Comedian Iglesias overcame challenges to fulfill dream

Gabriel Iglesias

When it comes to unorthodox careers, the paths to success come in different ways and lead to an assortment of places. But they’re often blazed by the individual’s manic determination to be more than what they’ve been told they can be.

Comedian and actor Gabriel Iglesias’s life illustrates such a story, having risen from poverty to cell phone salesman to international stardom using his voice, and maybe a few others.

He carries with him the stories of his own painful past and the millions like his into the light of comedy, communing in some way with audiences that both can and cannot relate personally, bonding over the hilarity of his depictions all the same.

In some way, Iglesias is the story of what great comedy has always been: disarming reality to better arm yourself when confronting it.

Born in San Diego during the mid-1970s, Iglesias was the sixth and final child born during the absence of his father. He spent his childhood bouncing around several Southern California, from Riverside to Compton to Santa Ana, before he and his mother settled into Section 8 housing in Long Beach.

At 21, Iglesias was working for a cell phone company in Southern California and dabbling in stand-up as a moonlighting comic around Los Angeles.

Three years later, against the advice from his mother and others, he decided to pursue comedy full time and quit his job. The move cost him his apartment and car, and he spent the next three years scrounging for small TV and film roles, comedy shows and any other entertainment work he could find.

He developed his voice and acting skills and landed work on “Family Guy” and Disney Channel shows such as “The Emperor’s New School.”

But Iglesias’s stand-up career found a stride, too, following multiple Comedy Central specials throughout the 2000s and a top eight spot on the fourth season of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” before being disqualified for smuggling in a phone.

He created a character for himself planted in one part fact and another part comic relief, adopting a high-energy performance style while finding the humor in everything.

Iglesias will perform Saturday at the Performing Arts Center, 5001 Coliseum Drive. Ticket prices range from $49 to $139 and are available at the PAC box office or online at www.NorthCharlestonColiseumPAC.com. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Parking is $5, cash. Call 843-529-5000 for more information.

As live theater has grown exponentially over the past few years, with new troupes, theaters and production companies diving into the pool, camaraderie has surfaced in place of competition. It began as local actors, writers, directors, producers, designers, builders and fans came together to strengthen the Lowcountry’s performance theater community as a whole.

Among the newcomers is 5th Wall Productions, a West Ashley-based company specializing in the development and production of original and classic plays. The company only formed last year after five local theater lovers began piecing together productions in their free time away from careers.

In the beginning, the company operated without a home, holding writing workshops, auditions and productions at public libraries, local theaters and temporary rental spaces.

As the troupe grew, 5th Wall’s founders trimmed to a trio and moved the company to its current residence inside West Ashley’s Citadel Mall, where it holds classes, workshops, rehearsals and performances.

The company’s current production, “The Stray Englishman,” is an original comedy written by co-founder Blair Cadden telling the story of an America-bound man, Harvey, traveling to meet his online girlfriend for the first time. Played by Deshawn Mason, the young Englishman is quickly thrown into a world of self-doubt and Americana-style surprise as he realizes his girlfriend’s disappointment and learns her rural, train-fanatic grandfather’s customs. Harvey takes a crash course in one of America’s more impenetrable cultures.

“The Stray Englishman” will have its stage finale this weekend, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $10 for seniors, those with valid student ID and for military (retired or active) with ID. General admission is $15. Tickets are available online at www.5thWallProductions.org or at the box office.

All performances will be held at the 5th Wall theater in Citadel Mall, 2070 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. Go to the website for more info.

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