Gabriel Iglesias – Palace Theater (Albany, NY), 12.5.14

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Usually when a woman uses the word “fine,” it isn’t a good thing. 9 times out of 10, if the woman in your life responds that she is fine, she absolutely isn’t fine. Maybe she’s putting on a brave face; perhaps she wants you to put in the effort to figure out what is actually bothering her. Whatever the reason, if the word fine is thrown around, it’s probably not going to end well for you. Women don’t like to hear the word “fine” either, especially when they ask how they look. Somehow being told that your outfit is fine is almost worse that a disparaging statement. I’ll concede that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense while at the same time admitting that I’m guilty of behaving this way myself. Women are complex creatures.

Of course, what is truly bedeviling is that although the word “fine” is often a loaded adjective, it occasionally is used as intended with no hidden meaning behind it. Sometimes fine is just the best word to describe something and can actually be taken at face value. So when I say that Gabriel Iglesias’ stand-up show was fine, that’s exactly what I mean. I wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t great; it was entertaining, but also very disposable. I laughed during the show, but the only things that stuck with me after the performance were the things that I didn’t like about it rather than any of the jokes. It was a satisfactory evening of comedy, but it surely wasn’t the best stand-up that I’ve ever seen. Fine is really the most accurate definition.

I’ve enjoyed Iglesias’ stand-up specials in the past when they have aired on Comedy Central, so I was certainly looking forward to his performance. He’s never been a favorite of mine, but I have always found him to be affable enough and while his comedy could never be considered edgy I still generally found him and his material amusing. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the show; I was hoping that it was mostly new material and not a reliance on re-telling older material, but I wouldn’t have been too surprised if his set was a reliance of some of his greatest hits. He had a very diverse crowd in attendance – people of all ages and backgrounds were in the audience, which was nice to see.

There were three opening acts before Iglesias, or Fluffy as he is also known, came out on stage and they very varying degrees of funny. First up was Martin Moreno, who is well known to fans of Fluffy as he is featured in many of Iglesias’ stories. I’d often wondered if Martin was an actual person, an amalgam, or a creative figment of Fluffy’s imagination, but here he was standing on the stage in the flesh. I was a little surprised that he warned parents that his material may not be suitable for any kids in the audience, as the show was dubbed suitable for ages 13 and up. I don’t necessarily think that kids should be at comedy shows to begin with, but if the opening act is billed as appropriate the opening acts should adjust their material accordingly. I’d be a little annoyed if I brought my kid to a show that would be OK for them only to be instructed that I should take them out in the lobby if they are easily offended, since that would mean that I was also missing the show. Moreno’s act wasn’t terribly inappropriate – some cussing and some suggestive material – but even though it didn’t directly affect me I was annoyed for anyone who was anticipating an evening that was completely suitable for their children and then had to choose between leaving or having them hear questionable language or material. Either raise the age limit of the show or make everyone on the bill abide by the same content restrictions. His set was generally funny and focused on dating and partying.

Next up was Gina Brillon, who was my favorite of the openers. I can’t really put my finger on what made her stand out to me – I’m hard pressed to even remember much of her material – but I think her delivery was what won me over. Plus I’m always happy to see a decent female comedian, since stand-up is unfortunately still very much a man’s world. Her jokes weren’t necessarily revolutionary or groundbreaking, but they were relatable.

The third and final opening act was Rick Gutierrez; he was probably the weakest of the three opening acts as his pacing was a little slow and his material wasn’t all that innovative or creative. That was actually a theme for the evening – a lot of the comics covered well-worn topics without bringing anything new or exciting to the table. Subjects like dating and families and children are ripe for comedy, but since so many comedians cover this material you have to have a well-crafted joke to impress anyone. That didn’t happen very often at this show; I felt like a lot of the jokes were amusing, but not particularly different than the hundreds of other similar jokes that I’ve heard. Maybe I just go to too many comedy shows so I’m harder to impress, but the fact that I can’t really remember any of the jokes from the first three acts is an indication that they didn’t do anything all that impressive.

I had hoped that Iglesias was going to come out next, but instead the audience was subjected to a merchandise pitch and then a twenty minute intermission. The intermission seemed counterintuitive – if you just spent the time hypothetically warming up the crowd, why kill the momentum – and the merchandise spiel was tacky. We all walked past the table in the lobby with the t-shirts and dvds; to take time in the middle of the show to go through all the stuff that was available was pretty off-putting. I get that is one way for the comics to make some additional money on the tour, but I don’t think I’ve ever been at a show where they took time away from the comedy to try and convince you to buy stuff. It didn’t seem very professional or polished; it honestly came off as a little desperate and like a grab for cash. I wasn’t impressed.

Finally, after the intermission and a pointless audience competition for a free t-shirt, Iglesias finally took the stage. He was up front in saying that he would do 45 minutes of new material and then would do some older material after that if we wanted more. While I appreciated his honestly, I thought 45 minutes was a little on the skimpy side; I’m used to most headliners going at least an hour. Again, that may just be my bias from being exposed to a lot of comedy, as the rest of the audience seemed tickled pink just to see him. In fact, he received a partial standing ovation just for walking out, so it was clear that I was on a different level of fandom than the vast majority of other people.

Iglesias is more a story teller than a joke teller and his material comes from things that have actually happened to him rather than things that he has written. Because he’s pretty popular now, the focus of his material has shifted more to fan interaction stories; for example, the first 20 minutes or so was based on the experience of fans giving him gifts. There were definitely some funny bits in there, but I don’t know that this was his best material. Part of what made him humorous in the past, beyond his inherent likability, was that his stories were somewhat relatable. That’s mostly gone and the result is that he unintentionally sounds a bit like he has drunk his own Kool-Aid. He’s done extremely well for himself and had found success, which is great, but I think that has impacted his material. He is no longer an everyman and there is a noticeable difference in the experiences that he can draw from. I’m not saying that he wasn’t funny or that I didn’t laugh – I absolutely did – but overall it was mostly amusing rather than hilarious. He seems like a nice enough guy and he has good delivery, but because he appeals to such a diverse crowd I don’t know that his comedy has a distinctive point of view. It all felt a little generic once you strip away the circumstances of the stories; sadly, I can’t mention that I like chocolate cake and then have people bring me cake in perpetuity. Even his older material is not necessarily in my sweet spot for comedy, but I wasn’t really connecting with his new material; perhaps the stakes for laughter are just a lot lower in my living room than they are live in a theater. His set stretched well over the initial 45 minute estimate, but I can barely remember what he even talked about.

I am very much the outlier here as the crowd couldn’t get enough of him; people around me were laughing much longer and harder than I was and didn’t seem to have any reservations. This could simply be a case of a comedian who doesn’t necessarily line up with my tastes. The crowd particularly came to life when he finally got around to doing some of his older material; it basically became “comedy karaoke” as the audience said the joke right along with his delivery. I’m glad that everyone else in the room was having such an amazing time and from his perspective it was certainly a loud and enthusiastic crowd. On some level, I totally get his appeal, but while I was moderately entertained I don’t really have any desire to ever see him again. I wish him well and appreciate his attempt to raise awareness about autism, but I think I should stick to watching him occasionally on cable. The novelty of him has worn off for me. This could just be a case of it’s not you, it’s me.

Again, this wasn’t a bad evening of comedy – if anything, a comic who bombed would have been more memorable – and it wasn’t a hilarious night of comedy. It was a perfectly adequate night of comedy that clarified my position on Fluffy – fine for other people, but not really my jam. He’s doing perfectly well with or without my support as he plays sold out shows around the globe (a fact we were reminded of thanks to a promotional video before the show – also a little tacky). If you are a big fan of his stand-up specials, you’ll probably really enjoy seeing him live. But don’t feel obligate to ask me to go with you.

Gabriel Iglesias is currently out on tour through May 2015; check his website for dates.

 

 

 

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