Freddy Soto, 35; Latino Comedian’s Stand-Up Act Had Universal Appeal

Times Staff Writer

Freddy Soto, an up-and-coming comic who received a standing ovation after a performance Saturday night at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, was found dead Sunday morning. He was 35.

Soto left the club just after midnight and died in his sleep at a friend’s house in Los Angeles, said Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory.

The cause of death is under investigation, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

“He was on the cusp of becoming successful,” said comedian Paul Rodriguez, who performed a five-minute tribute to Soto on Monday night at the Laugh Factory. “Sooner or later the world would have known who he was.”


Soto made his name as a Latino comic whose routines centered on the absurdities of family and life growing up in El Paso. He joked about subjects that many could relate to, which gave his humor universal appeal, Masada said. Critics praised his skill in sketching the people he talked about, and the comedian’s father was an endless source of material.

His dad had “a little trouble with the English language,” Soto told the Sacramento Bee in 2004.

“He’s always asking me how to spell. He says, ‘How many S’s in chicken?’ And I say, ‘Well, the way you pronounce it -- “shisshkens” -- about four.’ ”

A word his father latched on to -- “regardless” -- became Soto’s signature comedy bit.


Onstage, Soto would say: “Every parent has a favorite word.... My dad’s is ‘regardless.’ He loves to use that word. I could tell him, ‘Dad, I cut my finger off!’ and he would say, ‘Regardless, go mow the lawn.’ ”

He also riffed on how his father was trying to learn to cuss in Spanish, a routine Rodriguez admired.

“There are very few bits other Latinos do that would be worthy of stealing,” Rodriguez said. “Freddy had a terrific act.”

Alfredo Soto Jr. moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago to try to break into comedy and started out as a limo driver for Richard Pryor. More than a decade ago, he drove Pryor to the Laugh Factory, where he met Masada.


“He started imitating Richard Pryor, and it was hilarious. I told him, you should get onstage. He had a unique way of looking at things,” Masada said.

As one of the Three Amigos -- with Latino comics Pablo Francisco and Carlos Mencia -- Soto toured the U.S. in 2001 and 2002. A DVD of the concert tour was released by Miramax in May.

After making $5 from his first paying gig, at St. Mark’s Jazz Club in Venice, Soto became the doorman at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood and made $25 a night.

Eventually he headlined comedy clubs, opened for singer Marc Anthony on a 30-city tour, made sitcom pilots for UPN and CBS, and appeared on late-night talk shows and in cable specials.


He had a part in the 2004 film “Spanglish,” serving as a translator for the housekeeper.

Survivors include his wife, Cory, and 3-year-old daughter, Cruz.

Funeral services will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills, followed by a memorial service at 7:30 p.m. at the Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd.

Comedy shows to benefit Soto’s family will be held at 8 p.m. Aug. 2 and 3 at the Laugh Factory, 8001 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.


A fund also has been set up to help the family. Contributions can be sent to the Soto Family Fund, Smith Barney, 633 W. 5th St., 34th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90071.