Felipe Esparza credits Bill Cosby for turning him on to comedy as a career.
Esparza, 45, headlines the comedy at Jokers on Nov. 14-16. Showtime is 8 p.m. Cover charge is $10, or $20 including dinner.
"I was 13 years old when I first heard a Bill Cosby record," Esparza said in a telephone interview. "I memorized the entire show. He had me when he started talking about spending the night with his brother Russell."
Esparza grew up in a rough East Los Angeles neighborhood, focusing on comedy to get through the struggles of everyday life.
"There have been a lot of changes ... bad neighborhoods have turned good," he said. "I still like to joke about it and have one that goes like this: I know I'm not a tough guy, but I'm pretty sure I can beat up everyone who shops at Trader Joe's."
Esparza's style earned him the title on NBC's Last Comic Standing in 2010. Then in 2012 he produced and starred in a one-hour special for Showtime titled They're Not Gonna Laugh At You. That special is now on DVD.
Though he claims he's the one guy from his neighborhood who hasn't changed and perhaps never will, he does admit to being a nicer person than he used to be.
"I used to be a horrible person, irresponsible," Esparza said. "I'm making some progress in changing that, and comedy helps me do that."
He says if he had to rate his show it would be PG-13, though Jokers is a 21 and older venue. He warns people that he uses coarse language but stays away from sexual jokes.
"Not really sure why that is, probably because I just talk about life, my life, everyone's life," he said.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal