Funny-woman Cristela Alonzo returns to El Paso for the first time since 2016, when she took a hiatus from the comedy stage.
Originally slated for one performance on Friday, Dec. 6 at the Philanthropy Theatre, inside Downtown’s historic Plaza Theatre, a second performance was added due to high demand. Alonzo will perform stand-up and sign copies of her book, “Music to My Years: A Mixtape-Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up.”
The actor, author and stand-up comic is not just a first generation Mexican-American – she’s made a whole career out of firsts.
Here are five things to know about Alonzo:
Alonzo was the first Latina to create, write and star in a network sitcom and the first Latina to perform the voice of a lead character in a Pixar animated feature.
Her TV show, “Cristela” was a semi-autobiographical sitcom, set in Dallas, which ran for one season on ABC in 2014-2015. In 2017, she voiced the character of Cruz Ramirez in the third edition of Pixar’s “Cars.”
Alonzo was born in the small border town of San Juan, Texas, near McAllen. She was the youngest of four siblings born to Mexican parents. She has not forgotten her border roots, and was recently given the key to the City of McAllen.
“It’s important to talk about this community,” Alonzo told Texas Public Radio. “Even if you don’t know each other, people will really come out and support you because that’s kind of how they were raised. When I left, when I moved away, I’m like, everybody needs to know about this place because it’s so special.”
‘Music to My Years’
Alonzo’s memoir shares her stories of growing up with a single, working-class mom and following her dreams. She shares her life story and her thoughts on trying to break into the business as a woman of color.
The memoir is built around a playlist of songs that relate to each chapter from her life, including how she made her own tap shoes out of bottle caps and her love of “The Golden Girls.”
“I have always loved the theme song, I take it to heart,” Alonzo told NPR. She once got in trouble for cutting a girl’s ponytail after the girl stole Alonzo’s school supplies because she wouldn’t stop singing it.
Alonzo left Texas to St. Louis for college, but dropped out after a year to help her family when her mother became ill. After her mother’s passing she applied for a job as an office manager at a Dallas comedy club.
After being encouraged by comedians such as Keith Robinson and Wanda Sykes, Alonzo decided to give comedy a try. She credits comedy for helping her get over the grief of losing her mother and credits her mom for working hard to support her and her siblings.
After receiving the key to McAllen, she tweeted: “I think of the irony that my mom worked so much, she never got to see me on stage so that I could work on my dream of performing for OTHERS on stage. She sacrificed so much so that I could chase a dream she couldn’t understand. I would’ve loved to (have) had her here. This is HER key.”
Back from hiatus
The My Affordable Care Act tour marks Alonzo’s first foray back into stand-up since 2016, when she took a break because of the presidential election.
In her time away from the stage, she focused on writing her memoir and activism. She has said that her friendship with the pioneering activist Dolores Huerta influenced her to get more involved in issues such as immigration and health care.