Gabriel Iglesias losing some pounds, but will never lose love for stand-up

If the movie this weekend isn’t as big a deal to Gabriel Iglesias, it’s because of the movie this summer.

Iglesias co-stars in the Marlon Wayans comedy “A Haunted House 2,” which opens Friday, giving Las Vegans the chance to see the movie and then see him live in the same day.

But the bigger bragging rights will be saved for “The Fluffy Movie,” slated for July 11, because it’s rare for a stand-up concert film to get a wide release, in at least 800 theaters (maybe more, he says, depending on how test screenings go).

And it explains the career of the hefty, family-friendly comedian who could have played plenty of huggable movie and TV characters by now, but instead defined himself through stand-up.

“I was knocking on doors a lot in the beginning, and then I realized, you know, why am I trying to kill myself to do movies if stand-up is my passion?” the California native says. “It got to the point where I just focused on stand-up and made it as big as it is now for me.”

The 37-year-old headlines four times a year at The Mirage, where he performs Friday and Saturday. It’s another sign of how far he has come since 2007 when he was booked as a niche comedian for Mexican Independence Day. “Let’s bring him in when the Mexicans are here,” Iglesias says with a laugh.

“I like that. I appreciate that. I paid some dues in Vegas to get to the point where I can come in four times a year.”

Iglesias says both “Magic Mike” and “A Haunted House 2” — two flicks that otherwise would not be mentioned together — came as invitations, not auditions, because Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans were fans of his stand-up.

“I’ve been offered sitcoms and it wasn’t my cup of tea,” he says, noting the paradigm has changed since the 1990s, when spinning a comedian’s stage sensibilities into a “Seinfeld” or “Everybody Loves Raymond” was the Holy Grail.

“The ’90s definitely was all about that ‘Hey, let’s get a sitcom so we can build an audience (for the live shows),’ ” he says. “I think now between having social networks and YouTube, I think that’s the way to go now.”

So much so that the theatrical success of Kevin Hart’s “Let Me Explain” concert flick paved the way for “The Fluffy Movie.” Now Iglesias can play Wayans’ next-door neighbor just for fun in the raunchy, R-rated “Haunted” spoof.

“It’s so over the top, my stand-up doesn’t even come close to the types of things that happen in that movie,” he says. “I think I’ve cussed more in this movie than in all of my specials put together.”

It was “a little uncomfortable, but at the same time it was nice to have that freedom.”

Iglesias also lent a hand to fellow stand-up Cristela Alonzo by doing a guest shot in a pilot she filmed for ABC.

But even if all these things lead to more of them, “I do not plan on quitting or even slowing down on stand-up,” he says. “This is my No. 1 focus, and it will always be my No. 1 focus.

“Eddie Murphy was one of the biggest inspirations for me to become a comic, but at the same time it kind of let me down that he wouldn’t come back to stand-up.”

The act may transform, however, starting with the whole “Fluffy” thing. Iglesias says more people call him that than Gabriel, and he’s proud of the fact that when you type “Fluffy” into Google, he is the highest-ranking result.

But the stand-up movie filmed in San Jose, Calif., recently “might be one of the last times that you hear me using the word ‘Fluffy’ as part of the branding,” he says.

He’s simply not as fluffy as he used to be, after losing 100 pounds.

“I maxed out at about 450,” he says. “I’m still not a skinny guy by any means, but a hundred pounds is a hundred pounds.”

The conversation with Iglesias took place before the death of John Pinette — a fellow comedian who devoted much of his act to being overweight — of an apparent pulmonary embolism.

“It’s one thing if you go from 200 to 400 pounds overnight and realize just how much damage you’ve done,” Iglesias said, but his weight gain was “very slow, very gradual. … I was used to it.”

But when his doctor ran a bunch of tests, “it wasn’t looking too good.” Stomach-shrinking surgery wasn’t an option because of his travel schedule, so “I had to do it the old-fashioned way. I cut out the carbs.”

It probably wasn’t the healthiest way, he adds, and “I still eat fast food every day, I just kind of learned the tricks.”

But he is gradually weaning his fans off fat jokes. “You got to eventually break it, and that’s the point that I’m at right now. I’m at the point in my show where I’m starting to explain what’s going on and the transition.

“You can only go so far by sticking to one thing. You gotta expand.”

In the metaphorical sense, of course.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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