George Lopez for mayor? It sounds like a punchline -- and when you're talking to the uber-successful comedian, there's usually a joke in there somewhere -- but Lopez, when asked about a 2010 television interview in which he talked about running for mayor of Los Angeles, didn't retreat, or at least not completely.
"It's partly joking and serious. I don't really have any political history, but neither did Arnold Schwarzenegger and he became governor. I've always considered myself a man of the people, like Abraham Lincoln. So, if I ran, it would be the same way."
But first Lopez needs to satisfy a few stand-up commitments, like his scheduled appearance in Bakersfield on Saturday.
Also keeping him busy is his latest television role, in the FX Network sitcom "Saint George," not to mention the everyday hustle to remain relevant in the fickle entertainment industry.
"It's a difficult business, for sure," said Lopez, 53, during a phone interview. "It's not as easy as saying, 'I like to do TV full time,' especially now. There are so many reality shows to compete with."
And there's still not enough room at the table for Latinos, Lopez said, though he acknowledged things are improving.
"I think there will always be an aspect that is not particularly for us, but those things are harder to crack. Fortunately there's NUVOtv and El Rey, and others that are Latino-oriented networks. And of course, there's Univision and Telemundo. They get huge audiences, and that's where I think the disparaging thing comes in. The Spanish-speaking audience is so much larger than people expect it to be, and the English-speaking market is not prepared for that number. Spanish news beats English news almost every time, and novellas (Spanish soap operas) beat most first-run English shows. There's no way the English-speaking producers are ever going to get into that market."
Even with his clout, Lopez struggles, especially when his desire to become a producer or switch to dramatic acting roles conflicts with what Hollywood has prescribed for him.
"I've pitched some TV shows to work as a producer with only some on-camera roles. Maybe now, because of the weight of creating a show is so difficult and the way the climate has changed, some new directions will change the perception of me that I can act in other things. So, when it happens, that will be a welcome change to more dramatic stuff, especially being over 50 now."
But when Lopez yearns for the control he isn't always afforded in television, he returns to stand-up, where he's always in charge.
"Stand-up is the most free form of expression. Nobody can tell you what to do and what not to do, and getting in front of people who pay to see you and enjoy seeing you do stand-up is always a privilege."
"Tall, Dark, & Chicano" in 2009 was Lopez's last comedy special. The HBO program revealed a more pointed and political side to the comedian, who focused on issues like immigration, race and President Obama.
His earlier recordings, namely "Team Leader" and "Why You Crying?" focused more on Latino cultural differences in American life, a topic Lopez never tires of mining for new insights.
"You listen to someone like Bruce Springsteen, and all this material is going to be about working-class issues and problems. It all sounds like Bruce Springsteen. With me, it's all about family and kids and me getting older, but then also appreciating being younger and politics and all those things. It's kind of always been around the same format."
Currently on his plate just waiting to get skewered: America's obsession with food allergies and healthy Mexican food.
"Those things have always been interesting to me. The kale, the mango salsa, and the Chipotle restaurants with their white rice in the burritos, those are places where there's great humor."
But if the deal is right, Lopez said he's certainly not above hawking his own line of food, booze or other merchandise, using as a template the wild success of his friend Carlos Santana, who has a successful line of designer shoes and tequila.
"I've been offered some items that haven't been the right fit. I think my own tequila would be great. I don't drink anymore, but I can't tell people not to drink.
"Also, hats and some food stuff, just not healthy food. Mine would be the "Mas Fat Collection."