This has been a rollercoaster year for comedian George Lopez. He’s already been humbled and made much late-night fun over his drunken fall at a Canadian Casino. And then his latest sitcom “Saint George” on FX got the axe after only 10 episodes (more on that later). All that has turned him back to the one thing that he can do with absolute confidence, with no interference, and that’s stand-up. This Saturday he returns to the Santa Barbara Bowl for an evening of hilarity and soul-baring. While his stand-up has often been about family and culture and the effects of an abusive upbringing — told with devastating humor and honesty of course — Mr. Lopez says that he’s going to get even more personal for this new tour.
“We’re going to deal with the private George, not the public George,” he says. “Which I think is more compelling . . . The thing with the next special is to get more personal and dig deeper.”
It’s all about the attitude, he says, learned long ago from two of his favorites — the profane George Carlin and the clean Bill Cosby. “One is the boxer, and the other is a puncher,” he says. The other thing Mr. Lopez learned from Mr. Cosby and especially Mr. Carlin, who set the standard, was to toss out all his material after a year or two and start over.
Mr. Lopez works on all that new material in less-frequented cities and tinier venues.
“Working small clubs helps you become more present, which is the greatest thing,” he says. “I told the comic who is opening for me, we’re going to try to be personal as quick as you can in the set. Like talking about your day, something that connects you to the day. Because when comedians don’t do that, it feels like it’s all manufactured.”
Since Mr. Lopez’s talk show got canceled in 2011, he’s watched the late-night talk show scene change even more, and he says he still misses having that nightly gig. “We were doing something very different and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t continue, that I didn’t get to continue doing my thing at 11 (p.m.) for a little bit longer, because I think it would have been successful.”
Similarly, he says he’s really proud of those 10 episodes of this year’s “Saint George” but he blames its cancellation on the 10-90 deal he signed. That is, a show must get great ratings for the first 10 episodes in order to get 90 more approved. It’s a gamble that didn’t pay off. He says he can handle failure, but at an expense.
“With the kind of childhood I had I had to create a barrier to get through stuff. I was always afraid when I was a kid, and I got left alone a lot, and I cried a lot. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone. I hate to hear a kid cry. It’s one of the things that unnerves me even today . . . It was because of that I created kind of a barrier between myself and my feelings that has allowed me to not be nervous or be filled with tension when things go bad.”
But that’s also meant that his stoic response can sometime be seen as heartlessness.
“They don’t know the trip… I’m like a cop who comes upon a crime scene, you get desensitized. That’s been the unfortunate part of this ride, is the disconnect between personal feelings.”
Mr. Lopez has been sober since the casino incident, and he’s working on himself. And that’s tough, but he likes tough. He is intentionally making his stand-up more a challenge just for himself this year. He doesn’t even have a stool or a bottle of water on stage, props comics often use to give themselves a time to relax and think if they’ve gone off track. Also, when he shoots his next special for HBO, he’s going to do it live without a cut. “Not a lot of people do live. They tape two shows, dress the same, and cut. That’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m going to do it completely live, which is scary. You could mix your words or lose your spot, so you really have to be prepared.”
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas
Information: www.sbbowl.com, (805) 962-7411