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Cristela loves cracking jokes for a career

Cristela Alonzo's family were baffled when she became a comedian.

They wondered why she would waste her time on comedy.

Years later, the 36-year-old has more than proven the worth of a comedy career.

Last year, she became the first Latina to create, produce and star in a network TV sitcom, Cristela.

She also released her first stand-up CD Some of the Hits through Comedy Central, and will be performing in Just for Laughs Bermuda 10th Anniversary Edition next month.

“I admit, I had to google Bermuda when I first heard I was going there,” she laughed. “But I am used to small places as I come from a little dot of a town in Texas.”

She started cracking jokes to get through a difficult childhood.

Her Texas family were so poor there was a time when they lived in an abandoned diner.

“We didn't realise it at the time, but we laughed a lot,” said the 36-year-old comedian.

Still, she didn't see cracking jokes as a potential career until she grew up and started working as an office manager in a comedy club.

“I was watching all these different comedians and thinking, ‘I could do this',” she said.

“I couldn't perform at the club where I worked because of my contract, so I started driving around Texas looking for opportunities to perform.”

She is now based in Los Angeles, California.

“It has been a very hard climb,” said Ms Alonzo.

“Even if you have a show on TV, there are still people who don't know who you are.

“And you don't worry about TV alone, you also have to think about websites like Hulu and Netflix.”

Ms Alonzo said stand-up is as much about marketing yourself as it is about telling jokes.

“Comedy can be a hard career for anyone, but especially if you are both female and Latina,” she said. “A lot of times people don't like to book more than one woman on a show.

“Sometimes that sucks. Sometimes they don't want to book more than one Latina.

“It is a hard job for anyone to sustain because it is so inconsistent.

“When you become a lawyer there is a set career path in front of you, but in comedy how do you make that work?

“You are going to these open mic nights, doing jokes about supermarkets or whatever and hoping they will go over well.”

She uses her late mother, Natalia, a lot in her comedy.

“She is a different kind of character,” she said.

“I talk about her a lot because a lot of people have a relative like that.

“I do it because she passed away years ago and it is a way of giving tribute to her.”

Subtly she uses her humour to educate people about racism and stereotypes.

“A lot of the conversation in the United States is about racism and the cultural divide,” she said.

“I like to humanise Latinos and immigrants.

“I talk about what kind of experience they have. My point in stand-up is talking about how immigrants don't want to leave their home; they are forced to leave.

“The conversation in the United States is if they want to come here they can go through the proper channels, fill out paperwork and so forth. But when someone is trying to kill you, you're like ‘can I come now, and fill out the paperwork later?'.”

Her career in comedy has required a lot of sacrifice.

“I have always said, in order to be successful and go for it you have to be willing to spend a lot of time away from home,” she said. “You spend a lot of holidays away. I don't have children or a husband, so stand-up comedy is my first love.”

• Just for Laughs Bermuda will be on January 6 at the Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall in Hamilton featuring Alonzo Bodden, Danny Bhoy and Improv Bermuda at 8pm. Tickets are $45, with reserved seating. The show will continue January 7 to 9 in the Mid-Ocean Amphitheatre at The Fairmont Southampton with Alonzo Bodden, Danny Bhoy, Cristela Alonzo, Ivan Decker and Improv Bermuda. The January 7 show is cabaret-style with round tables and optional drinks/finger foods served at the table at 8pm, $89 and reserved seating. The January 8 show is at 8.30pm, and the January 9 at 7pm and 10pm. Tickets are $79, $89 and $99 at www.comedyevent.bm

Taking the stage: comedian Cristela Alonzo will be performing in Just for Laughs Bermuda's 10th anniversary shows next month (Photograph supplied)

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Published December 14, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 14, 2015 at 12:05 am)

Cristela loves cracking jokes for a career

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