Arguably the preeminent Hispanic comedian of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and one of the most influential Latino entertainers of all time, George Lopez broke new ground for Mexican-Americans by scoring many firsts. Most significantly, he clocked in as the first Hispanic comic since Freddie Prinze Sr. (whom he idolized) to headline his own blockbuster sitcom, thus providing Latinos with a much-needed television voice and role model to boot.
Born in 1961 in Mission Hills, CA, Lopez was abandoned by his father at two months old; not long after his tenth birthday, his mother delivered him permanently into the hands of his working-class grandparents, a couple singularly lacking in parental skills, affection, and financial resources. Ingeniously, Lopez took the angst, desperation, impoverishment, and overwhelming dysfunction of these preadolescent and adolescent years and spun it into behind-the-mike fodder -- in other words, using his hard-hitting experiences as building blocks for exceptionally droll, inventive standup routines. Lopez foresaw standup comedy as his only desired option after high school, and thus reportedly worked the club circuit for almost two decades -- his exclusive gig until the late '80s and early '90s.
At that point, Lopez tackled a few bit roles in junky comedies such as Ski Patrol (1989) and Fatal Instinct (1993), but turned a much-needed corner, and upped the prestige quotient, by signing on to work for the esteemed Ken Loach in that director's Bread and Roses (2000), a muckraking drama about Hispanic-American janitors. The finished film divided critics but unveiled new dimensions in the actor's ability. Lopez's eponymous sitcom commenced in 2002, with the schtickmeister cast as a variant of himself, George Lopez, who worked in an airplane-parts factory. The ABC program maintained high ratings well into its sixth season. In the meantime, Lopez branched out into feature-film roles -- this time with a more respectable cinematic pedigree -- in such pictures as The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl (2005), Yours, Mine & Ours (2005), Balls of Fury (2007), and Tortilla Heaven (2007).
Following a two year run as a late night talk show host on Lopez Tonight, Lopez continued to appear in a number of movies, including Swing Vote, Valentine's Day, and Balls of Fury.