© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

George Lopez Reflects On 'The Wall,' A Lifetime Of Comedy And Jokes About Trump

Claire Harbage

Comedian George Lopez performed his latest special, "The Wall," live on Saturday at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The outspoken comedian, who in his nearly 40 years of performing has branched out into books, documentary filmmaking and more, spoke with NPR's Stacey Vanek Smith ahead of his live HBO special about his aptly titled show and the politics behind it, his thoughts on comedy during the time of President Trump and that time he played golf with the real estate mogul.

His special will be available on demand on HBO's various platforms.

Interview Highlights

On his new special and just exactly how President Trump's wall along the Mexican border would get built

George Lopez: Yeah, I would say that if they build that wall, the most difficult part for Mexicans is to watch someone build a wall and not have anything to do with it. So that's almost like mental torture that Latinos will be looking at and they're be going, "Oh, my God! What are they ... Ay, mira! He's using sparkling water to make cement! He doesn't even know. What are all those things every 10 feet? Those are port-a-potties."

Stacey Vanek Smith: Well, that would explain the $30 billion ... if they use sparkling water to mix the cement.

Lopez: For $30 billion, you could get undocumented people to build the wall themselves. You can pay them to stand as a wall, shoulder to shoulder, for eight-hour shifts. And still have money left over.

Smith: You're probably right. $30 billion is like a GDP.

Lopez: But also, I say that I hope the wall isn't so heavy that it crushes the tunnels that we have underneath. And, if this country wants to elect someone with no political experience, who is racially insensitive, and golfs ... In my first 100 days, I will make Taco Tuesday the law.

Smith: George Lopez 2020, you heard it here first.

Lopez: I would legalize marijuana. And not only would I legalize it, I would sit down and smoke it with you.

On what a wall along the border means to him and how he fits into the situation

Lopez: The wall fits into: I'm an American citizen, and I've seen a lot of change in this country. I've also seen my grandfather who had a green card, who was documented, work harder than I've ever seen anybody work in my life.

Smith: What did he do?

Lopez: He was a dig-ditcher. He dig sewers and he worked in construction. But he wasn't a builder. He was a digger. Like, he dug, and that was his life. It's tough, man, when you see a guy like that, that you grow up and those are the eyes, the impressionable eyes, that you see this guy coming in and be down from working and, you know, he's struggling to take his shoes off. And when you're a grown man, and you see someone depict that as lazy or a violator or anything like that. That, that doesn't stand with me.


So, on the case of immigration and migration and, you know, this country does not want to go back to the beginning and let's talk about how everyone got here. The thing that upsets me the most is the entitlement of people that will stand with a flag and say to some other people that they need to go back to where they came from. When, in fact, they also would need to go back to where they came from, because you need to go all the way back to the beginning. And if we all had to go back to where we came from, there would be less traffic, and there wouldn't be as many crimes, and we would be living in a place that had a lot of space. I don't think real estate would be as much as it is now, if everybody went back to where they came from.

On the recent backlash over comments he made regarding law enforcement

Smith: So last month, you got some backlash after you posted on social media "The Trump administration is deporting Latinos to make street safer. You wanna make the street safer? Deport the police." And, of course, Kathy Griffin got a lot of backlash for her photo of holding a severed head that looked like President Trump. It sort of seems like the boundaries of comedy are shifting right now, and I was wondering if there's anything that's off-limits to you.

Lopez: Well, yes. Of course. But, police brutality is not off-limits. You know? It can't be. You know, holding up a severed head of the president, would I do that? No. Would anybody that worked with me allowed me to do that? No way.

Smith: Why not?

Lopez: Because, you know, that's ... I've always had a certain amount of respect for the office of the presidency, up until, and even a little bit now. Like, I won't acknowledge that the guy there, like, I won't say "the president's such and such." I just think you have to be better-qualified to earn that title. Like, you might have won the election, but that doesn't make you qualified to sit at that chair. I know a little bit about that guy, and listen: I'm full of s***, but that guy really is full of s***. Like I've been told my whole life I'm full of s***. When you're full of s***, you know what full of s*** looks like. And he's, he's overflowing.


It's that the sensitivity is so high. Unfortunately, people are losing their lives, unfortunately, in things that no one should die over.

And, listen, I've always been a supporter of law enforcement, but also, the police aren't off-limits to me. So, when I made that joke, and Fox & Friends, or Fox and whoever they're talking to over there, put that up and made it seem like it was a direct threat to the police officers, it was misqu ... it wasn't misquoted because I'm owning it and I don't apologize. But the amount of hatred and the amount of images that I got sent by police officers who would sent pictures of their private parts to me, and the threats that I got personally. Listen, I'm not afraid of getting pulled over and I'm not afraid if a cop wants to beat me down. I can't do anything about that. But to see a police officer write to me and say "you better hope you don't need the police. You better hope I don't pull you over, and you better hope you're not bleeding on the street because I'll leave you bleeding on the street to die."


I didn't particularly think that joke was that much to get that kind of reaction, but what really surprised me, are the threats against myself and the threats against my family. ... Listen, I'm positive that there are good cops and bad cops. Just like there's good fat and bad fat. You know, in life, there's a ying and a yang and a balance. And when you don't have balance, you have comedy. And when you can't take a joke, it is a sad indictment of our society right now that a comedian would be looked at as a truthsayer, and a politician is bending the truth.

On his nearly 40 years in comedy

Lopez: I love it. Yes. It is the freest form of expression, even though people get upset. It is the only place that you can truly have free speech. Politically, you can't. And you skirt around issues. And I think skirting around issues and being politically correct is what's dividing the country, in a sense. You don't want to get to where you're using words that incite. But images and misperceptions, those should always be funny.


So, with me, those are the things that I gravitate to, because those are the things that happen to me. Like, here's another example: "What am I gonna talk about? Where the other sock go? And how come dryers only dry for a certain amount of time?"

When I bought my house in the neighborhood that I live in, I decided to set the alarm, because I would go out for the weekend. So, when I get in, I'd forget the alarm's set. And, when I get in, the alarm is going off, but I don't know the code. So it's ringing in the whole neighborhood, and I'm punching stuff in and I don't know the code.

So, I call the woman that works with me and say: What's the code? And by the time she gets it, I put it in, but it's already been like 20 minutes, so 10 minutes after that, on my side, I hear a knock. So I go over there, and there's two police officers at the door. One is Caucasian and one is Latino. And I go and say: "Hey! What's up, guys?" I say: "Hey, I set the alarm. It went off. I didn't know the code. And I finally got the code, and now you guys are here."

There's silence. And the white police officer says, "Listen, I know who you are, but can I see some ID?" And I said: "Yeah, come on in." And the Latino guy goes: "Oh, how long have you lived here?" And I say, "Probably like a year-and-a-half." And he goes: "This is your house, huh?" And I'm looking for my ID, and I go, and I look around, and I go, "S***! If I didn't know better, there's nothing in that house that would say that I live there." Because it's decorated like the way that someone would decorate their house if they decorated nice." So I'm looking like "wow!"

So I say, "Look!" I open the refrigerator and I had corn and flour tortillas and like seven different varieties of, like chile. And the guys go, "hey, sorry to bother you. Have a nice day."

So, after 56 years, and 38 of them doing stand-up, those are the things that make me laugh. If they make people feel uncomfortable, then that person has to deal with their uncomfortableness, and not with the fact that I'm speaking my mind. Because then, that would change me. So, it can't change me.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.