The Ethnic Show at the Just for Laughs comedy festival is gearing up for another stellar show. Taking the role as host this year is the incredibly talented and funny; Cristela Alonzo. Not only is Alonzo a stand-up comedienne and a massive Billy Joel fan, she is also the first ever Latina to have created, produced and starred in her own sitcom. This girl has got talent galore and a laugh you won't forget. Just back from a trip to Alaska, I had the chance to speak with Cristela about her upcoming gig at JFL.
You've performed at the Ethnic Show before but now you're hosting it. What's that like for you?
It's so funny you mention that because I did the show about 4-5 years ago, but to come back and host it, it's a full circle moment. I've been performing at JFL for years and they've always been so supportive of me. I love coming back, plus it's nice to leave the United States for a little while, ha-ha. The really fun thing is that I'll be in Montreal for a few weeks so I'll have time to really explore and get to know the city.
I think it's incredible that you were the FIRST Latina to ever create, produce and star in your own sitcom. Was that a WOW moment for you?
Yeah it was. I am not the first Latina to be born; how did this take so long? It was an honour for me to be a part of the sitcom, and I didn't even know that it was a big deal until they told me. When you're in the moment of putting a show together, the last thing you think of is, "What am I going to be the first to do".
How did comedy start for you?
I've always liked stand-up comedy, but I didn't know that it could be a job. I come from an immigrant family and we were raised that jobs had to be very physical. To think about having a job where you'd get paid for your thoughts seemed like a luxury. I dreamed about being on Broadway and I studied theater, but I soon realized that if I want to live out my dream, I need to write it myself. I began writing the way that I speak and it became so familiar, but I didn't realize what I was doing was actually something that could become a career and pay your bills with. I've been doing this for 15 years and I still love what I do.
Do you have a creative process?
I try to write every day but sometimes life gets in the way. I still carry a notebook, and if I don't have that I'll write notes in my phone. I record every single set that I do because when you throw out a joke and make someone laugh, you want to be able to write down that joke in the way that solicited that laugh. When I started comedy, the comics I would be around would compare their life to rock stars, you know the late sets, the partying, but I love being in bed really early. I wake up a 7am every day. Stand-up is a dream but it's also a job.
What do you think about the evolution of comedy with social media nowadays?
I think the evolution is amazing. That's been the problem with the industry; there are so many gatekeepers that stop people from being seen. I think it's important to give the option to the audience who builds up the persons career to say who is funny and who is not. At the end of the day, the public is responsible for your career.
What is your favourite movie?
The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Who is your favourite artist or band?
That's a tough one. It's a toss-up between The Beatles and Billy Joel. I've seen Billy Joel live about 25 times, ha ha.
Who are some of your favourite comics?
Freddie Prinze, George Lopez, Ellen DeGeneres, Wendy Liebman, Wanda Sykes and obviously Dave Chappelle.
What song would you have played at your funeral?
Oh, great question! "For The Benefit of Mr. Kite" by The Beatles, because it's about a circus show and that's what I think my life has been.
What can Montreal expect from you at the Ethnic Show?
If you've seen me before you'll see an evolution of where I am now, compared to where I was years ago. I'm really excited.
Be sure to catch Cristela Alonzo hosting The Ethnic Show from July 10th-25th at Club Soda and MTELUS. Joining her will be Dave Merheje, Robby Hoffman, Donnell Rawlings, Anthony DeVito and Rafi Bastos. Another stellar line-up curated by Just for Laughs. Be quick to buy your tickets at hahaha.com.
Gianni Fiasche lives and breathes all that is entertainment. Since a very young age he has been a film and music enthusiast. Gianni watches and reviews over 200 films a year, attends hundreds of concerts, and loves listening to old and new music. When he isn’t doing these activities, you’ll find him spending quality time with family and friends. You can follow him on Instagram as @snobreviews.