Medicinal Laughter: Cristela Alonzo Brings Affordable Care to the Tower

Comedian Cristela Alonzo is not only one of my comedic heroes, but one of my personal heroes as well, a hilarious human that I can truly identify with: we’re both Latinos from Texas that grew up in dirt-poor families, but while I currently make a living writing for the Lost Ogle, she has gone on to create television shows, star in hit movies, write Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up and, currently, is bringing her My Affordable Care Act tour to the Tower, 425 NW 23rd, tonight at 8 p.m.

I spoke with her yesterday about being poor, being Latino and, most importantly, being funny.

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Louis Fowler: Your latest tour is called My Affordable Care Act…what’s it like to be able to actually afford health care?

Cristela Alonzo: Honestly, I tell people all the time that it feels great and it feels awful, all at the same time. It feels great that you can take care of yourself, but it feels awful that I had to get a TV show on the air to actually afford healthcare. Literally, I had to win the lottery to get healthcare. It’s laughable, but not really.

You’re the first Latina to create, write and star in your own sitcom, Cristela, and also to play a lead in a Pixar film, Cars 3. Is it weird that, in all these decades of entertainment history, that these achievements have only been in the past few years?

I talk about that all the time. For me, it’s insane…it’s cool to be the first one to do it, but also why am I the first one to do it? There’s been a lot of actresses that have been around before me, but the fact that I was the first really speaks a lot about the work that still needs to be done. Especially right now, in the past couple of years, we talk about diversity and inclusion…on my show, I was very lucky to play the main character because I wrote it, so I was able to represent the way that I wanted to represent.

I’ve been very lucky to find projects where I am able to tell the story of the character, but when we talk about representation and inclusion, not everybody gets that access. So we have to work with what we got, and what we got is not enough.

I know that for a long time, especially on Twitter, people were constantly asking you to bring your show back, like you had power over that. Has that died down at all?

They still want me to bring the show back, like it just got canceled last week. I do meet and greets after every show—after every show—and that is the number one thing I get: can you bring back the show or can you come up with another show. Those are always the questions; bring it back or come up with a new one. I mean, it’s been five years since the show got canceled, but people still talk about it like it was just on last night.

Well, for a lot of people, especially Latinos, it was such a big deal…a lot of times in Hollywood, whenever they show Latinos, it’s always as a gangbanger or a maid…

Cristela was the first time that a lot of people felt represented. The family on that show was very much like my family and I think that they were represented with normalcy…to show an average family was actually a bigger deal than a lot of people realize.

Many times when I write a story and call out white people with the slightest joke, when they find out I’m Latino, the feedback is twice a vitriolic. As a comedian, do you face that from angry people when you make jokes about them?

Lots of the comments I get are very similar, where they say “Well, you know, I don’t do that…” Well, yeah, but obviously I’m not talking about you…it’s like I’m not criticizing you, I’m criticizing the other people…you kind of have to read into it and ask are they talking about white people in general or a very specific group of white people.

I don’t like to do the whole “Well, you know, white people duh-duh-duh-duh-duh…” because I hate it when they generalize Latinos like that. I try to be careful with that, but for me, I always say it doesn’t matter what people say or how they react to you, if you’re speaking the truth, then you’re willing to die on the sword for it, you know what I mean? Everything I say, I will defend until the end of the day. You’re welcome to have your opinion, but first of all take it and think about it: are you trying to find a reason to be offended?

It’s almost like you need to hold a sign that says “Not all white people.”

Yeah…I do a joke about how people say that Latinos are coming over here and taking away everybody’s jobs, but look, these jobs that we get, anyone could get these jobs, that’s why we get them. They need to be filled and some people don’t want those jobs. Sometimes they’re crappy jobs that kill your body. I give an example of “When was the last time you saw a white person out in the field with migrant farm workers?”

Somebody at my show once said “Well I did that!” And it turns out their dad owned a farm on a ranch. I’m like, c’mon man, I’m obviously not talking about you. First of all, it’s not the scenario I’m describing; I’m describing white people that are migrant farm workers…totally different.

What can audiences that come out for My Affordable Care Act expect?

I haven’t done a tour since 2016. I had to take a break after the last election, I didn’t want to do stand-up, I didn’t feel like I could do stand-up….so I traveled the country, I started helping communities, I went back home to the Rio Grande Valley. I devoted my life to try and help people and I really believe it and I love it and it’s something new that I found…it’s a calling that I have and continue to have. And I’m grateful for it.

What people can expect from this hour…I had a special come out in 2016 called Lower Classy and I always tell people that was an introduction to me, you find out what my family was like, you find out what my mom is like, you find out why I think the way I think. This hour is about me being years older and talking about how me coming into money allowed me to have all these luxuries—things that I consider luxuries—that some people consider human rights; just necessities, you know?

I think there’s a way that you can talk about things that make you think in a funny way. I’ve always believed that the best way to teach people is to trick them into learning by laughter; I am a brown, first generation Mexican-American…my first language is Spanish, but let me tell you: anyone that comes and sees me, we can connect on a certain level whether it be culturally, where it be economically, whether it be socially…it just goes to show you if it’s funny, it’s funny and it’s applicable to everybody.

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Tickets to My Affordable Care Act available here.

Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.