. Hey, that was funny. I enjoyed that bit. Gabriel.” Nobody remembered Gabriel, and I remember thinking to myself, my last name is already famous, I just got to work on the first half of it and then I’ll build something off of that.
End of the night, people were coming up to me going, “I loved your jokes, Fluffy.” And I’m like, “It was one joke, why are you calling me that?” And so it kept happening and happening and happening, and I didn’t have enough material to let that joke go. So instead of fighting it, I learned to embrace it. Then a buddy of mine years ago, he says, “Look, man, we get in early on this, let’s start branding it online.” And we did such a good job with the branding of it. We’re now, even today, if you google the word fluffy or any search engine, you put in fluffy, I am the number one. I own the word fluffy.
Watson: Does that make you money?
Iglesias: Oh, absolutely. Because now my name is one word. But saying Fluffy is easier than saying Gabriel Iglesias.
Watson: Wait now, where does Iglesias come from? Someone told me that there’s a story behind that.
Iglesias: The last name Iglesias comes from Spain. The story that I heard is that there was an orphan left on the steps of a church. And of course, church in Spanish is iglesia. So that’s what they wound up doing. They wind up giving the kid, you know you’re a kid of the church. So Iglesias, that’s your last name. And that all the Iglesias-es after that came from that original one.
Any Iglesias I come across. What’s the story you heard? And they’re like, “The kid in Spain?” I go, “The kid in Spain.” So yeah, that’s where that name comes from.
Watson: And now what about the spelling of it? Do you do something distinctive with the spelling?
Iglesias: I didn’t do something distinctive. My mom did. My father was a Mariachi. He was an actual legit performer, really good singer. And that’s how my mom and him met. They met at some night club. My father was performing and something about the Iglesias man holding a microphone, it’s magical..my mom was in a trance and good thing she was because nine months later I showed up.
The thing was that my father was so proud of his last name like, “That’s my name.” And instead of him being at the hospital, when I was born, he was somewhere else, whether it was a gig, or somewhere else. And so my mom, in spite of that, she changed the spelling of my last name.
So it’s still Iglesias but she spelled it… Iglesias is spelled I-G-L-E-S-I-A-S and my mom changed one letter to a C. She did that in spite of him not being there. It’s one thing that happened 44 years ago, but it still affects me to this date. Every time I’m at an airport, dealing with airport security, passports, taxes, I always use the S but it’s still technically with the C. And so sometimes I get paperwork kickbacks. I’ve missed several flights because of that one letter, just because my dad wasn’t there.
Aging. But Like Fine Wine.
Watson: How much do you enjoy your life today, Gabriel?
Iglesias: I think about all the things that have gotten me to this point. And it’s just the fact that I had to stop performing because of COVID. I don’t think I was taking enough time to really appreciate everything that’s been happening because I’ve always been working. I’ve never taken a vacation. I’ve never said, let me schedule some time off. And I’ve been, go, go, go for over 20 years.
But this past year that I was forced to stay at home, I’ve probably gotten the best sleep of my life. I average eight to 10 hours every night. Look at this face. Look at this, it’s so pretty. I’ve been able to just sit back and reflect and like, wow! I think back and I go through all my pictures and I’m like, “It’s awesome.” I haven’t been vaccinated yet. So I don’t want to take a chance. I am every one of those underlying conditions that say COVID can get you like COVID is ready for me. Everything: I’m over 40, I’m overweight, I got diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, blood pressure. COVID is just waiting. COVID is like, “Just let me have him.”
I’m happy that I’ve gotten to this point. For me, I’ve accomplished every goal I have set for myself in my career. Every single thing that I wanted to do, I have done. And for that reason, I’m at peace. I’m okay. My only goal now is to just get healthier. So this last year, I’ve lost about 60 pounds. And I finally got a chance to go see the doctors that I’ve been neglecting all these years. I got an endocrinologist who’s helped me fix my diabetes. So I got that under control.
I’ve been neglecting myself personally for a long time and been focused on my career. So it’s nice that I’ve had a chance to do that. And again, I’m reflecting on everything that’s happened. And I see light at the end of the tunnel for me being able to return to comedy pretty soon. By soon, I mean this year. Hopefully, I’ll learn to take better care of myself and go back out there. And every single night, when I say, “Thank you, I’ve had the time of my life.” I’m going to mean it every single time.