Get to Know the Comedian Who's Changing Primetime TV
Meet comedian Cristela Alonzo, pictured below on the set of her new show Cristela.
Photo: Adam Taylor/ABC
Finding Her Funny Side
In 2005, Cristela Alonzo was slogging her way through the L.A. comedy circuit with deadpan jokes and a brash delivery. "I was pigeonholed as a Latina comic," she says, "which meant gigs in cheesy Mexican bars." Alonzo had turned to comedy after her mother died. "I couldn’t afford therapy, so I thought talking to strangers might help," she says. "And it did! Realizing I was good at stand-up was a bittersweet surprise."
Getting the Green Light
Alonzo had a rough upbringing in San Juan, Texas ("Our high school mascot was the cartel," she quips during a stand-up routine). After learning that she and her Mexican American family had been squatters in a diner for eight years, her agents urged her to pitch ABC a semiautobiographical series. Cristela premiered this fall, making Alonzo the first Latina to create and star in a sitcom on the network. On the show, she plays a sixth-year law student living at home. "A lot of jokes were written at my siblings’ expense," she says. "Sorry, guys!"
Carving Her Niche
Some of Cristela is inspired by ignorance Alonzo has encountered in the real world. In one episode, while she’s waiting to interview at a law firm, a leggy blonde mistakes her for a parking attendant, asking, "Can you validate me?" Alonzo responds, "I think you’ve been validated enough." The dry humor and family banter feel relatable and nostalgic. "I want to create something like The Cosby Show," she says. "Luckily, my mom was an immigrant who had no clue making it in Hollywood was a ridiculous idea."