I'm no big fan of Twitter, but I couldn't wait to get home to see what comedian Gabriel Iglesias posted about Friday's show at the Don Haskins Center.
Not because it was his first arena performance in a city that started falling in love with him nearly 15 years ago when Bart Reed's comedy club was on the West Side. The sold-out crowd of 7,500 — nearly double the turnout for the two shows he's been doing each year at the Plaza Theatre — was testimony that the love is still strong.
Not because he got a key to the city, an award from Operation H.O.P.E. and a blanket, from Sheriff Richard Wiles, no less, during a ceremony at noon on Friday at the DoubleTree.
But because it was the longest (four hours total, two by Iglesias) and most unusual show I've seen by the man they call Fluffy in the four years I've been going to his shows here.
The basketball arena setting and the sheer size of the crowd — not as big as the 10,000 who saw him in San Antonio not long ago, but impressive all the same — made for a festive atmosphere, especially on a Friday night.
A little too festive for Iglesias' liking. He interrupted the show not once but twice to deal with an apparently drunk heckler in the first row. I don't know what the guy said, or how often, but at one point Iglesias instructed the cameraman to flash the beer-toting "fan" on the four video screens that adorned and lined the stage.
The guy declined his 15 seconds of infamy, but apparently didn't stop, prompting yet another interruption. The obviously frustrated asked the people on either side of this guy and his female companion if he should stay or go, then opened the voting to the crowd. They were gonners, and Iglesias gave the seats to a couple of people seated in the lower bowl.
The apologetic comedian was able to get back on track, a series of stories about the changes through which his 14-year-old stepson Frankie is going, a little perturbed, but not so rattled that he couldn't find his rhythm in a few beats.
As if that wasn't enough for a guy getting used to playing the occasional arena on this tour, named for the Comedy Central show he hosts, "Stand-Up Revolution," he later had to deal with one of two spotlights going out. Not that he couldn't go on without it, but it was hard to see his face on the aforementioned video screens, so he first tried to move into adequate light, then jokingly waited in the event the other spot went dark.
Such are the foibles of being a road-hardened comic trying to adjust to a bigger venue on a Friday night in El Chuco. There are things he can't control, but the beauty of Iglesias' eventful show was it forced him out of his comfort zone and elevated his game.
Venue size isn't the only thing that's changing about Gabriel Iglesias. He made his name with a TV-friendly standup that included a multitude of voices and relatively short bits about drunken exploits, encounters with the cops and the "racist basket," a practical joke he and constant companion Martin Moreno played on a black comic friend several years ago.
He did some of those greatest hits (Krispy Kremes, his VW Beetle) at the end of the two-hour ordeal, probably as a reward to the crowd for sticking it out through nearly an hour's worth of new material that's still being honed and two totally unscripted interruptions.
But Iglesias is evolving into a raconteur, a storyteller who still uses the voices — from little kids to females to various ethnicities — and the sound effects, but has begun weaving together longer stories about his experiences. He launched into a lengthy series of stories about his experiences performing at the invitation of a Saudi prince, noting: "My only encounter with royalty was a freakin' Burger King parking lot."_
It's a work-in-progress, material he's honing for a TV special he hopes to film in May, and wasn't quite as funny as, say, trying to explain soupy Chico's Tacos to the uninitiated. But you had a sense that it was going somewhere, that he was going to make a point about media-fed misperceptions, but he got distracted and it didn't feel like he finished that line of thought.
He muttered something about it taking 14 years to have a bad show in El Paso. "I'm glad my family's not here to see this," he said.
Iglesias fared much better when he turned his focus closer to home, namely that 14-year-old stepson, who isn't the sweet, squeaky-voiced little kid he used to be. "I left; cute," he said of Frankie. "I came back; Shaq," he said of the boy's deepened voice.
Now Frankie grunts, is mesmerized by his cell phone, whines when asked to do a household chore and gets nothing but straight A's in school. One of the funniest bits of the night was a story about Frankie's unwillingness to use deodorant. After the kid lies to him about it, Iglesias exacts revenge by tricking the unsuspecting kid that he's late for school, and drops him off there, alone, on a Sunday.
"Kid messes with you," he said, "you mess with kid."
A Fluffy show is a lot like a night at the comedy club, no matter what the setting. His buddy Martin Moreno tells a few jokes, intros the other comics and hawks merch for Fluffy and the other comics before the intermission.
Moreno was one of three longtime Iglesias compadres who returned from last year's shows at the Plaza. Alfredo Robles has a kind of stoner Hispanic quality about him, who has some funny stuff about growing up Latino and Catholic (his mom tried to convince him he had "the devil inside") but his molestation jokes weren't that funny.
But San Antonio native Rick Gutierrez's pissed off parent stuff certainly resonated with the crowd, as did newcomer Shaun Latham's well-written blue-collar comedy, with funny stuff about his lazy eye, acting like a war veteran because he plays combat video games and impersonating a manager to get even cheaper deals on clothes at Ross.
Iglesias has enough voices, characters and everyman charm to fill any room, no matter how big his career gets, drunken fans, errant spotlights and herky-jerky video camerawork or no.
He's certainly got the material and the persona to work a big room like it's a much smaller one. He should consider going back to a theater next time around. He won't need all the new production, which obviously is a work-in-progress, and the crowd is bound to be better behaved.
That's something worth tweeting about.