When he was a young man, comedian Gabriel Iglesias would refer to himself as "fat" and his mother would correct him by saying, "You're not fat, you're fluffy!" He put that story in his first stand-up special in 2003 and from then on he had a new nickname.

"At first, I was annoyed by it, but I really liked the joke so I wound up embracing it," says Iglesias. "Now it's to the point where if you Google 'Fluffy,' I'm the first thing that pops up."

Without having his own sitcom or starring in Hollywood films, Iglesias has built a massive following with his stand-up comedy, leading him to headline Madison Square Garden on April 17.

"The gig is pretty huge. I'm trying to keep my cool," says Iglesias about playing the world's most famous arena. "Not a lot of comics have been able to play it, only a handful. It feels good to know that I'm doing something only a few people have done."

 

 

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FRIENDLY FLUFFY

 

His friendly material makes him accessible to people of all ages and races.

"I try not to rub people the wrong way. I avoid certain topics like religion, politics and sports," says Iglesias. "If you stay away from those subjects, you are in good shape because you're not going to offend anyone."

However, he might cut loose a little bit this time out.

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"In the course of the new show you might hear one or two curses, but there's usually a good story behind it," promises Iglesias.

Growing up in the Compton / Long Beach area of California during the gang era, Iglesias wasn't allowed to go outside and play much as a kid.

"I definitely watched a lot of cable because the neighborhood we lived in was pretty rough," says Iglesias. "I'd watch Rich Little and learn how to do impressions."

 

 

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TRADEMARK TOP

 

Iglesias is not only known for his Fluffy nickname but for rocking his trademark Hawaiian shirt.

"When you wear a Hawaiian shirt, it says you are not looking to start trouble, you are here to have a good time," says Iglesias. "It's the most nonthreatening stage attire you can have."

When asked if he's nervous about taking on MSG, Iglesias says, "Nah, I'm excited. I'm trying to maintain my humbleness. There's a real historic vibe there. You feel it the minute you walk in the building."

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WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m., April 17, Madison Square Garden, Seventh Avenue and 32nd Street, Manhattan

INFO $48-$84, 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com