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Arts & Music

Q&A: George Lopez going 'no holds barred' in St. Pete

BY ED CONDRAN
Tribune correspondent

Published:   |   Updated: July 19, 2013 at 01:28 PM

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Much like the versatile comic-actor D.L. Hughley, George Lopez always lands on his feet. Lopez helmed a self-produced eponymous sitcom on ABC, which is in syndication.

Shortly after "George Lopez" ended, only to be resurrected by Nick At Night, the quick-witted humorist was tabbed to host the under-heralded late-night talk show "Lopez Tonight" on TBS which got caught up in the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien debacle. A year and a half after the chat show ended, Lopez announced that he will star in the FX sitcom, "Saint George," in which he plays a divorced dad.

Lopez, 52, who is out on the road rendering stand-up, recently called from Los Angeles to discuss raising a teenage daughter and how fragmented the world of comedy has become. Lopez, who will appear Friday at the Mahaffey, also reveals what classic sitcom inspired the dialogue in his ABC vehicle.

Tampa Tribune: What do you miss about your chat show?

George Lopez: I miss how much fun we had on the show. It was a great time and a great responsibility. I think what I did was different than what the others on late night did.

TT: What separated you from the pack is that you listened to the guest and went on interesting tangents as opposed to going from one question to the next.

GL: Exactly. It's funny you say that, because when I was getting ready to do the show, I asked someone if I should take some classes, maybe study interviewing. I was told, 'No, you're a curious guy; you listen. If you're curious, you listen and you're a fan, you'll be alright.' I had no desk. We would stand on chairs. We actually had fun.?

TT: Fun and television are often mutually exclusive terms. Many of those running the shows don't have humor backgrounds.

GL: Tell me about it. You have these executives who micromanage the show and they never told a joke or arranged a joke or know anything about being funny. That kind of stuff derails you.

TT: But you're willing to give another sitcom a whirl.

GL: Yes. It's with FX. I think they get it. Louis C.K. has had the chance to do what he wants, and I think it'll be that way for me.

TT: The difference between many of the classic and contemporary sitcoms was that there was great conflict with the former.

GL: You'll have plenty of conflict in this show. My character, who is divorced, was married to a blond woman, a very beautiful girl. Even though we break up, she expects my character to help raise the child and be in constant contact with her. That's not the way it is with Latinos. When we divorce, we hardly see who we divorced. The co-parenting stuff is going to be really funny. It'll help because it's based on reality.

TT: You're divorced and you have a teenage daughter.

GL: That's part of what I'll talk about when I come to town. I'll talk about my daughter. I'll talk about getting older. I talk about how kids aren't kids anymore, and I'll get political and I'll talk about the dysfunctional. My daughter is 17 and she's driving, and I can't help but worry. She goes to a private school, and what's bad about that is there's a lot of entitlement. It's hard raising my daughter but it's good for material. My daughter and her friends never feel true danger. Dangerous for them is smoking.

TT: That's quite a contrast from your childhood. Your parents abandoned you and danger was ubiquitous.

GL: I had a very challenging childhood. It's very different from what my daughter experiences. But you know what? I thought there was no value in my childhood, but I was wrong. It made me who I am. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. That's my currency today. I remember lying about things like if I ate or not. I would tell people I ate dinner when I didn't. It was hard but it helped shape me as a comedian. I'll never forget growing up during the '70s.

TT: What a different era. Look at footage of Richard Pryor and George Carlin shows. They each had diverse crowds. However, today, you go to a Mike Epps show and it's almost all African-American. You draw mostly Latinos, and Louis C.K. attracts Caucasians. Why is it so fragmented?

GL: It was different then. There was more of a mix back in the day. I think comics are a bit more ethnic than they were back then. You have the Internet now, so you can see what you like. I think people back in the '70s would be more apt to just go out and check someone out. I don't think that's so today. I think that's why it's so fragmented today. In some ways the 70s were coller than now. And the sitcoms were amazing.

TT: What sitcom from that era had the biggest impact on you?

GL: There were several, but one that had a huge impact on me and my ABC sitcom was 'Sanford And Son.' I would lock myself into a room for hours and watch how the characters from 'Sanford and Son' would hurl insults at each other. I would take that interaction and work it into my show with my sitcom wife.

TT: But that was back before the PC police arrived. Can you bring it with old school humor with your new show?

GL: I'm going to try to be the first rung of the non-PC ladder with this show. I'm going to have fun dealing with gluten-free kids, co-parenting and the holidays. It'll be no-holds-barred, just like my stand-up.

GEORGE LOPEZ

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: The Mahaffey, 400 First St. S., St. Petersburg

Tickets: $66, $56 and $46; (727) 893-7832 and themahaffey.com

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