Achieving one goal after another is how comedian Erik Rivera looks at his recent success. The next bucket-list item is his first stand-up special, Erik Rivera: I’m No Expert, which debuts Nov. 8 on NUVOtv.
Im excited to be on NUVOtv, Rivera told Voxxi. Ive been working with them from the beginning. Theyve been in my corner. I love what theyre doing over there. I feel like they get who I am, what I stand for and it just felt right. Its like coming home.
As far as his home life was concerned, Rivera said growing up stateside with a Guatemala-born mother, who at the age of 19 immigrated to America, meant she had plans for her boy in life.
Ive got the typical immigrant mother, she came over for a better life and she tried to get me at an early age to be either a doctor or lawyer, Rivera said. I only had those two options. Really I didnt have any options. I remember coming home and saying I wanted to be a firefighter and shes like, No, youre going to be a doctor or a lawyer. I came to this country and struggled. This is what youre going to be.
Luckily for Rivera, his Puerto Rico-born dad raised in Queens had a different path for his son. The funnyman said when his mom would leave for work, his father would introduce him to comedy legends such as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, as well as influential Latino funnyman John Leguizamo.
The young Rivera was mesmerized by these giants who made people laugh for a living. Thats what he wanted to do.
It always started the same, Dont tell your mother, Rivera said. Id sit there and watch. Then Id go to school and do bits and get detention because I didnt realize profanity wasnt allowed in school.
It wasnt until Rivera was attending PACE University in New York City that he sort of snuck his way into comedy. The New Rochelle, New York native said in college he was a part of the student activities board.
It was post-9/11, and he had the idea to schedule comedy shows to boost the morale of students.
Part of that role was finding comedians, which meant spending long hours in various New York City comedy clubs asking comics to perform on campus.
I sort of fell into it, Rivera said. I loved what comedy was and what it stood for.
As for his mother, well, she wasnt happy.
It was funny, because I was going to comedy shows every night and Id come home late at night, Rivera said She sat me down and actually thought I had a drug problem. When I told her I was going to be a comedian she would have been happier if I had a drug problem because I could go to rehab.
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Rivera performed at his first open-mic night in 2003 and never looked back. As far as his style is concerned, the irony is he was dirtier as a kid in middle school compared to his current stage presence.
He said the reason hes clean on stage stems from the sage words of a comedy legend.
I saw an interview with Bill Cosby where he said not that its easier to be a dirtier comic but if you find youre getting a laugh on the dirty word and you take that word out and do the same joke and it doesnt work, then the joke wasnt funny to begin with, Rivera said. So I always strive to make the joke funny.
The truth is being a young, clean and talented comic has opened doors for Rivera that he never knew existed such as appearing on AXS TV, MTV, Comedy Central, TV Guide and NUVOtv, as well as participating in NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Stand-Up for Diversity College Tour.
The biggest notch on his belt is an appearance he made last year on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Rivera knows its major for a Latino comedian to get this kind of national attention.
Still, there are pockets of America where Rivera would run into awkward situations based on his ethnicity.
He said, Ill go to middle America, do my show and people will come up and say, Oh my gosh, it was so funny. We didnt know what to expect. We thought maybe the show was in Spanish, but we related to you so much.
People are surprised when they see a Latino name. Ive showed up colleges and the poster said, Tonight Erik Rivera. Caliente Comedy. We have free nachos and taquitos. Ill say, No. 1, Im not Mexican and No. 2, wow, you guys really went all out.
Going all out is what could be next for Rivera who is working with Eva Longorias UnbeliEVAble Entertainment production company to craft a sitcom around Rivera’s life and stand-up material.
I was always a big fan of sitcoms, Rivera said. I loved The Cosby Show and Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond. I always wanted to do that for the Latino community. I want to bring, Everybody Loves Erik. Its got a good ring to it.
Whatever the show is, lets hope for the sake of Riveras mother he plays a doctor or lawyer.
Exactly, Rivera laughed, then shed be happy. Shed say, There it is. I got it.