Gabe Iglesias got an unwanted gift for his birthday. Just before turning 45 a few weeks ago, the comedian best known as "Fluffy" came down with COVID-19, which forced him to cut short a nearly monthlong residency in San Antonio and threatened his scheduled appearance Saturday at Treasure Island Casino.
But Iglesias is keeping his Minnesota commitment, kicking off a worldwide tour that will extend until at least next July.
His work ethic is one reason Forbes ranked him sixth in earnings among stand-up comics in 2019. His success has a lot to do with family-friendly material that led to several Netflix specials and a short-lived sitcom, "Mr. Iglesais," a modern-day version of "Welcome Back, Kotter."
The comic spoke last week from his home in California, where he was just finishing up his quarantine period.
Q: How are you feeling?
A: I'm good [fakes a coughing fit]. Just kidding. I'm trying to stay positive — and negative at the same time.
Q: How did you find out you had the virus?
A: I was doing a long stint in San Antonio and the entire time I was complaining because the air conditioning wasn't working. I had all these swamp coolers and fans everywhere. And then one night I came off the stage with the chills. I had to take the blanket away from my dog. I knew something was going on. I got a COVID test and it came back negative, but the next day I had more chills and body aches everywhere. Then they went away. A couple of days went by and I was going into production for a stand-up special, so we had to do some more testing. It was a different company doing it. This time, I came back positive.
Q: You got the virus despite getting vaccinated four months ago. What do you say to people who look at what happened to you and think they don't need the shots?
A: It would have absolutely been worse if I hadn't gotten the shots. The only thing that happened to me was that I got the chills and I couldn't smell food for a day. I was never hospitalized. The way I see it, there's no way I should have gotten through the last year without getting the coronavirus. I'm 45, not 25. I'm not just overweight, I'm very overweight. I've got high cholesterol and diabetes. So, I'm lucky.
Q: How difficult was it to be back into isolation after getting a taste of freedom?
A: It sucked. It knocked the wind out of my sails. The worst thing is we didn't get to tape the comedy special. I'm not sure when we'll get back to it. My calendar is backed up more than a person who needs fiber. I had so many makeup dates to fill. Maybe we can shoot it in September or October.
Q: A lot of comedians really missed being on the road. But you took a break in 2017 to deal with your mental health. Did that make it easier for you to be on the sidelines for over a year?
A: Well, that earlier break was only two months. It probably should have been longer, but there were financial reasons to get back on the road. I'm a workaholic. I never take a vacation. If you see pictures of me in Hawaii, it's because I'm there working. I think it took a toll on me.
Q: Were there things you are able to do this time around that maybe you should have dealt with a few years ago?
A: I slept a lot, something I never did before. I'd take a lot of catnaps in buses, planes, hotel lobbies. I never knew what it was like to get eight or 10 hours of sleep in a row. A lot of the lines in my face went away. I do appreciate how good it feels. So I know now that I need more time to rest. But I've got a lot of stuff to do. Before the virus, I was planning my biggest tour ever. I'm sitting on a quarter-million dollars of merchandise I can't use because it says the word "2020" on it. It taught me an important lesson: Never make T-shirts that have the year on it.
Q: Did you use the time off to write new material?
A: I don't really sit down and write, I don't have that discipline. I get up on stage and say whatever I'm feeling at the moment, I vent about it. If it gets a laugh, I repeat it in future performances. I was able to do a lot of animation work, like the new "Space Jam" movie and a new project with Disney Plus. So I stayed busy.
Q: Your Treasure Island gig was moved from indoors to outdoors. Does that make you take a different approach?
A: I'm not a big fan of performing outdoors. The elements can mess with your show. The temperature, the humidity, trains rolling by. I once did a fair and every few minutes you could hear someone screaming from the roller coaster. But the organizers felt like more people would come if we were outdoors. That's fine.
Q: One thing you did during the downtime was tape an episode of "Celebrity Dating Game." Host Zooey Deschanel recently said there was one contestant who seemed more interested in meeting Michael Bolton than finding a date. After watching the episode, I'm wondering if that was you.
A: Don't get me wrong. There were a lot of beautiful and awesome people there. But at the end of the day, I got to chill with Michael Bolton. That was a blast.
Neal Justin • 612-673-7431