When we saw the talented Erik Rivera on the lineup at the Improv Comedy Club at the Irvine
Spectrum, we knew we had to reach out. Rivera is a comedian who got his big break on The
Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2011, made an appearance on NBC’s The Last Comic Standing,
released a special on HBO, and more. We sat down with Rivera and found out all about his
journey to become a comedian, and how he manages his time on stage while raising two boys
with his beautiful wife.
When did you realize you wanted to be a comedian? Is it something you always
wanted to do?
I feel like from early on I wanted to perform, I just didn’t know the outlets. I went to
college in New York City where there are comedy clubs everywhere. I was constantly
hanging out at comedy clubs and I realized that it was something I could do.
Tell us about your very first time performing in front of an audience. Where was it
at? How did it go? How many people were there?
The cool thing about New York is that there’s so many places you can do open mics. My
first performance was at this place called Hamburger Harry’s in Times Square which
sadly is no longer there. It went really great, there were about 20 comedians in the set,
and about 20-40 people in the audience. As far as nerves go, I am never nervous when
getting on stage. I do have a fear of rollercoasters though.
What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while pursuing comedy?
The first major obstacle I faced was that my mother was not happy that this is what I was
pursuing. She came to this country from Guatemala. Stand up comedy is an American
art form that is slowly being adopted by different countries. Stand up wasn’t a thing in
Guatemala. She viewed it as me becoming a clown because I liked to make people
laugh. I tried to explain to her that that is not what I was trying to do. She wouldn’t talk to
me for a few years, and didn’t agree with what I was doing. Finally she came out to a
show, saw that I loved it, and finally gave me her blessing.
What is your favorite memory from doing stand up?
It’s hard to pick just one. My favorite is probably when I made my debut on The Tonight
Show. But of course, I also loved doing my very first special, and last special.
You are currently on tour, what would you say is your favorite part about touring?
I always love meeting new people, especially meeting the people that are watching what
you are putting out. It’s amazing the way they fall in love with your content and you in
some ways help them with stuff in their lives. They come up to you and tell you ‘You helped me get through this’ and it’s eye-opening. It’s been really cool to travel the
country and meet these new people and connect with them.
What is the hardest part about touring?
It’s hard to leave the family behind and miss those important moments. The “first times”
in your kids’ lives. It sucks because even though your spouse is sending videos of those
moments, it’s not the same as being there and seeing it yourself. My 7-year-old has his
first T-ball game this week and I am fortunate to have the week off and be able to go to
During your free time, what is your favorite activity to do with your kids?
We go on scooters. I don’t partake in riding the scooters, but the kids love when I watch
them ride around. Another thing I enjoy is me chasing them. I don’t know why kids
always like to be chased. My 7-year-old is also playing baseball and I love playing catch
with him and teaching him the fundamentals. My 3-year-old is playing soccer and I get to
try to teach him the game even though he may not understand it quite yet.
Who is someone who inspires you/ someone you look up to?
My father used to let me watch stand up, usually when my mother was gone. He would
say ‘do not tell her!’ and he would put it on the TV. He would let me watch Eddie Murphy,
Richard Pryor, and John Leguizamo. Watching Leguizamo was really impactful since it
was the first time I got to see someone of my background on the big screen. I also
watched George Lopez, Paul Rodriguez, and others that really inspired me.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment so far?
My wife. She is definitely the thing I am most proud of. I am also extremely proud of my
last half hour special Super White streaming now on HBO GO. It really embodies who I
am as a person, and it is the thing I am most proud of… at least until the next one I put
out. What you put out is who you are in that moment. As I go on, 10 years from now, I
will have more experiences and I will be able to talk about those and incorporate them
into my show.
What are some of your goals for the future?
I am still on the journey trying to create a network, based on my life and my comedy. It’s
tough because there is no Latin representation. I would like to have a Latino family
sitcom on air. I would also love to get into writing and producing… the projects that give us a voice. I always fought the label that the industry gives to you. Hollywood puts you in
boxes. But now I am starting to realize that the label affects the way you grow up. I didn’t
realize the effect that someone had on me just because they looked like me. When the
movie Coco came out, I took my son to see it and it was crazy to watch him watch the
movie and watch the way it impacted him. He turned to me during the movie and said
“he looks just like me”, and I began bawling my eyes out. Because there is not enough
representation for the Latin community, it has become my goal to get this family sitcom
out on the air.