Puntismos: Erik. Thanks for talking to Puntismos. Where are you right now, man?
Erik Rivera: I am currently located in NYC. But soon looking to make the move out to Los Angeles.
Puntismos: I know you have that Prince of Bel Air dynamic going on. Tell Puntismos what it was like to grow up in New Rochelle?
Erik Rivera: Well New Rochelle when I was growing up was a predominantly white neighborhood. So it was a little tough fitting in. My mother was constantly confused for the help instead of my mom.
Puntismos: Where are your parents from originally? How did they land out in Westchester?
Erik Rivera: My mother is from Guatemala. My dad is from Puerto Rico. My dad moved to Jamaica Queens at a young age. My mom moved to the states at 19. They met in the city. Got married and decided to move to the suburbs to start a family. My mom wanted nothing to do with the city . . . especially if she was going to have kids
Puntismos: Right. How does being Hispanic inform your work? Do you think, "Man, I'm a comic who happens to be Hispanic . .. " "Or I'm a Hispanic who is a comic?"
Erik Rivera: Well there is the label for some "Hispanic Comedians"... and they get stuck doing Hispanic themed shows... Refried Mondays... Taco Tuesdays... Fiesta Fridays... I am a comedian... I am Hispanic, but I am a comedian... I can play any crowd... I don't alienate any audiences
Puntismos: It seems like your act has already crossed over and you're not just targeting one demo. Is that a tactical decision or just something, coming from the 'burbs, that is organic to your act?
Erik Rivera: It's just me... I was born here. I am American, Hispanic parents. I want to show people what it was like with those influences and family in my life. I just keep everything real with the audiences.
Puntismos: You also went to Pace . . . seems like you graduated there. Was that for personal knowledge? Appease the 'rentals? How important is education not just in entertainment . . . but just making it . . . to you?
Erik Rivera: It was a little of both. That's what I was always told... after High School you go to college. My parents really wanted me to go. So I went. Education is important... I think the whole experience was vital for my growth. Not just the education I got in classes, but the meeting of people... seeing how the real world works... networking... interacting with different mindsets... even coming to the city, which is totally different from New Rochelle; being exposed to so many different races of people, so much cultures... etc.
Puntismos: One always envisions the comics as the cut - up in class who took his act to a "profession." Do you fall into that group? When did you think you were going to try to make this your "life?
Erik Rivera: Um, no. I wasn't voted class clown or anything like that. I was funny within my friends. Comics are the ones who observe things. We see things differently. I was right out of college when I decided to make this a career... I had no idea what I was going to with my life anyways, so figured I'd give it a shot and see what happened.
Puntismos: Do your friends rag on you - "hey, 'bro, why don't you get a job like every one else"?
Erik Rivera: Hahaha. No. They get it. At first, friends and family didn't understand. They thought I was wasting my time and that I was just throwing my life away. I had to bring them out to a show so they could see it and see that I was good at it. Within my first year I had a manager who was interested in working with me. After a year and a half signed with CESD agency for commercial, TV and film.
Puntismos: Obviously, George Lopez has blazed a trajectory for young Hispanic comics? Do you look at his career . . . and say, I'm on your trail, brother?
Erik Rivera: No. It's crazy, there is no set path for comedians. He didn't get his sitcom until he was 40. He had his own struggles, especially since he was breaking ground as a Mexican comedian. The man sells out theaters, majority Hispanics. I'm looking to be a voice for the new Americans. The mixed Americans. How many of us have immigrant parents? I'm showing that perspective. Plus looking to have my sitcom way before 40... no offense to George, love him and respect him.
Puntismos: I get that . . .yeah, was definitely a late break . . . to mainstream, anyway. But so much has changed over the last 10 years. Different world now. What other influences do you claim? You list Richard Prior. Dave Chapelle.
Erik Rivera: Chapelle is amazing... get to see him and work with him whenever he's in NYC @ The Comedy Cellar. Genius. Also enjoy watching comedians who are on the trail that people don't know about... Modi, Lisa Landry, Jon Fisch, Greer Barnes, Wali Collins, Ben Bailey, Greg Giraldo. Non Comedian influences of course my family... have my manager Eric Hanson who from day 1 helped me out and went to bat for me for clubs and auditions.
Puntismos: Your dance card seems full - props to your booking agent. Any venues that you really like to play? Special to you? Shouts out are welcome.
Erik Rivera: Well like I said before... LOVE the Comedy Cellar, best club in NYC. Love the Comic Strip Live, Caroline's when I'm in town. When I'm in LA love the Laugh Factory and the Hollywood Improv.
Puntismos: How much of your act is prepared and how much is improv-ed? One thing about comedians, you have to be pretty intellectually agile to roll on some nights . . . the most talented ones have that game.
Erik Rivera: Well you have your material... you have your "tools" when you go onstage. You might have a game plan when you get on stage, but you have to be able to roll with anything that happens. The best comedians make it look like they are saying it for the first time and it's all coming off the top of their heads. Don't get me wrong there are nights you have to just improv because someone is wearing a huge hat... or someone laughs funny... it's the "pink elephant" in the room. You have to point it out because everyone is distracted by it and thinking about it.
Puntismos: You just recently shot something for MTV - Funny People after Talk - Tell Puntismos about that.
Erik Rivera: Well it was a promo/commercial for them. Just to get people watching their partner channel Comedy Central. It was fun, just a bunch of comedians sitting round table and venting on certain current event topics.
Puntismos: You also have a sitcom in development . . . what's up with that?
Erik Rivera: Well, Montel's production company loves the idea of creating a sitcom based on my life. We have been pitching it around Hollywood... but with the recent writer's strike, we have hit some obstacles... so just waiting for things to be back to normal. But will be going forward full force.
Puntismos: You're coming out to L.A. to fuel that fire?
Erik Rivera: I will be out there in March, setting up some meetings with some networks... doing some face time... and also playing the clubs out there...
Puntismos: Erik, you will make this happen . . . thanks for talking to Puntismos. We really appreciate your time.
Erik Rivera: Thank you guys... You guys are awesome.
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