TMG’s Tony Hernandez sits down with comedy star Mike Robles.
I’ve been a big fan of New York City Comedian Mike Robles for quite some time now. You may recognize Mike from his Television appearances on Que Locos, Loco Comedy Jam, Latin Palooza, Latino 101 on Nuvo Tv and The Chisme Club on MTV Tres.
I caught his act in Chicago a few years ago and the man literally had people rolling in the aisles. Mike’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind and he does so with great style and grace, but what I respect most about him is his willingness to put it all out there, night after night. Not many of us would have the courage to subject ourselves to the instant approval or often merciless disapproval of perfect strangers. It takes serious cojones to do what Mike does for a living.
I recently got the chance to have a Man to Man with the NYC funny man where I began by asking him about his childhood.
TH: Talk to me about your childhood in New York. What was it like?
Mike: I grew up in New York. We were the only Puerto Rican family in an all white neighborhood. It was all Italianos “Hey, Mike! How you doin’?”. Beautiful people. I don’t know if they felt sorry for us because we were Puerto Rican or what pero over the back yard fence my neighbor would always give me lasagna and those Italian cookies. I’ll never forget it. “Hey Mike, come over here!” She fed me like she would feed a squirrel. You know every morning she was like, “Toma”. I think it was mostly the Italian culture; just being nice.
TH: I grew up around Italians too. Italians are very similar to Latinos, right?
Mike: Very. They have the family thing. The cooking thing. It was very family oriented and close knit. We got along great. It was Italian. It was Irish. As a matter of fact the first time I heard the word “spic” was on that street from an Irish dude. “You ain’t nothing but a spic.” I was going, “Spic”? “What is that?” I had no idea. It was the first time I had heard it. So I go to my father and tell him, “Me llamaron un spic.” He goes, “Quien te llamo eso? No no no. Don’t let them call you that!”
I was like ten. I was a kid man. All my curse words I learned in that neighborhood. Thanks to the Irish and the Italianos. They taught me what being a spic is and taught me the word F-U-C-K. So I got baptized bro! Introduced to the mafia for the first time.
TH: What neighborhood was that?
Mike: That was and is still a beautiful place today. It was Park Slope, Brooklyn. You go to Park Slope, Brooklyn now and a brownstone goes for, I don’t know how many millions of dollars man. At that time I don’t know what my father bought it for, but el pendejo sold it for $50,000. Talk about stealing land from the Indians. They sure stole it from this Boricua!
I lived there in Brooklyn until I finished school so I’d say 16-17 and then I moved to the Bronx and got a job cause I got out early. It was either go to college or make some money. I was into making money. So I got a job and had to commute. So I decided to forget it and move from Park Slope to Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.
TH: What was that like?
Mike: Ay bendito! From a brownstone to a six floor walk up. I was too lazy to go down everyday con la basura so I opened a window by the trash cans and let it fly bro like at nine at night when nobody was out. The guy finally caught me bro. The super era un Irish dude. He came back and was like, ” why are you throwing it?” and I was like “I don’t know what you are talking about man”. It’s not me! You got video? So I moved to the Bronx until I moved to Miami. So it was pretty much until I was 17-18 in Brooklyn, until the 40s in the Bronx, then I moved to Miami for 5 years. I’m proud of that because people always say the Puerto Rican and the Dominicans are in New York, los Cubanos en Miami and the Mexicans in Texas and California. Well I’m proud to say I’ve lived in every pocket where all the Latino denominations are. I know what makes us happy, what makes us cry, what pisses us off and what we like to smell.
TH: You’ve done the national Latino tour.
Mike: I could be a spy bro. Lets put it that way. I could be a C.I.A. spy and fit right in with any group because I know how they breathe. I know what they like. I didn’t read about it. I lived in it. What I noticed is that some of us speak Spanish better than others. Like Cubanos speak perfect Spanish. I’ve never met a Cubano who doesn’t know how to speak Spanish. Argentinians have that funny accent and it’s hard to deal with them. Then the Chilenos are probably the whitest Latinos if you want to call them Latinos. These guys are whiter than Anderson Cooper! When you have Latinos and Chilenos that are whiter than him it shows you how white we can be. We go from Sammy Sosa white to Big Papi black. That’s how the Latino color chain goes. But at the end of the day bro, you put us all together and like they say, we are all Mexicans. I don’t care if you say Puerto Rican or Cubans. It’s easier to call everyone Mexicans.
TH: So at what point did your realize that comedy was your thing?
Mike: I wasn’t the class clown. I was a serious dude. I was into business. I always wanted to know how to make money believe it or not. So anyways I worked for TWA in customer service. So when you deal with customer complaints from Monday through Friday, five days a week. That’s stressful because every call is like “TWA, can I help you?” and they say “Yes, I just got to Puerto Rico and my luggage is not with me.” or “The coffee wasn’t hot.” or “The flight was delayed.” It builds and builds and builds so after work we would get together and just vent. We would rant. It so happens that when I would rant to some of the coworkers, I had them cracking-up!
So I tried an open mic and I told the fans that I worked at TWA and I started telling stories and I started liking it because it was almost like therapy and people were laughing. So I just kept doing it. All of a sudden I was doing stand up comedy. A year into it I was making just as much money doing stand up as I was making in my 9-5 job.So I made the decision to go and do stand up. I left a secure paycheck and medical insurance and all that stuff but I said ‘I’m going to go for it’, and the rest is history.
Make sure to check out the full interview from our friends at TheManGuide.com