George Lopez is turning late night into a party, and everyone's invited. On Monday, November 9, Lopez plans to turn the traditional talk format on its head with TBS' Lopez Tonight. He promises the comedy will be edgier, the guest list will be more diverse and the energy will be higher than any audience has ever seen—thanks, in part, to having Michael Jackson's music director on board.

Lopez analyzes the current state of late night, why he thinks it's taken so long for a Latino host to helm a late-night show, what he's learned from other talk shows and why he can't wait to get started. "I don't think I could be more relaxed without a medical marijuana card," he says.

Q: How did you find your voice in comedy, and how will it translate to becoming a talk show host?

A: Well, finding your own voice in comedy, I think, is one of the most difficult things to do because you have to trust something in a profession [where] the audience is different every day. Security and confidence is really not something a comedian always has.

I was helped by Chris Rock's manager in 1996 at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York, who came and saw me and said, 'Can I give you some constructive criticism?' When you saw Chris, you knew where he was politically. You knew what he liked. You knew what he didn't like.

At that particular time, I was really unhappy with my material and the direction that my stand-up was going. He just wanted me to be a little bit more specific. And it sounds like it sounds simple. It was really difficult.

But I looked at my grandmother, and I looked at my upbringing and I started to talk about that. Everything completely changed. That was 1996. Six years later, I had my own sitcom on ABC and the nucleus of that was stories of me and my relationship with my grandmother.

So when I got the information, I went and ran with it really, really hard. It was the one particular thing that really kind of changed me as a comedian. And then from that gave me a confidence that, up until recently, I'm still working on. I don't think you ever really fully develop as a comedian—much like if you were a runner, you would always challenge yourself.

In the 30 years that I've been doing it and who I've been able to reach in my approach to it, in my culture and in my heritage and being able to have crossed over to all groups and not just specifically my own—that will benefit me as being a host of my own show and wanting to bump up the format and change the energy of what I think is a format that's a little bit down and very white.


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