Frankie Quiñones started his sketch comedy career in his family living room at age 6, holding a sprinkler head he found in his dad’s work truck as a microphone while dressed in his mom’s clothes. Always the class clown, Quiñones grew up in a home alive with comedy and funk music, which he also borrowed from his parents.
The road wasn’t easy, but the accomplishments of this now-16-year comedy vet have raised his stock higher than a cholo’s socks. He sold a show to TBS with his friends (Donny Divanian and Cory Loykasek) called “The Dress Up Gang,” his comedy special “Superhomies” landed on HBO, he scored a part on “What We Do in the Shadows” (FX), and on Aug. 12 he’s representing to the fullest as Luis on the ABC Studios/Hulu show “This Fool.”
Keeping true to his L.A. roots, Quiñones over the years created characters based on an upbringing that wasn’t always sol y arco iris, such as his spicy drama-fueled character Juanita Carmelita, a.k.a. JC, based on his mother. And while his character Creeper may be the breakout star with his motivational CholoFit exercise routines, the man behind making you feel the burn is now getting shout-out requests at shows for his creations.
According to Quiñones, positivity has been a driving force of his success and after talking to him about where he came from and where he’s going, we learned that positivity is actually a trait that was passed directly from his parents, one of whom we were delighted and entertained to talk to as well. And that’s what’s up.
Let’s rewind time. Where did you first get on a stage and when you got your first paying gig, how did that feel?
Around 2005, I started doing comedy at this laundromat/cafe in San Francisco called BrainWash. It was a legendary place that unfortunately closed a few years ago. I used to get off work, drive up there once a week, put my name on a waiting list, and because it’d be so late by the time I got there, there would be like, four to six people left in the audience. At first I felt cocky like, “Hell yeah, I know I’m funny.” I got laughs, but once I learned how to translate my humor to the stage, I really started to feel the energy in the room.
So I started working out little five-minute bits there and developing my stuff. Then all of a sudden I got my first paying gig for $20 and two free drink tickets and I’m like, this is it, baby! It’s happening, homie! Once I hit that four-year mark, I really started to realize that’s not going to happen overnight, no matter how funny you are. I had to ask myself, “Are you about this?” I honestly believe that this is why I am here though, so I kept on. I ran out of money, I slept on my buddies’ couch for two years, and I just went after it. I wasn’t feeling so great confidence-wise, but I was honing my craft and gigs started rolling in more consistently. That’s when I really started to elevate my game and became open and showing more of myself and making my experiences funny.
So we know your characters are drawn from your life, but what’s the story of your upbringing?
I was born in San Fernando and my parents and I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Chatsworth. I was still young when we moved to Oxnard; we lived in Camarillo, I went to high school in Ventura. I saw them struggle when I was young, but positivity was like a religion. And it worked for them to achieve success. Then I spent almost 15 years in San Francisco, which is where I started doing comedy.
This August, I’ll have been back in L.A. for 10 years. My parents grew up in the projects around the corner from each other and when they were dating, they’d save up the little money they had and go to the Improv or the Comedy Store. They would drink in the parking lot so they could order sodas for the two-drink minimums — they have stories. “Oh mijo, this one time Louie Anderson was there and there was this heckler and Louie Anderson went and just laid on top of the heckler.” For me to have these stories is amazing.
You were born into comedy! Since Creeper is derived from the OG Creeper, I think we need to hear about him first, out of respect.
Creeper is a straight-up extension of my father. All of my main characters are straight-up drawn from my parents. My dad is an old-school cholo who was always out front working on his lowrider car. Anyone that has a lowrider knows it has to be a way of life because there is constant maintenance. I’m talking every weekend they’re working on it. My dad was always working on his lowrider, always with Chucks and his Dickies pants creased, but always driving me to little league practice. He’s a good dad, always like, “Show a little gratitude and handle your business. That’s what’s up!”
As I was developing Creeper over the years, I really started to do my research by watching Buster Keaton, Benny Hill, the Three Stooges and Mr. Bean because there are people around the world that don’t speak English, but they get the physical comedy. So Creeper moves in this certain way that just makes people laugh, and you don’t even have to say anything.
I have news for you. He’s also funny just standing still. JC is my favorite character though. I want to hang out with her, just not in public because she might start wildin’.
JC! Juanita Carmelita! That’s my mother to the fullest! She’s a firecracker! She had a military father and was the oldest of all of her siblings. She went through some very tough things growing up so for her to come out the way she did, to be so loving and positive, is something I’m very grateful for. Matter of fact, let me get her on the phone so you can see what I am working with. You need to see where this s— comes from.
Frankie: Hey mom! I have Ali here from the L.A. Times!
Mama Quiñones: Hi, how are you?
I feel like I am talking to royalty right now. How do you feel about Frankie doing impressions of you?
MQ: You know, I feel like it’s just our life. It’s pretty right on! That’s how we live life and when he does impressions of me, it doesn’t surprise me at all.
Has he done any that you were like, please don’t ever do that again?
MQ: Yes! When I was chasing the cable man because he shut off our cable!
Frankie: I know you were mad at me for the one when the bank was going to take our house and the man came out to take pictures because that’s what they do when they are going to foreclose. My mom went outside in her pajamas and her chanclas and starts telling off the photographers like, “F— you, you’re not taking this house from me!” She was doing that motion where you take your hand and flip it out under your chin, like an Italian f— you. I was like, Mom! They’re just doing their job!”
MQ: Let me ask you one thing. Did they take the house? No, they did not!
Frankie: You’re right, they didn’t. By some miracle that payment got made.
Maybe the photographer who came out made the payment because he was so terrified.
MQ: Oh gosh, I feel so exposed right now!
Frankie: Hey, remember that time they sold us some tortillas at the grocery store and there was a little bit of mold on one of them? She went back to the grocery store and made a scene! She was like, how dare you! I was trying to hide …
MQ: Yes! I don’t care because that was the point! You don’t sell moldy tortillas. You just don’t do that. How dare you! We spent our hard-earned money on those tortillas and they had mold on them. So, I took them back. Frank was embarrassed and I don’t care!
Frankie: My parents came from the projects and fought their asses off for a better life for me and my sister. They’ve always been so supportive and the one constant in our lives has always been comedy.
MQ: Oh, absolutely! Laughter and music are what got us through. We went through a lot of hard times, we had a lot of hard struggles, but Frank always knew, put on the music and stay positive. And we told you when you started comedy, if you’re going to do it, you better kick some ass in it. Don’t half-ass it, take it to the top. If that’s your choice, we support you 100%.
OK so yes, spot-on with the impression. My new bestie JC mentioned not just music but also laughter getting you through — what were you all laughing at in your house?
We religiously watched “In Living Color,” “Culture Clash,” “Saturday Night Live” — they were even watching George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez. They were into all of that! They’d be like, “Just cover your ears at the bad parts, mijo!” I saw how powerful humor could be so I started grabbing my mom’s clothes, my sister’s clothes — whatever I could find in the house to do shows for them.
A lot of people don’t know that I’ve been doing stand-up for 16 years. They think I got lucky making a YouTube video but it’s like, nah homie. We’ve been doing this! And when I’m on stage with a room full of strangers, I’m like, “Let’s go, homie!” That’s when I’m the most alive and confident. I’m floating. Then I get people yelling out, “Hey, do Creeper!” and it’s like, “Hey, calm down homie. You gonna get what you came for!” Repping my culture has been a challenge in the industry because they were like, “OK, you’re very specific” or “If you could do it this way …” I just wanted to stay true to myself, and I did that, and now there are people from all demographics coming out to my shows.
Creeper is your “Free Bird”! I got a screener of “This Fool” and watched it all in one sitting. I wanted more when it was over, yo quería más.
Thank you! That’s what’s up! One of my best friends, Chris Estrada, started writing a show with some other homies of mine, Pat Bishop, Jake Weisman and Matt Ingebretson. It’s produced by Jonathan Groff and Fred Armisen and it’s based around Chris’ life. It’s something I’m so proud of. Like, they finally let us do our thing and it came out so good. I think it’s not only going to resonate with our people but with everyone.
I’m sure when you got into comedy you didn’t think that so much of the gig would revolve around social media. It can be such a blessing and curse. How are you handling it?
It was a bit challenging at first because you know, I’m about to be 42. I was on Facebook and then Instagram came out and now I gotta get on Snapchat — then they’re like, you gotta get on TikTok and I’m like, how many things? So many! With that being said, I got to a point where I was like, you gotta look at this as work. You gotta play ball. Sure enough, I got on all of the platforms and I’m grateful that I did because there are people that come to my shows that will be like, “Oh, I found you on TikTok and that’s why I’m here.” So yeah, you gotta play ball. Luckily, I’m in a position where I can hire some help and now, I’m grateful that I have TV work so I don’t have to stress over how many posts I do a day and algorithms. I don’t want to post just to post anyway, I want to make dope s—. I want my content to make you feel optimistic while laughing out loud. That’s my jam.
Where were you at in life when you felt confident enough to quit your day job, and how do you feel about balancing it all?
I was delivering a sandwich when I got the call about “Dress Up Gang” and that was the last time I did anything besides comedy for money. CholoFit went viral after that in 2017. By 2020 I was the busiest I’d ever been and was thinking, oh yeah, this is going to be a good year! Then the pandemic hit and it was a little rough for your boy because usually I’m used to being around energy. There was a silver lining though and I got to a good space and ended up doing a Christmas movie.
When everything opened back up, I went back to touring, got to do “What We Do in the Shadows,” we shot the pilot for “This Fool” last fall, so it’s just been go, go, go. I still want to be kicking it with my community too, so there’s a lot of pull. I used to dream, what if one day you get a show? Now I got one and I’m more stressed out than ever, but I’m excited. I am super grateful, you know? I’m learning that life takes a lot of maintenance and sometimes I gotta tap into my inner Creeper like, “Hey homie, just be present and be alive!”
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