October 29, 2009 / 11:14 AM / 9 years ago

A Minute With: George Lopez on his new TV talk show

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Comedian George Lopez is about to enter a world in turmoil by competing for American TV viewers against the likes of Jay Leno, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien with his own nightly talk show.

Comedian George Lopez performs at the 53rd annual Thalians gala in Beverly Hills, California in this November 2, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In recent months, O’Brien replaced Leno at “The Tonight Show,” and Leno launched his own talk series in a 10 p.m. time slot normally reserved for hour-long dramas. Then Letterman made headlines when he was the victim of a blackmail attempt and admitted to having sexual affairs with women co-workers.

Now, Lopez is entering the fray, two years after his sitcom “George Lopez” was canceled. The hour-long “Lopez Tonight” will launch on November 9 on cable network TBS, and the comedian told Reuters the time is ripe for a talk show hosted by a Latino like himself:

Q: TBS has said your show will be like a street party. What does that mean to you, a street party?

A: “Probably what it means to TBS is that it’s going to be safe and a lot of fun and properly lit. A street party to me means it’s dark, it’s fun, you stay after the party, and you just try to condense as much fun into that one hour.”

Q: You were once a disc jockey for an L.A. radio station. Will any of that experience help you on this talk show?

A: Yes. Let me tell you this, I already went through this with the TV (sitcom) show. Radio is really difficult to do. ... I think if you were to ask Howard Stern, I think he would probably tell you that there isn’t a more divisive, backbiting business that you could ever run into. I wasn’t prepared for any of that when I had the opportunity to do radio, but what I learned in those 10 months surrounded by those people served me well when I did my sitcom, because I didn’t freak out.

... And when they fired me (from the radio station), it’s funny because my cardboard cutout passed me on the way to the meeting. I thought, ‘Why is that not in the lobby anymore?’ Some dude had it under his arm.”

Q: There’s a lot of competition for late night talk show audiences. Where do you think you’ll fit in?

A: “Well, I’m at 11 so I don’t have to compete with Jay Leno. If this show was at 10 o’clock, I don’t think I would have taken it. Ten o’clock is an already established time for hour dramas with incredible, huge fan bases. ... I also would not have touched 11:35, because do I want any part of David Letterman? Absolutely not. Would I want to go up against Conan and the ‘Tonight Show’? Not particularly, starting out as the new host. But at 11 o’clock, I get a little bit of a jump.”

Q: You write in your autobiography that your grandfather was the only real man in your life growing up. Why was he so important to you?

A: “I never knew my father, and I grew up around guys who always had their fathers, and I always felt like I was less, because I was raised by my grandparents and I didn’t have a relationship with my mother. And they were already older, and everyone else’s parents were younger, and they had brothers and sisters and I was an only child. So everything that they had that shined, I had the opposite, that didn’t shine.”

Q: You also befriended Richard Pryor toward the end of his life. What was he like when you knew him?

A: “Well, he was very sick, and I remember I got him a satellite radio because he was spending a lot of time in bed, and he liked that. I would go over and bring him movies. Because when I was sick I got a lot of movies and I would deliver movies to him. He wasn’t speaking at the time, so I would do some of his material for him. And he liked it, he would make sounds and things.... And to know him a little, to be able to stand there at his funeral and express my admiration and my respect and my love for him was an amazing honor.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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