You've probably heard the notion of the crying clown, the idea that comedy springs from tortured souls. At times, we're told, that's wrong; from Jerry Seinfeld to Jimmy Fallon or Tina Fey, humor comes from cheery people.
Still ... often enough, it's true; people turn chaotic lives into comedy. George Lopez -- whose cable comedy debuts Thursday (March 6) -- is a strong example; here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Back in his school days, George Lopez and teachers didn’t
seem to think much of each other.
There was one guy – a drama teacher and stand-up comedian –
he admired … briefly. “He said teaching me to do comedy would be a waste of
time,” Lopez said. Now, 35 years later, Lopez is:
A hugely successful stand-up star and a fairly
successful TV star.
Playing a teacher in “Saint George,” his new
“I use negative things” as a starting point, Lopez said. Then
he goes the opposite way; so he plays a guy who made a fortune by inventing an
energy drink, yet still works in the classroom.
There have been plenty of negative things to build on, as he
detailed in “Why You Crying?” (Touchstone, 2004). His mom was “a wild, mixed-up
streak of a girl (with) spectacularly bad taste in men.” …. His dad vanished
when George was two months old …. His grandmother raised him sternly.
Lopez turned that into comedy, both successful and bitter.
“I was the angriest, most depressed man alive, … drowning my sorrows in
alcohol,” he wrote.
Some of that may have resurfaced recently: On Feb. 27, Lopez
was briefly arrested for public intoxication, at the Windsor, Canada, casino
where he had just performed. “I tried to sleep it off,” he said the next day,
through his publicist. “Unfortunately, it was on the casino floor.”
But four days later, Lopez, 52, was talking cheerfully about
his life and his ongoing place in TV history. “There hadn’t been a successful
TV show with a Mexican-American star,” he said.
“George Lopez” reached ABC in 2002 for a six-season,
120-episode run, then thrived via reruns. “Lopez Tonight” followed in 2009; “the
talk show was probably the hardest thing you can do,” he said. The second
season was nudged back an hour to make room for Conan O’Brien; there wasn’t a
Afterward, Lopez did a lot of stand-up, plus voice work in
animated movies. He had some movie acting roles, which weren’t his favorites. (“You’re
in your trailer, waiting for Jackie Chan to beat 15 people up …. Maybe that
wasn’t the best thing for me.”) It was time for his second sitcom.
In a deal similar to Charlie Sheen’s, “Saint George” got a
10-episode order from cable’s FX. If the ratings hit a target level, it will
automatically get 90 more, taped over about two-and-a-half years.
The show mirrors real life by having Lopez play a recently
divorced dad. The difference is that his real ex-wife is Cuban; in the show,
she’s played by Jenn Lyon, a willowy blonde.
“When I was in high school, there were very few white women,”
Lopez said. “When we saw them, they would gleam …. I didn’t have any success
with white women. Or with any women, actually.”
The other key roles -- his mother, boss, cousin and uncle –
went to Latinos. The uncle is played by Danny Trejo, who’s usually serious in
life (a decade in jails) and on film. “He said usually he would just stand and
scowl at the camera and say, ‘I’m gonna kill everyone here,’ and then go back
to his trailer.”
Now he’s doing a comedy and being a friend. “I didn’t have a
father figure,” Lopez said. He figures Trejo, who “hasn’t had a drink in 45
years,” may be ideal for that.
“Saint George,” 9 p.m. Thursdays, FX; debuts
Opener reruns that night and Saturday night,
each at 12:30 a.m.; also, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday