‘ALLLRIIIIGHHTTT!’ George Lopez cracks up Kennedy Center

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews George Lopez at Kennedy Center (Part 1)

He’s one of the most prolific comedians of the past 30 years.

File photo of George Lopez. (Courtesy Nextbite)

This week, George Lopez performs live at the Kennedy Center on Friday and Saturday with his “ALLLRIIIIGHHTTT!” Comedy Tour.

“I started saying ‘ALLLRIIIIGHHTTT’ in conversation … If someone is boring or you want to move on and you gotta get out of there, I would always say, ‘ALLLRIIIIGHHTTT’ and then I would leave,” Lopez told WTOP.

“I did my last HBO special at the Kennedy Center in 2018, and it’s a hallowed, hallowed place. I was there for Eddie Murphy’s Mark Twain award, and somebody who I admired growing up, Freddie Prinze, the last time he ever performed was at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration [gala] at the Kennedy Center.”

At age 63, Lopez crafts many of his jokes about maturing in a rapidly changing world.

“It’s funny, you get trapped in TV [syndication vs. primetime], so in the morning I could be 42, and at night I could be 62,” Lopez said.

“There’s a lot of age stuff. There’s always been mortality in there — there’s a lot with the kids, as always. … It’s a fast world, man. I’ve been trying to have people explain generational trauma to me. I still don’t know what it is, but whenever we were overwhelmed, we went outside. These kids can’t go outside!”

Lopez said it’s a tricky time to be a parent, much less a comedian commenting on parenting.

“When there were less kids you could generally say, ‘You kids don’t listen.’ But a lot of kids do listen. But also, you have kids on the spectrum,” Lopez said.

“Before they would say, ‘Boys over here and girls over here.’ Even that’s gone. So it’s much more complex. … There’s no one line that can define children or marriage. … Everything I would take for granted growing up, you can’t take for granted anymore — and that’s where I think comedy thrives.”

Between his first comedy album, “Alien Nation” (1996), and his most recent “The Wall” (2017), Lopez has earned three Grammy nominations. They include Best Comedy Album with “Team Leader” (2003), which was released straight to CD, “America’s Mexican” (2007) and “Tall, Dark & Chicano” (2009) — both were recorded during live HBO specials.

“‘America’s Mexican,’ great title, was done in Phoenix live on HBO, that’s where I told Erik Estrada to go ‘f’ himself … Schwarzenegger was proposing an English-only bill, and I said, ‘He doesn’t speak English,'” Lopez said.

“‘Tall, Dark & Chicano’ was in San Antonio in front of almost 17,000 people live. … I remember I mentioned a political figure and that office called me and the guy goes, ‘I’m with you, man. I’m not against you. Why you making fun of me?'”

Beyond standup, he became a household name on the ABC sitcom “George Lopez” (2002-2007).

“At that point, Ray Romano was on, Kevin [James] was on, Bernie Mac, Damon Wayans, I saw a lot of guys succeed, I also saw more of them not succeed, so when I finally got my shot I wanted to make sure I was gonna last,” Lopez said.

“I was very fortunate that Drew Carey was very popular at that time, and the creator of his show helped me create our show. So the fact that the first show was a success — that allows you to lay down your foundation.”

He followed up with the TV Land sitcom “Lopez” (2016-2017) and, most recently, NBC’s “Lopez vs. Lopez” (2022-present), playing a bankrupt guy who moves in with his estranged daughter, played by his real-life daughter.

“It’s a little like ‘Sanford & Son’: they’re the voice of reason, and I’m just this guy living there telling them how to live their life when I don’t have two nickels to rub together,” Lopez said.

“It’s funny, but also it has a lot of … heart and feeling — serious one minute, then everyone’s laughing the next. … This one is extra special because Mayan, my only daughter, is really great in this show. And you get to see the dynamic between her and I, which is fun.”

Meanwhile, he also hosted the late-night talk show “Lopez Tonight” (2009-2011) on TBS.

“I got to interview Prince, man!” Lopez said.

“I interviewed Janet Jackson, Nicolas Cage — I remember Nicolas Cage was very, very, very serious. … We almost had like a wrestling entrance. … He came out, that dude danced, spun, I think he tried to do the splits, he got overwhelmed by the amount of energy and electricity showered upon him. When he sat down and we went to commercial, he said, ‘Man, you didn’t tell me it was going to be like that!'”

He said one of his greatest honors was reciting a poem at “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial” in January of 2009 alongside Denzel Washington, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder, U2 and Beyoncé.

“I was getting ready to rehearse and I look to my right and Bruce Springsteen was standing there, he was rehearsing [‘The Rising’] next to me, it was really, really wild,” Lopez said.

“It was also a wild time in our country at that time. That whole [Lincoln] Memorial where Martin Luther King did his thing [in 1963] was almost like a carbon copy of what was going on there [in 2009]. There was like maybe a million people out there.”

Similarly, Lopez remains the preeminent Latino comic of our time, pioneering the space for others.

“I don’t know if I looked at it as pioneering when I was starting, but I also knew that there wasn’t anybody that looked like me that was doing it,” Lopez said.

“I’m not a secret to anybody, but if nobody’s ever seen me before, now would be the right time to come and see me because I’m not sure after this special — that I’m gonna shoot in September that will air in December — how much standup I’ll do beyond that.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews George Lopez at Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on the podcast below:

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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