Common knowledge states that if you're serious about becoming a stand-up comedian on the West Coast, you move to Los Angeles. But Frankie Quinones created the diversity of For the People Comedy here in San Francisco and despite his rising star on the stand-up scene, he's sticking around for the moment.
Maybe that's because Carmelita lives here. “She's taken on a whole thing of her own, her own career,” says the Ventura County native of his sassed-up, club-going Latina sexpot. “Carmelita's got her own list of things to do in 2012.” You can check out Quinones -- and possibly Carmelita or his popular "Cholo Whisperer" skit -- at the next For the People event at Cobb's on Thu/19.
Carmelita was created back in 1996 in Quinones' high school improv class. She hails from Quinones' stable of characters inspired by – well, what else – the people he sees on an everyday basis. In Carmelita's case that's his female family members, mixed with Quinones' own mannerisms. “She's really confident, but not really conceited,” he says.
Her star vehicle was “Eh-So Eh-Spicy,” in which she half-dishes, half-raps about men looking at her tits in line at the store and courts suitors in a San Francisco bar. You're definitely laughing at her, but somehow, Quinones escapes reducing the brash Carmelita into a stereotype like so many other male comedian's female alter egos. Carmelita shares set time with a host of Quinones' other personas, including a hippie character named Sun Diamond whose mannerisms are culled from the patchouli-scented denizens of our fair city.
Quinones is proud of being a Latino comic, part of a tradition that also includes his personal role models Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias and Paul Rodriguez, who his parents used to watch on TV when he was young. He often performs at Latino comedy nights in Los Angeles, but in San Francisco -- where successful Latino comics are well-known for relocating quickly down south when fame beckons -- he's used to being the only Hispanic name on otherwise all-black and all-white bills.
His comedy often dances along the edge of racial tensions, ultimately resolving them in a feel-good way. In "Cholo Whisperer," a upper-middle class suburban couple hires an expert to deal with the shanking, 40-drinking gangster (played by Quinones) they've adopted after being charmed by their neighbor's cholo. The cholo whisperer, who walks with a mystic's bauble-topped scepter but dresses in everyday street wear and a blue bandana, teaches the white husband how to be "the jefe," a role that mainly involves puffing out his chest and barking short orders.
“Some people think I'm stupid for not moving to LA already," says Quinones, drinking a Negra Modelo in front of his combination plate on a sidewalk tables at the Valencia Street Puerto Alegre. "But I feel like I'm doing something for the San Francisco comedy scene." You can check out For the People's new monthly gig every last Wednesday at SoMa's Sofa nightclub on Eighth Street and Minna. Quinones crafts the program for these nights with the newbie comedy fan in mind -- usually they'll feature stand-ups from all kinds of backgrounds, even a live DJ for musical interludes.
“I've always been that fool in my family, like ah, fucking Frankie,” Quinones laughs. “People in my life are not surprised that I'm a stand-up comedian.”
Maybe that's why they've been so supportive. “I have a good team of homies that believe in this as much as I do,” says Quinones, who says the word of mouth hype his group of friends give him is invaluable in promoting his shows – indeed, a word from a mutual friend was how I heard about his work. “Our brand of comedy is like, this is all of us, together. It's like, I'm no better than you because I'm on stage. I try to create a family vibe so that when people come in they feel a part of it.”
Just don't heckle him – that positivity has its limits. “If somebody heckles me that's the green light,” he laughs forbodingly, for a moment seeming like the snarky comedians we're used to from network television and BET. That impression doesn't last long before we're back to the group experience: “But my goal is to make it funny for everyone.”
For the People Comedy
Thu/19 8 p.m., $15
Cobb's Comedy Club
915 Columbus, SF