An interview with comic/actor Alec Mapa.
by A.J. Mistretta
Alec Mapa is everyone’s favorite gay bestie. His no-nonsense, boundary-pushing comedy has kept American audiences rolling for nearly two decades. An award-winning one-man show I Remember Mapa chronicled the Filipino comic-actor’s rough start in Los Angeles, and garnered rave reviews. That led to memorable television roles, from Suzuki St. Pierre on Ugly Betty to Vern on Desperate Housewives.
Now America’s Gaysian Sweetheart is all grown up—an acclaimed columnist and LGBT activist with a husband and a son. But Mapa’s comedy remains raw and riotous. His new stand-up special will explore what it’s like to be a gay dad—in a way that only he could do.
This month, Mapa is headed to Houston to perform one night only at OutReach United’s 2013 Coming Out Party. The annual event raises money for Houston-area LGBT nonprofits such as Montrose Center and HATCH. We caught up with Mapa packing his bags.
A.J. Mistretta: You’ve been conspicuously absent from TV lately. What gives?
Alec Mapa: You’re just not paying attention. I hosted an all-new reality show for AMC called Showville, which ran for eight episodes, and I was on the Tonight Show with Leno twice. If that’s me being conspicuously absent, I’d need to pick better hiding places than AMC and NBC.
Fair enough. I never watch Leno. So you have this risque—some would say raunchy—stage persona. Is that you, or is that just for the show?
I ramp up my energy onstage, but I’m not like that in real life. Nothing’s worse than a comic who’s “on” all the time. That’s exhausting. I talk about sex a lot because, with all the talk about sexual freedom in the gay community, we’re all still ashamed about taking it up the butt. Gay people use the word “bottom” as an insult, and it just perpetuates self-loathing. I’m a sex-positive person. I love sex and I love being gay, and if folks see me as raunchy, that’s their own baggage talking. I’m not raunchy, I’m shameless. There’s a difference.
I know you’re a father now. How is that experience? Do you enjoy being the out gay dad?
Being a dad is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. The minute my son came into my life, it was like a ton of rainbow-colored oxygen was pumped into my world. It’s hard work, and I occasionally get it wrong, but having a kid has made everything better. Also, it’s impossible to be a closeted gay dad—your kids out you all the time.
How much fodder does family life give your comedy?
My new comedy special Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy was filmed this July and should be ready by November. It’s all about how my husband and I became dads. It has a bit of everything: sex, poop-and-fart jokes, and heartwarming stories. You’ll love it even if you hate kids.
I know you do a lot of gay events, cruises, etc. So who’s the dirtiest gay performer out there?
Again with the dirty. Are you the Church Lady? To me, there’s only funny and not funny. Currently I like gay comics Casey Ley and Nico Santos. They’re hilarious. Nico’s on Chelsea Lately a bunch, and Casey is in San Francisco. I also like Shawn Pelofsky a lot.
Tell me about the worst standup crowd you ever had.
Drunk Russian River audience that wouldn’t shut the f–k up. They paid a lot of money, too. Whatever—the check cleared.
Do people still bug you about Ugly Betty? Does that bother the hell out
You have to understand I was broke and unknown in L.A. for years—far more years than I’ve been famous. There’s nothing annoying about being recognized for being on a hit show. Anyone who tells you that is an asshole.
What’s been your favorite role?
Suzuki on Betty was fun, because I never had to be likable or nice. As a people-pleaser, that was very liberating.
I know you’re a big American Horror Story fan. While we wait for the new season set in New Orleans with Kathy Bates (sooo excited), what are you watching now?
I’m living for the new season of AHS! I watch Orange Is the New Black and So You Think You Can Dance.
If someone came to you tomorrow with the perfect gig—doing standup at this place or being on that show—what’s that perfect gig for you right now?
Network sitcom. Third-banana role like Rosario on Will and Grace. Wisecracking maid/assistant/best friend /bellhop. I’d just love a gig with hours that allow me to make my kid breakfast and pick him up from school. I co-hosted The View twice, too—a steady gig like that’d be gravy.
As a dad, I’m sure you want to be a role model for your own son. But how important is it to you that you be an activist and advocate for LGBT young people?
So important. Kids think high school or the Internet is their entire universe, and it just isn’t so. That’s why bullied gay youth feel trapped and kill themselves. I try to remind kids that there’s so much more to life than high school. Look up, look ahead. Everything and anything is better than high school. I survived and thrived—so can you. At a high school reunion, the gays are always the hottest guys in the room. Everyone else looks like they’ve given up.
Have you ever been to Houston? Anything you’re looking forward to on your visit?
Big Texas cowboys and BBQ. I love Houston. I’ve always had fun when visiting.
What’s on your gay agenda for the rest of the year? And will 2014 hold any surprises we can look forward to?
I’m filming a movie in Halifax this month—Beethoven’s Treasure. And my new comedy special will hopefully be playing at a gay film fest near you!
Alec Mapa is represented by Divas and DJs; check out their full roster of talent at divasanddjs.com.
What: OutReach United’s 2013 Coming Out Party
When: Saturday, October 12, 6:30–9:30 p.m.
Where: Jaguar Houston Central
Tickets: start at $25
A.J. Mistretta is editor of MyGayHouston.com and public relations manager of the Greater Houston CVB.