April 23, 2023 at 7:00 pm
Comedian and actor Felipe Esparza got his start in comedy all because someone asked him to list 5 goals in life. During a stint in rehab before he was 21, Felipe was asked what his dreams and goals were. As a young Mexican immigrant growing up in the projects in Boyle Heights (East L.A.) and then as a teenage father with a drug and alcohol problem, it was a difficult task because he had never thought that far ahead. Up until that question, Felipe was under the impression that life was over at 18. Among the items on his list of goals, “to be happy”, and “to be a stand‐up comedian”, because of how he connected with an old Bill Cosby album when he was younger.
If you had told him back then that all this life experience would one day make people laugh, he wouldn’t have believed it. From being raised in the projects in a family of 9 living in the most gang‐infested neighborhood in the country to winning NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”, to selling out live comedy shows all over the country and being able to act in TV shows and movies, Felipe’s life has been anything but boring. He worked for years as a stand‐up comedian, opening on the road for fellow comedians such as Gabriel Iglesias and Paul Rodriguez, then took a leap of faith and went out on his own ‐ which led to very little income and opportunity at first. During his early years as a comedian, Felipe was part of the successful stand‐up comedy TV show, “Que Locos” on Galavisión (the only English‐speaking show on Spanish television). That show and the resulting tour helped launch the careers of several other Latino comedians such as George Lopez, Gabriel Iglesias and Willie Barcena.
Finally, after 16 years of struggling, Felipe’s big break came in the form of winning NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”.
This “overnight success” started opening doors to more live performances and bigger audiences. Felipe went on to produce his first hour long stand‐up comedy special in 2012, “They’re Not Gonna Laugh at You” (still running on Netflix), with his wife and producing partner, Lesa O’Daniel-Esparza. He has also made several TV appearances, including recurring roles on “Gentefied”, “The Eric Andre Show” and NBC’s “Superstore”, and was the spokesman for a national Honda Fit campaign and a national Target Mobile campaign. In 2017, Felipe and his wife self-financed and self-produced his second one‐hour stand‐up special, entitled “Translate This”, which they licensed to HBO in 2017. His most recent stand-up special was released September, 2020 on Netflix as a dual release of two separate specials – a performance in English (“Bad Decisions”) and a performance in Spanish (“Malas Decisiones”). Felipe is also currently developing a sitcom with actor Omar Chaparro, producer Eric Tannenbaum and 3Pas (Eugenio Derbez’s production company).
Today, in addition to his live stand‐up touring, Felipe hosts a popular weekly podcast on the All Things Comedy Network called “What’s Up Fool?” that focuses on interesting stories from just about anybody. When it started in 2014, “What’s Up Fool?” was one of only 2 Latino comedy podcasts in existence (second to Joey Diaz’s “Church of What’s Happening Now”). The show is a casual, conversation‐style show with guests and a variety of Felipe’s comedian friends sitting in. Former guests include renowned author and humanitarian Father Greg Boyle (Homeboy Industries), actors Damian Chapa (Miklo from Blood In, Blood Out) and Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy, The Mayans, Bruce Almighty), Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow, The Animal, 50 First Dates, The Wrong Missy, SNL), actors/comedians Jamie Kennedy, Neal Brennan, Russell Peters, Corey Holcomb and many more.