George Lopez doesn’t know how to slow down.The comedian, who recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, ended 2006 with a new comedy CD and a sold-out stand-up run in Los Angeles. He’s blasting into 2007 with a new movie—“Balls of Fury” opens April 27—and the sixth season of his ABC sitcom, “George Lopez.” He’s also got a live comedy special airing on HBO February 24th: “George Lopez: America’s Mexican.” The show plans to cover such controversial topics as immigration, minute men, interracial relationships and disciplining children. In the meantime, Lopez is busy doing charity work, acting as spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation, and working on his golf swing. Carmel Magazine caught up with him by phone a few weeks before he was scheduled to play in the 2007 AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament.
CM: You’ve got so much going on—books, DVDs, television, movies, standup—how do you pull it all off?
George Lopez: I do everything one at a time, one day at a time. It’s the only way I can do all of those things. I stopped watching [most of] the news and entertainment shows. I think it’s helped me to stay a little clearer. Do I need to know what Kevin Federline is doing? And I don’t sleep a lot. I’m always connected to [my work].
CM: What is it about always doing something that’s important to you?
GL: The whole run of it—the whole show, playing at the AT&T, the whole golf celebrity thing and the whole comedy thing playing larger venues—is all kind of a luck shot anyways. That it’s happened to me and I’m that blessed…I’m going to run hard and my wife understands that and I’ve got her complete support.
CM: So how do you find time to fit in golf games?
GL: Oh, there will always be time for golf! I play weekends at Lakeside in Toluca Lake, and that’s where Bob Hope was a member and Ray Romano, Joe Pesci, Andy Garcia and Jack Nicholson [are members].
CM: When did you first start picking up the game?
GL: I hit lemons in the backyard of my grandmother’s yard. I was probably 12 to 15.Then in 1981, my friend and I went to go play on Christmas Day…since that day, I haven’t put a club down.
CM: What’s fun about the Pro-Am for you?
GL: You’re never going to be a Yankee for a day, or you’re never going to be a Laker, but with Pro-Ams, they allow you to feel like you’re a professional golfer and play under their conditions. Sometimes you make good shots and sometimes you make bad shots, but you’re still in the mix of the best players in the world. And if you get to know them, it’s a bonus. Mike Weir and I are good friends, I talk to Dean Wilson, and I play with Justin Leonard every year. The first year I played, in 2004, I came in third. I took my [trophy cup] and filled it with lemons.
CM: What would you say the strangest thing is about the Carmel area?
GL: I’ve been to Tijuana and bought souvenirs…Carmel is a high-end Tijuana! There’s things that you buy that you would never buy anywhere else. T-shirts, knicknacks, ornaments, shoes, sweaters, kites…you’re buying a kite, it’s just going to end up in your garage.
CM: What’s good about the area? GL: I used to have an impression that the people were stuffy and high class and you know, they are the nicest, most down-to-earth, supportive people ever. The first year I played in the AT &T, I had just bought my house on Bird Rock. I’ve moved since then, but I’m walking up to the green and a woman is holding a sign that says, ‘Hey George, thanks for buying my house, welcome to the neighborhood.’ And man, I almost started crying, it was so wonderful and people started clapping, and it was great. I’ll never forget that.
I also have to mention Clint Eastwood. Our families have become very close. You know how powerful he is, he’s an American icon. It’s great for everyone that Clint’s in the area. He’s the one who first invited me to play at the AT&T.
CM:You use humor to disarm people to get some pretty serious topics across. If there is a driving force behind everything you do, what is it?
GL: I think it’s inclusion. I’ve always felt excluded from pie charts and America. If you go to Salinas and look in the fields and at how we get food to the table, those people are very important and they’re not in a position to speak for themselves. That’s really hard work. I come from that; my father was a migrant farmworker. I think it’s important to acknowledge their work. If [Mexicans] were to go away, you’d put people in there who were Americans with health and dental, and a head of lettuce would cost $125.You’d get a salad and it would be like, ‘That’ll be $775.’ Historically we’ve never really done anybody justice [in this country] and yet we’re asked to live together and kind of forget what happened.
CM: So do you feel people are getting what you’re saying?
GL: I’m not ever going to be on stage and there’s going to be five minutes of dead silence and people are going, ‘This guy is really angry.’ It always has to come through laughter. I did this run at the Gibson Amphitheatre [in Los Angeles] between Christmas and New Year’s where I sold out eight shows. It was like 50,000 people and it was pretty hard-edged but it was also really funny. A lot of it had to do with Schwarzenegger wanting an English-only initiative and he doesn’t speak English. You know he has that accent! It isn’t anti-white, the set up is white.The forefathers and the Constitution was all white men, and we still adhere to that, but the country has changed. And it’s changed for women and it’s changed for people who are gay and it’s changed for a lot of people and it includes us, so it’s out of that that the humor tries to come. But if it ever got to a point that it wasn’t funny or it was really angry…what do I have to be angry about? No particular race is the enemy, ignorance is the enemy.
[There’s] a joke that I’ve done forever: ‘In 2015 they say that the largest majority of people will be Latino and you’ll tell scary stories to your grandkids: “A long time ago when I was growing up, there used to be people who were white,” and the kid says, “Really?” and you say, “Yeah, like the man who cuts our grass.”’ I’ve had that line forever and I love it.
CM: What’s a side to you that most people don’t see?
GL: I spend a lot of time alone and my wife understands that I need to be alone. I’m never lonely. I enjoy being alone.
CM: What accomplishment are you proudest of?
GL: I grew up with nothing and nobody ever told me I could do anything. I never knew my father, and my mother wasn’t the best, most stable person. My grandparents raised me, and my grandmother never really connected with me. I just had a home. So I was kind of left to my own self. When I found out that nobody had ever graduated from high school in our family, I wanted to be the first one to graduate. By the time I was 11, I wanted to be a comedian. So all those years later, I’ve managed to achieve my dream as a kid, and it wasn’t easy. I’m on the [Hollywood] Walk of Fame and I’m one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in America, according to Time Magazine. I think my duty is to go back and tell kids, ‘Whatever color you are, wherever you come from, anything and everything is possible.’ And I’m living proof.
CM: Anything else you want to add?
GL: I want everybody in that area and Salinas and the surrounding areas to know that to me, everyone there is fantastic. The people are great, the restaurants are great, the communities are great. I don’t feel like there’s any cultural divide and I think that’s a testament to everybody who lives there. There are have and have nots in every area, but the people don’t carry themselves that way.
I don’t get there enough, but [to know I can] makes me feel good. I sleep good up there, and I love the house. I never thought I’d live in a place where you’d have to pay to get in!