Comedian Felipe Esparza has led quite the life. Born in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, he got caught up in the city’s gang life early on and almost ruined his life before coming of age in rehab and eventually launching his career in stand-up. He would go on to win the reality competition show Last Comic Standing in 2010. Fast forward seven years and he's now celebrating the arrival of his own HBO special, Felipe Esparza: Translate This, which premiered on Sept. 30.
Esparza is now a somewhat well-known name in the world of comedy, and will use plenty of those cross-cultural jokes on his upcoming U.S. Tour, which starts this Friday with a show at the Fox Theater in Salinas, CA. So before Felipe comes to your town on his 2017-18 winter campaign, here are a few little known facts about the comedian that should give fans an idea of who the man behind the jokes really is.
1. The idea of Esparza having a career as a comedian came during an unlikely life moment
Esparza has been telling jokes in one way or another since 1994, but his career goals and aspirations never really lined up early on in life. He ended up in a rehab treatment for drug addiction, which was where he finally decided on his new career path. According to Esparza, the year spent in a rehab facility when he was 20-years-old was the moment when his whole life changed.
In a recent interview, he revealed that while in rehab, “someone came in to speak, and asked a group he was in to set five goals; they would use them to focus on for their recovery.” Esparza could only remember three of the goals he wrote down that day, which were to be happy, to travel to Italy, and to one day become a professional stand-up comedian.
2. He may not be a household name just yet, but he's also no rookie by any means
Since winning season seven of Last Comic Standing in 2010, Esparza has begun making the rounds on television and with his own stand-up appearances across the entertainment landscape. He may not be up to leading man status like some comedians, but he’s made his mark on a handful of shows including The Tonight Show, Lopez Tonight, Premium Blend, The Eric Andre Show, a recurring role on Superstore and the recently revamped Arsenio Hall Show just to name a few. It's also worth noting that he's made more appearances than any other comedian on Galavisión's Que Locos.
3. Growing up in a non-English-speaking household made his childhood a little different than others
Esparza was born in Sinaloa, Mexico, where Spanish is the official language of its citizens. His family would end up moving to Los Angeles, which is where he grew up, and his parents made sure to bring their culture with them to America. Since Felipe was the only one in the family who spoke English, he was in charge of a lot of everyday tasks for his parents. The family would be forced to order fast-food via the drive-through-window due to his their mother insisting that they couldn’t understand her accent.
“Growing up, when your mom or dad don’t speak English, you have to do everything for them!” he said in a recent interview. “I can’t even do my homework, I’m filling out disability forms.”
4. His mentor Paul Rodriguez would end up giving him the best career advice he ever received
Right around the time when Esparza’s career was beginning to take off, he would apparently have moments of reflection when he wasn’t sure how the mainstream white audiences would accept a hispanic comedian. It was fellow jokester and actor Paul Rodriguez, who many fans may recognize from films like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and A Cinderella Story, who gave Felipe the best advice he ever got in this industry.
“Rodriguez said, ‘If you’re funny enough, you don’t have to worry about crossing over. Those people will cross over to you.’ That put it into my head," Esparza admitted recently. "I’m not going to change who I am, or my attitude. I’m going to stay true to myself. I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about. If they don’t want to hear, I’m still going to say it."
5. His wife called all the shots for his new HBO special
Esparza’s new HBO special, Translate This, may feature him as the star on screen and name in the title. It’s Felipe’s wife/manager however who called all the shots and really made the production come alive. Esparza may have provided the laughs, but when it came to all the business and production elements, it was his better half who handled the heavy lifting.
“For this special I did all of the production myself, my wife executive produced and edited it,” He said in a recent interview. “She hired a guy to direct it … My wife chose the location of the shoot. She went scouting and liked the San Jose Improv.”
Tickets to select shows on Esparza's upcoming comedy tour are on sale now, and can be purchased by clicking here.