HotStar: Gabriel Iglesias

As anyone familiar with Gabriel Iglesias knows, the core of his act is his “Five Levels of Fatness.”

Or as he puts it: “big, healthy, husky, fluffy and Damn!” For the 33-year-old comedian, it’s been a long hard trip nurturing his career from “big” to “Damn!”

Iglesias, who was raised by a single mother in San Diego, told Pollstar he wasn’t a funny child until he was inspired by a trip to the movies.

“When I was 10 years old, I saw Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’ and said, ‘I want to do that,’” Iglesias explained. “A few months later, I had the chance to do a school talent show and I went up and did impressions.”

“My family was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you did that.’ After that I was a quiet kid for the next 10 years. I was never the class clown or the loud one. I would crack my friends up a little bit, but it wasn’t ‘Man, this guy must have been a riot his whole life.’ Even now, when I hang out with my friends, I’m not the funniest one in the group.”

It wasn’t until a friend literally pushed the terrified comedian onto the stage 11 years later that a star was born. And he’s spent practically every moment since on the road making up for lost time, even through the thin times when some might have thrown in the towel.

“Initially, there were a couple of times where I thought, ‘My car note is three months behind and I’m getting tired of hiding the car,” Iglesias said. “But I took it all the way to the end even though I got evicted from my apartment and had to sleep on my brother’s balcony and wound up on my sister’s couch. Little by little, it started happening and I got back on my feet.”

Besides slogging it out on the club circuit, the comedian did guest spots on sitcoms, provided voices for animated shows like “Family Guy” and landed a regular gig on Nickelodeon’s “All That.”

Along the way, he picked up tips and support from a growing circle of friends in the business, like Paul Rodriguez, who offered some sage – and funny – advice.

“I went up to Paul the same way that people are coming up to me now,” the comedian explained. “I remember telling him, ‘I want to be a comic like you.’ And he told me, ‘Man, you’re pretty big. You should make your own footsteps.’

One aspect of Iglesias’ live act that’s made him such a hit with fans is his ability to do voices.

“I’ve been doing the girl voice since I was 10,” he said. “Anytime I would mess with people it would be in that voice.”

Nowadays the people he’s messing with are often those famous friends, but they take it in stride.

“I guess if you were to constantly do it, it would irritate them,” Iglesias said. “Paul was the only one who ever used it to his advantage. A few years ago, he was talking to some girl and she tried to put him on the phone with her mom. He looks at me and says, ‘Yo, Iglesias, be me,’ and he hands me the phone. She thought I was him.”

Things really took off for Iglesias after he released a pair of Comedy Central specials on DVD. The second, 2007’s “Hot & Fluffy,” made him a triple-platinum artist.

Despite that success, the comedian was reluctant to make the move from comedy clubs to bigger venues and resisted pressure from his team as long as he could.

“I’ve always loved it on a more personal level,” he explained. “I was really, really happy with the comedy clubs. But after you’re doing two weeks and you’re adding an 18th show, they’re like, ‘Hello! You need to get your ass into a theatre.’”

One of the people pushing for larger rooms was manager Pat Buckles, who has been with the comedian for 13 years.

“I wanted to see him go into bigger venues,” Buckles told Pollstar. “After a while it was like, ‘How many more shows can you add?’ It was like he outgrew it even though he enjoyed working the clubs.”

Apparently talent buyers across the country have also been waiting. Ticket sales for his upcoming 50-city “Fluffy Shop” tour are exceeding his wildest expectations.

“I’m excited,” the comedian said. “We’ve had really good numbers. I think we sold about 14,000 tickets in one weekend. They’re already talking about adding shows. And there are a couple of smaller markets where they’re talking about moving into arenas. That’s so surreal for me. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? I just went to watch Metallica there and you want me to play the same place?’”

Buckles isn’t surprised.

“His humor comes from his real life,” she explained. “He’s not the kind of guy that gets up in the morning and sits there and writes. He sees the humor in everything that he experiences. That’s why he connects so well with his audience. He’s a regular guy.”