Thursday, July 18, 2024

For Gabriel Iglesias, a Long Beach homecoming in pure Fluffy style

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Yes, Gabriel Iglesias—known to the larger world as Fluffy—received his Key to the City from Mayor Rex Richardson last night. But instead of a speech, Fluffy whipped out the microphone and his ever-ongoing internal dialogue about how he faces the world with kindness and humor.

“There’s things like Dodger Stadium and I won’t downsize that—I mean, it’s Dodger Stadium,” Gabriel said. “But this is a Long Beach show that has a big significance behind it. It’s the larger meaning of it all.”

For Fluffy, a truly Long Beach show meant for fans and newbies alike

“Anytime you can get acknowledged and just loved by your own—and by your own, I mean this: Long Beach is home,” Gabriel said. “To get an award like this from your own? It’s truly special. I’ve gotten the keys to other places but the fact that this is happening here—I literally drove five minutes to get here—so to have something like this from your own people is something truly special.”

Truly special indeed: With a push from Sheriff Robert Luna himself to be recognized, Gabriel did a show unlike most.

While each tour destination surely brings its own particular vibe—particularly with comedians, who have fandoms that differ from musicians and film stars because it is largely about relation and connection on the day-to-day scale—Long Beach proved to be palpable for Gabriel Iglesias. Each moment inching toward Fluffy’s nearly 90-minute set, the crowd grew more and more eager. Chants of “Fluffy” continually pounded against and off the walls. Chants of “Mar-teeeeen” were equally given, honoring longtime Fluffy collaborator Martin Moreno with his opening set that introduced Gabriel.

Long Beach knew this wasn’t just a comedian; they knew Gabriel Iglesias was their own. And, at the end of the set, Gabriel knew that too.

“I honestly don’t want this night to end,” he said, smiling broadly after he asked the audience if they could turn on their cellphone lights for a wide angle shot with Mayor Rex Richardson.

Gabriel Iglesias has a love of Long Beach that runs deep—because it became his true first home

“The thing with Long Beach—and you’ll hear this when I get on stage tonight,” Gabriel said. “The thing with Long Beach is that these are where my memories are. People ask consistently why, with my success, I haven’t moved elsewhere. And it’s because I can drive down PCH right past Golden Sails and say, ‘That’s where I did my first show.’ Long Beach is my scrapbook: Every corner I turn is a memory.”

And those very memories aren’t always perfect. Gabriel Iglesias is never one to shy away from struggle—there was even a large bit dedicated to that very concept in his show, regarding struggle as a way to become a better human—and his single-mom, Section 8-living childhood has always been an open part of his stand up.

His mother, Esther Mendez, often receives shout-outs from audience members, with Long Beach’s June 18 show being no exception. And despite her passing, Gabriel’s attachment to what his mother achieved for him as both a son and human is intimately linked to Long Beach. After bouncing between place to place to place—from Riverside to San Diego to Corona to Baldwin Park—Long Beach became more stable.

14th and Henderson. 10th and Olive. 7th and Redondo. These are just a few of the neighborhoods Gabriel Iglesias has called home at one point in his life—and to this day, won’t veer far from where him and his mom created memories. And this deep sense of humility steeps into his everyday conversation: Upon receiving a Diet Coke from his son, Frankie—two, to be precise—I stared with him that I “call that shit Liquid Gold, I love it so much,” and he offered me one as we continued to talk. This is just his nature, aware of those around him—both crew and guests alike—and wanting to better understand others.

For Gabriel Iglesias, opportunity is inherently connected to a love for our youth

“Thank you, Frankie,” he said, taking the Diet Cokes. “You want to know the irony of him handing me these? He works here as a stage hand and he didn’t even know about my show,” Gabriel continued, both laughing. “So he asked if he could ride with me and I was like, ‘Looks like he’s not workin’, I’m bringin’ the kid.'”

Gabriel’s love of both his son and youth in general is not to be taken cheaply: The show was free for young residents of Long Beach, bringing a crowd he happily and lovingly criticized during his set. Of course, being Fluffy, he wanted the entire show to be free but had to resort to $15 tickets for everyone else.

The show was supposed to be free for everyone…

“I don’t wanna throw the mayor under the bus here,” Gabriel said chuckling, lowering his words to a whisper. “But the whole event was supposed to be free. But then I was told about the obvious: the people working, renting the space—those things cost money and just because I am willing to work for free doesn’t mean everyone can. So we wanted to make sure that as many people could still attend while also offsetting costs.”

And despite having a heavily Gen X and Millennial crowd, it was the gaggle of young people—Wilson, Poly, and Jordan all received loud, thunderous whoops when given the chance to represent—that really got Gabriel Iglesias almost to the point of emotion. But certainly not without a laugh.

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“I’ve had people come up to me to say they grew up with me,” Gabriel said. “They. Grew. Up. With. Me. And at first, I got bothered, y’know—because I don’t feel old. But then I realized what an honor that was, to hear that my comedy specials would be played at someone’s house in Long Beach during the holidays. Or that a kid saw me and felt inspired by it as he grew up. And that’s the bigger picture: This show? It’s about letting kids know anything is possible. And this is coming from a guy that’s from here. So if you’re from here, just know that somebody that is in your environment and had as much or less than you has achieved this. And they can too.”

For more information about Gabriel Iglesias, including Fluffy merchandise and tour dates, click here.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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