Erik Rivera may not have turned his development deal last year with Eva Longoria into a network TV sitcom, but his relationship with Jennifer Lopez did net him his first hourlong stand-up special. Erik Rivera: I’m No Expert premieres Saturday on NUVOtv.
No, not that kind of relationship. Rivera is happily married and jokes lovingly about that in his special. JLo is the chief creative officer of NUVOtv, so as he told friends via email today: “See… we’re working together (don’t be nit picky about the details).”
In this sneak peek from his hour, Rivera asks a couple in the audience how they first met — turns out they’ve been together 51 years, since grammar school! Rivera jokes about how his parents don’t have as cute a story to tell. Roll the clip.
Rivera doesn’t divulge or dish about how he met his wife, so The Comic’s Comic straight up asked him when we spoke on the phone last month.
“We met through a mutual friend. A friend, by the way, we both did not trust. She said, ‘I’ve got the perfect person for you,'” he said.
He and his future wife took their distrust to a thorough Facebook investigation before meeting in person.
“I looked at all her pictures, she looked through mine, made sure I wasn’t a serial killer,” he said. “Thank God for the Internet. You can do background checks! I don’t have to go to an S&M party in the Village at 3 in the morning…”
Is your wife in comedy or show business? “She actually has an adult job,” Rivera said. “She does finances. She’s got her CPA, got her degree in finance from the University of Maryland. She’s got a structured job. When we first met she was trying to find the structure of comedy…(asking) ‘When do you get a raise? When do you get promoted?’ No no no, that’s not how this works…it was interesting to see how she tried to grasp this.”
Had you dated comedians before meeting your wife? “I dated other people who had more entertainment-type jobs,” Rivera said. “I was a little selfish in that I didn’t want to hear about their journey.”
“Thakn God for her,” Rivera said of his wife. “She keeps me sane. She also helps with me stuff I didn’t know I needed, like health insurance. Paying my bills on time? Every comic needs that.”
Do you have good relationship advice for other single comedians, then?
“Don’t date anybody that’s got a headshot. Don’t date anybody who’s chasing a dream becuase she’s not going to support your dream. Find someone who can balance you out.”
Hmmm. Alrighty then. What about advice for anyone out there who might date a comedian?
“Get ready to hear about your life onstage, at least for an hour,” he said. “And just, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Just strap in and get ready. I don’t think that’s a big selling point for non-comedians!”
Not the way you sell it! Has it been bumpy for your wife?!
“I’ll tell you now. My wife is on the journey. She’s taking her licks. Anybody else would have left me a long time ago.”
He jokes in I’m No Expert that marriage has made him paranoid about women in general, too. Which would play well as a scene out of Gone Girl. Except Rivera hadn’t seen the movie or read the book yet.
Rivera has been spending plenty of time on the road performing at comedy clubs and colleges, and as he notes in his special, being Latino means something different in Los Angeles than it does in New York City. He’s lived in both. What about being Latino in the rest of the United States? “When people say things out loud…” he teases. “I do a lot of colleges. I get real busy during Hispanic Heritage Month. I feel like I’m the only one in the catalog. I show up in these small towns. I’m like an attraction. Hey, a Latino! Come see him!”
But it’s not quite as awkward once he performs.
“I think audiences are surprised they can relate to me more than they thought they would,” he said. For starters: “I don’t speak Spanish.”
He’s relatable enough to have gone through the TV development process last year, with Longoria producing a half-hour project that would have been based on Rivera’s life for NBC. So, what happened? “They loved it until the final minute…so they greenlit Welcome to Sweden and knocked us out.” What’s more diverse than Sweden?! “They went a different way,” he said, delicately.
One thing he learned dealing with network executives and producers was just how many steps it takes from pitch to pilot to series. And then there are the network notes. “I believe one of the notes we got on our first pass of the script, they said ‘We loved it, but there were no taco jokes!’ Well, I’m not Mexican so that must be why.”
At the same time NBC passed on Rivera, ABC ordered Cristela Alonzo’s Cristela to series this fall. “We actually went through the process together, that pitch season. That same thing where she was getting crazy notes,” Rivera said. “She was blessed,” he added, with having the money and gumption to go forward and produce her own pilot presentation with her deal money. “I think it’s a great thing. She’s on TV now! I think ABC really put their money where their mouth was when they said they wanted diversity.”
Plus, it might have benefits for Rivera, too.
“She was a groomsperson in my wedding,” he said. “I’m just waiting for her to get super-famous so I can sell the photos.”
Here’s another preview clip, in which Rivera’s parents cannot understand Facebook: