7 Things to Know About Felipe Esparza

The stand-up comedian talks about getting his start, leaning on his family for material, and finding his voice in the comedy world.

  1. 1

    He tried everything. Comedy is what stuck.

    Felipe Esparza: I ran out of things that I wasn’t good at. I tried everything. [I was] a security guard, drug dealer, drug addict, none of those things worked. But since I was a little kid I wanted to be a comedian.

  2. 2

    Rehab played a part in his future success.

    Felipe Esparza: I got into stand-up comedy when I was in rehab. This counselor told us, “write down five things you want to accomplish in your life.” Up until then I had no goals. The first thing I wrote down was “I want to be a comedian.” Second thing: “I want to be sober for a while.”

  3. 3

    He kept his parents on a need to know basis.

    Felipe Esparza: My comedy special is called Translate This. Like most immigrant kids in America, their parents come here, they don’t know how to speak English. As a little kid, I picked up English fast. My parents didn’t speak any English and I was filling everything out for them. Applications, every kind of form, grades — so they never knew what grades I got because they didn’t know what the hell they were reading.

  4. 4

    His family is a big source of his jokes.

    Felipe Esparza: I grew up in a really big family. I’m the oldest of seven kids. Being the oldest of any family is the toughest because your parents don’t know how to be parents, they’re just practicing on you. You’re like the rough draft.

  5. 5

    His comedy goals evolved over time.

    Felipe Esparza: The decision to talk about my personal life in comedy took a while. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for 20 years, but the first five I was just writing jokes that had nothing to do with me. Ten years in, I started talking about myself. As a stand-up comedian, I wanted to be cool first. I wanted to hook up, meet a woman at the end of the show. I didn’t want to be on stage talking about how I’m a father — a horrible dad. I didn’t want to talk about how I came here illegally. I didn’t want to do jokes that would take away from someone liking me.

  6. 6

    Being loud helps.

    Felipe Esparza: In the past, I was a deadpan comedian because I was a shy kid. I would go up on stage and not even hold the microphone I was so scared. While performing at a room called The Wild Coyote, my comedy got more loud because if you were not funny, they would boo you. Now, I think my stand-up comedy is surreal. It’s loud.

  7. 7

    Felipe Esparza is the unlikely hero of his story.

    Felipe Esparza: My comedy is relatable if you’re not Latino because I’m talking about drug issues and living at home. I’m painting a picture of this loser on stage. But he’s also a winner. It’s like a hero story when I’m up there.