Comedian Erik Rivera is one of New York’s rising stars. A frequent favorite at NYC and LA comedy clubs such as The Comedy Cellar, Comic Strip Live, Gotham Comedy Club, The Laugh Factory and The Comedy & Magic Club, Erik is becoming a household name!
This year Erik was honored to make his Late Night debut on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a recognition that has been a springboard to many comedy greats. Since that prestigious opportunity, Rivera has risen to the top of everyone’s list. The National Council of La Raza and NBC reached out and tapped Erik as a presenter and official spokesperson for the 2011 ALMA Awards and NCLR.
This American Latino gave Latin é an exclusive interview and answered personal questions about being Latino, food and what’s next.
é: What was it like growing up as an American Latino and what affect did it have on your career path?
ER: Growing up as an American Latino was a bit tough. I grew up in Westchester, NY which was predominantly white. So being different was hard. My elementary school actually placed me in an ESL class just based on my last name. I just badly wanted to fit in, for a while I actually changed my name to “Americanize” myself, I would go by Erik Rivers for a few months before my mother found out and threw a fit. Honestly, my mother fought me head on and made sure I didn’t neglect or lose my culture, traditions and language. My upbringing had a huge impact on my career, you can look back at everything and feel sorry for yourself or embrace it and bring it to light with some humor.
é: When you’re on tour and miss the Latin food culture and food, what do you do for your fix?
ER: Well when I’m on the road, I have found that Latinos, we are everywhere! I’ve actually had fans take me to local restaurants to get food. I actually still remember a school I did in upstate NY, the Latino student organization got together, invited me back to one of the student’s apartment and cooked for me. It felt like a family gathering, the women were in the kitchen cooking Chuletas, arroz, habichuelas, tostones and the men hung out in the living room listening to blaring salsa and merengue.
é: What has been the single most memorable moment in your career to date?
ER: Last year I got to make my Late Night debut on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno (watch). It was surreal and also affirmation that my hard work was being recognized.
é: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a comedian?
ER: If I weren’t a comedian, I’m honestly not sure what I’d be doing. In college I was still unclear on what I was going to do, I had thought about possibly teaching, but didn’t have a concrete plan. I fell in love with comedy and haven’t looked back.
é: Tell us about your latest and upcoming project(s).
ER: Currently working with writer/producer Joey Gutierrez on a sitcom project loosely based on my comedy and my life. We’re creating something special and really trying to put a positive light on American Latinos, without the cheap sombrero, landscaping and burrito jokes. Always recommend people check my website, Facebook, and Twitter for new show dates and when I’ll be in a city near you!