2009 FLASHBACK: George Lopez promotes new TBS talk show

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed November 6, 2009

One key to a successful talk show host is likability. On that front, George Lopez fits the bill for Atlanta-based TBS’s first foray into the scrum that is the talk-show world.

Lopez is brash, but not arrogant.He can be edgy but not too edgy. He’s approachable but not dull. And he isn’t afraid to tout the fact he’s the first Hispanic-American with a talk show in primetime. In the end, he hopes to make a splash along the lines of Arsenio Hall two decades ago.

That won’t be easy given the crowded environment he enters. Already, Jay Leno is now eating up five prime-time hours a week on NBC to less-than-enthralling results. Wanda Sykes launched her own weekly Fox talk show this past Saturday. And Mo’Nique began her own a few weeks ago here in Atlanta for BET.

His show, which tapes in Los Angeles and will air at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, competes with Comedy Central’s double shot of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, E!’s Chelsea Handler, Mo’Nique and part of “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” on NBC and “Late Night With David Letterman” on CBS.

“Times are changing,” he said in a phone interview in October. “I feel I offer something different and can compete with the Tonight Show and the others. I don’t think people who follow me are necessarily watching those other shows.”

Lopez, a 48-year old Los Angeles native, is best known for his successful sitcom “The George Lopez Show” on ABC, which aired from 2002 to 2007. Although ratings were just okay on ABC, the show has thrived in syndication on Nick at Nite.

He’s also a veteran stand-up comic.

“I’ve been around for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve done huge HBO specials. I’m not afraid of what the format is.”

To prep for the show, he’s been doing standup.

“It makes me feel better,” he said, to go on stage. “It keeps me strong mentally.”

He will have the basic tenets of a talk show: monologue, skits, interviews, musical acts. But he said the set will resemble a comedy club and he will move around the stage. He will use hand-held cameras to generate more of a party atmosphere. He promises it will look different from other shows. He’s got pros working with him with backgrounds such as Letterman, Bill Maher, The Tonight Show and Ellen DeGeneres.

And he said he won’t play Mr. Nice Guy all the time. “I won’t be afraid to be mean,” he said. “Comedy comes from a place that has to have a purpose.”

Lopez said there will be on-the-street bits, but he won’t be doing them. “I’m from L.A.,” he explained, jokingly. ” I don’t feel comfortable on the street. And I won’t be holding cutouts from newspapers,” he added, referencing Leno’s “Headlines” bit.

I interviewed him a couple weeks ago and he couldn’t say who his first guests are. But day one’s lineup has since been announced: Eva Longoria, Ellen DeGeneres and Kobe Bryant, a nice melange of celebrities. Other upcoming guests will include Jamie Foxx, Eva Mendes, Ray Romano, Jessica Alba, Queen Latifah, Sandra Bullock, Marc Anthony, Ted Danson, Oscar de la Hoya, Larry David and Kathy Griffin.

Here’s a just-released official promo, using footage from test shows he shot last week with the likes of Dane Cook and Samuel L. Jackson. He also shot a promo last year with Pres. Barack Obama.

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