Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
April 3, 2012
The Friday night before last, Stacy and I went to the Gabriel Iglesias stand-up comedy show at the Ryman Auditorium. He is probably best known as the "Fluffy Guy" and he had a great one-hour special that aired on Comedy Central and helped expand his audience tremendously. He ended up doing a hilarious two-hour long set that had the sold-out arena at times raucous.
If you've never heard Gabriel's material, my explanation of his humor wouldn't do it justice. He has tremendous skill at doing sound effects and voices, and his timing is very sharp, which makes for a great show. Just make an effort to hear some of his bits -- he works mostly clean, which has a higher level of difficulty. It also means he can play anywhere.
The opening acts were several comics who got about 10-12 minutes each on stage. They were all strong comedians, though Trevor Nash stood out in particular as a great comic with strong potential for mainstream success. As I understand it, the tour utilizes a rotating cast of openers, which is smart since it exposes up-and-coming acts to large audiences and takes place under the Comedy Central banner, building that brand.
It seemed as if Gabriel appreciated the history of the Ryman Auditorium (formerly known as the Grand Ole Opry House), which first opened in 1892. He seemed to thrive on the idea of doing a long show there, and I'm glad he did, since as a result something I've never seen at a comedy show happened.
He did his all-new set for the first hour, which was very strong. At one point he showed the audience the clock hidden at the front so the performers know how long they've been on stage, and he hinted that he was only contractually obligated to be there for an hour. He then turned off the clock which got a great audience pop.
At the end he did some of his most well-known bits, even soliciting audience requests. Then, in a scene that seemed more reminiscent of the crowd singing along with Pearl Jam at the Murphy Center in 1994 than a comedy show at the Ryman, the audience started doing the routines along with him word-for-word. It was amazing, an apparently spontaneous experience that Gabriel said gave him goosebumps.
I predict strong things for the future for Gabriel -- his ability to do sound effects and change voices is picture-perfect, and he has great skill at reading (and at times interacting with) the live audience. If you get the chance to see him do a live show, I strongly recommend it.