It probably started with Jack Benny in the 1950s, hit big with “Seinfeld” in the ’90s and now continues with shows like FX’s “Louie” and HBO’s “Crashing” — semiautobiographical series about comedians. The latest: George Lopez’s TV Land comedy, “Lopez,” in which the 55-year-old Californian, one of the first major Mexican-American stand-ups, plays a version of his successful self.
In real life, he’s bringing that successful self to the NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Friday. In his fictional life, “Lopez” season 2 (Wednesdays, 10:30 p.m.) finds him continuing to deal with his dim but bighearted childhood friend and now chauffeur, Manolo (Anthony “Citric” Campos); his young agent, Olivia “Olly” Michaels (Hayley Huntley), and various others who vex and inspire George as he tries to expand his career by launching a network drama series in which he would star as a gritty ex-cop.
So this season, George leaves his big management company and agrees to keep young Olly on as her sole client, so she can devote all her time to his career. Did you ever have a real-life Olly?
I’m with [the big management company] Three Arts and I’ve been there for probably seven years now. But before that I was with an Olly, a guy who was a little bit older who I thought had game and then I realized he didn’t. Things that were coming in were not being delivered to me — he was almost batting offers down. It wasn’t until I started to go out and somebody would say, “Hey, we tried to find you for [the 2002 animated feature] ‘Ice Age’ and we called your manager, but he never called back,” that I realized I had a problem.
How about a real-life Manolo?
There was a guy I’d known for, like, 20 years who drove me around, who got fired because I just couldn’t take the conversations anymore. He tried to help out and then I realized that, man, these rides in the car are depressing! The problems this dude had! I was like, “Man, you should have figured that [stuff] out a long time ago!” And everywhere he drove us, he passed [the location] at least once. Everywhere we went. He never stopped right at the right place. I would get in the car and I’d go, “Dude, you gonna pass it?” And he’d say no — and then he passed it. Everywhere we went. He passed it. “You know where it is?” “Yes.” “You’re not gonna pass it?” “I’m not gonna pass it.” He passed it.
There’s been a lot of anti-Mexican political rhetoric over the past several months. How has that been affecting you?
It’s a form of political bullying. People who are undocumented in this country come from all over the world, not just Mexico, but somehow we have become the Kleenex. You know, when someone wants to say, “Give me a tissue,” they say, “Give me a Kleenex.” Of all the undocumented, we’re looked at as the bad people. All of that stuff is really hurtful and detrimental and not what this country is really about.
Were you ever really developing a drama series like your character does in “Lopez”?
Yes, actually. A few years ago. [It was set] in San Diego, with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detectives. I don’t even remember what it was called. I’ve been thinking about it, and it comes up in conversation, so I might go back and look into it and see if anyone is still interested.
What would you call it now? You’ve had a show called “George,” others called “Saint George” and “Lopez Tonight,” now you’ve got “Lopez.”
I know, I’m running out! (laughs)
WHEN | WHERE Friday at 8 p.m. NYCB Theatre at Westbury