Cristela Alonzo couldn’t help noticing, and stopping to notice, the massive Netflix billboards promoting her first stand-up hour for the streaming platform, Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy, which premiered today.
Just as I couldn’t help myself from telling Alonzo last week how I happened to notice Whole Foods in Austin was hiring someone new to write for the upscale grocer (it makes more sense once you watch Lower Classy).
For Alonzo, though, who grew up just north of the Texas-Mexico border and filmed her first special in San Antonio, seeing a Netflix billboard anywhere, let alone Hollywood, meant a lot to her.
“It’s kind of crazy. Because I never got a billboard for my show (ABC’s Cristela),” she told me. “I was really emotional when I saw it. As a comic, you know Netflix is pretty much the place to be. You want to be able to shoot your special for Netflix.”
When did Netflix become the go-to network for stand-up comedians, though? “I felt the shift happened a year and a half ago,” Alonzo said. Her episode of Comedy Central’s The Half-Hour bowed in 2013. “The half-hour I shot for Comedy Central, they aired, what, once? And when did they air it?”
“You don’t know how to find your special. The convenience of having Netflix have your stuff on it…you’re always able to see it.” And having her one and only season of Cristela there means Netflix automatically will suggest new viewers of her stand-up catch up on her sitcom next.
What would your mom make of Netflix?
“My mom would never understand it, at all. It’s weird because, think about it, it happens with most parents. They grew up with three or four channels. To be able to watch anything you want at any time of day, its so unimaginable.”
Much like meeting the president of the United States must have been unimaginable for you as a poor kid near the Mexican border? I noticed your pinned Tweet of you posing with Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the White House this fall!
Alonzo said she found herself invited there through her activeness on the campaign trail during 2016 and her love of history. “I was in the White House in the past three or four months. I’d been there three or four times. I got to host an educational summit for young Latinas,” she told me.
Which means she met Obama and Biden after recording her Netflix special, before the election and after November. What’s that like?
“It’s really heartbreaking, honestly. It’s like yore meeting the perfect person, the love of your life, but they’re married. That’s what it’s like meeting Obama once Trump’s been elected,” she said.
The other thing that struck Alonzo about her White House visits: “It kind of hit me that it’s a real building. Think of how many TV shows and movies have used the White House.” Once inside, though: “You realize the seriousness of the entire property…that you’re meeting the most powerful man in the free world.”
“Especially as a stand-up comic, when do you think you’re going to meet the president? Usually only if you’re hosting the White House Correspondents dinner, and then you have to be Wanda (Sykes) level or Colbert,” she said.
And even if Alonzo reaches that level, she has no desire to perform at the WHCD during the Trump administration. “I don’t want to be near that man,” she said.
She’d love to be near her Dallas Cowboys, however. As that clip from her special illustrates, she remains loyal to her team.
“When I love a team, I love a team. When it comes to politics, I’m not like that. I’m registered no party,” she said. “I want to feel free to criticize them.”
Did Alonzo learn anything from the 2016 Cowboys season? “You know what? It’s painful, but we had a hell of a season, with rookies. If Dak (Prescott) and Ezekiel (Elliott) can do that as rookies, let’s see what they can do for the rest of their careers!”
Can she apply that to her own career, too? “Absolutely,” she told me. “I learned so many lessons. Who to listen to, who not to listen to. I learned to really trust my gut…because looking back (on Cristela), my gut was right.” And now: “I have the chance to develop other shows. And I said no to them because it wasn’t the right time. I’m waiting for the right story.”
Cristela Alonzo: Lower Classy is out now exclusively on Netflix.
You can hear more of Cristela Alonzo’s life and career, in her own words, on Episode #85 of my podcast series, Last Things First.