Actor and comedian George Lopez has built a successful career by finding the humor in his difficult childhood and in the Mexican-American community in general.

George Lopez was born on April 23, 1961. A native of Los Angeles, he grew up in the San Fernando Valley’s Mission Hills, experiencing an economically poor upbringing. His childhood wasn’t very happy, being abandoned by his father when he was only two months old and by his mother when the future comedian was only ten years old. George Lopez’s mother remarried and moved to Sacramento, leaving George Lopez with his grandparents, Benne Gutierrez, an emotionally distant woman and Refugil Gutierrez, the maternal step-grandfather. Birthdays? Mr. Lopez never celebrated one while growing up in the San Fernando Valley. He was raised by a grandmother whose own life of hardship, he said, left her ill-equipped to express love or joy, much less indulge in frivolities like parties.

Most of his stand-up comedy is based specifically on his childhood and unique characterization of his Hispanic relatives, particularly the grandmother who raised him. After years of struggling as a stand-up comic, Lopez finally released his first album, Alien Nation, in 1996 and with it his rise to superstardom began. Within five years he had landed his own weekly ABC-TV series, The George Lopez Show, where he was co-creator (with actress Sandra Bullock), writer, producer, and star. In addition to his television career, Lopez continues to perform as a stand-up comic and to record comedy albums. Team Leader was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album. He also wrote an autobiography entitled Why You Crying, which was published that same year.

Lopez faced some health challenges in 2005. Suffering from a genetic disorder, which caused his kidneys to deteriorate, Lopez received a kidney transplant that year. His wife Ann, whom he met in 1990, was the donor. The couple recovered quickly from the operation and George Lopez bounced back with a wide variety of projects, including the 2006 CD release El Mas Chingon. The disc was recorded live at the Ice House in Pasadena, California, where he had also recorded Team Leader three years previously. Material for both his 2007 album, America’s Mexican, and his 2009 effort, Tall, Dark & Chicano, were drawn from HBO specials of the same name. The 2012 release It’s Not Me, It’s You was another HBO special, but this one was aired live, beamed right to the cable network’s satellites from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Regarded as one of the top comedians, Lopez has received several honors for his work and contributions to the Latino community, including the 2003 Latino Spirit Award for Excellence in Television. He was also named one of “The Top 25 Hispanics in America” by Time magazine in 2005.

Read more at George Lopez Mines a Rich Vein of Gloom With an All-Latino Sitcom

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