After Battle with Alcohol & Depression, Comedian Gabriel Iglesias is Back with New Tour
"Fluffy" tells Billboard he spent most of 2017 repairing relationships and reflecting.
Gabriel Iglesias doesn’t have a man cave. He’s got a man compound.
Tucked away on a quiet street in Long Beach, California, the comedian affectionately known as Fluffy leads a tour of his sprawling headquarters that includes his impressive collection of Volkswagen buses, his own barber station (“I got a barber in Long Beach, but it gets out of hand when I go to his shop so he comes here”), a recording studio, a warehouse full of merch and a sports car collection that includes a replica Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am signed by Burt Reynolds.
“This was my mom right here, right before she passed,” he says pointing to a picture with Mexican ranchera star Vicente Fernandez. “She got to meet him after the performance and she totally lost her shit. I talk about it in the show.”
The image is just one of hundreds of photographs documenting his meteoric rise from comedy clubs to Madison Square Garden. Iglesias is returning to the road this month, 10 months after a nervous breakdown forced him to cancel the remainder of his 2017 tour. Citing health problems from his lifelong fight with diabetes, as well as a drinking problem and depression, Iglesias told fans on Instagram: “I can not apologize enough for the sudden cancellation of recent shows. I'm dealing with some serious health and emotional issues that needed attention asap. Attempting to work through my problems was not going over and I had to stop everything b4 things got worse.”
To my fans: I can not apologize enough for the sudden cancellation of recent shows. I'm dealing with some serious health and emotional issues that needed attention asap. Attempting to work through my problems was not going over and I had to stop everything b4 things got worse. Failing to make better choices and never taking a break in 20 years of intense touring has finally caught up to me. I need to get better b4 I can return to making people laugh and smile. I applaud my management for doing their best to protect me but my fans need to know the truth. Fluffy is fine but Gabriel needs help. #gabrieliglesias #FluffyGuy
Back in his hometown with his dogs Risa & Vinnie, Iglesias said he’s been sober for 14 months (he quit drinking in November, four months before his breakdown) and has started seeing a therapist to work through some of his issues.
“People think as comics, we're always in a good mood, but we're messed up people,” he says, adding that he plans to address the cancellation and his past struggles on his One Show Fits All World Tour, which launched over the weekend in Las Vegas and includes a hometown show at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 26.
“I was burned out dude, twenty years of the same thing with no breaks. I’ve never even taken a vacation,” Iglesias says of his decision to cancel dates on the 2017 tour, which he has since made up. “I wasn't being creative anymore. It was becoming work. And I wasn't spending enough time at home and that was taking its toll as well,” he tells Billboard.
“I was also drinking a lot,” he says. “I wasn't drinking to be social. I would drink because I just wanted to go to sleep. I was stressin' out so bad and the drinking was magnifying the problem. I was just gettin' sloppy, making poor decisions. I wasn't being the best person at home, and I wasn't being the best entertainer out on the road.”
He said there were a few times when his crew would come to wake him up and we wouldn’t respond — “they thought something really bad had happened,” he explains. Everything came crashing down in Dallas during a show when he making jokes about his 20-year-old son Frankie and his longtime girlfriend (who’s name he doesn’t reveal to protect her privacy)
“I got emotional on stage talking about the fact that my son is no longer a kid. Now he's an adult, he's a man. And it hit me where I got choked up, I walked off stage, and I just I buckled,” he tells Billboard. “I fell down and was like, “oh my God, what am I doing with myself?' Yeah there's cars, yeah there's money, but am I still happy? I got a kid at home who has everything, but didn't have me around as much as he could've had.”
Iglesias said he later had a sit-down with his son and told him “I'm sorry for all the years of missing birthdays, years of me being gone on Christmas, years of me being away. I could've done better, and I could've been more involved,” Iglesias says. “And he was awesome. He hugged me said ‘It's okay.’"
Iglesias said he still attends therapy and briefly attended 12 step meetings, but eventually left. “They say it’s anonymous, but it’s not when you’re a celebrity,” he said, adding that he’s been sober since Nov. 21, 2016.
“It sucks, because I enjoyed it, that little buzz feeling,” he said. “I'm not gonna be like, ‘sobriety is fantastic, it's the best thing ever.’ No man, I miss having a drink. But I miss having a drink and having fun with my friends and being social. I don't miss that part the next morning when people are trying to wake you up and are worried if you're ok.”
Iglesias has stayed busy since “the meltdown of 2017” as he calls it, He’s also done voice work for a number of animated features in 2017 including Coco, The Job 2: Nutty by Nature and Smurfs: The Lost Village. He even appeared as a Dominican gangster for Season 3 of Narcos in a wild shootout scene with members of the Colombian Cali cartel.
"I have a special on Netflix and I told them I'm a big fan of Narcos and wanted to do a cameo on the show,” he says. When the scene was used for a trailer, social media lit up with fans happy to see the comedian on the violent Spanish-language show.
"Netflix called me up and they're like, "the Narcos guys are wondering why Fluffy's trending,” he jokes.
As for his upcoming tour, Iglesias said he’s excited to get back on the road with big shows planned for Phillips Arena in Atlanta (Feb. 24), the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark (Apr. 21) and the Great Allentown Fair (Aug. 30) in Pennsylvania.
“Growing up I was always the overweight kid, acne, teeth were all messed up. I didn't have all the friends in the world,” he says. "Not much has changed. I got braces. But I'm still the chubby kid. But the fact that people walk up to me — strangers — and look at me the way you would look at a cousin or uncle that you haven't seen in a long time is such an awesome feeling. You know that you've already touched and made this person smile, you've made this person feel good. And now they're meeting you and their expression is their thanks without even saying thanks. It's that instant feeling of wow, I did something good for this person. And that feels good."