Gina Brillon on finding her voice as a Latinx stand-up comedian and working with HBO Latino and the New York Latino Film Festival in the Latinos Stand-Up competition to find a new funny star.
Gina Brillon knew she wanted to be a comedian since she was a little girl. “Ever since I was a kid I had a lot of trouble seeing anybody upset, so anytime anyone was hurt or sad I had to make them laugh by any means necessary. If I had to make funny voices, put on funny makeup or act silly, I would do anything to make somebody happy again,” she tells People CHICA.
When she was a teen, she saw stand up comic Brett Butler on television and knew she wanted to follow her path. “She was gorgeous and fierce, she was like nothing I had seen before. In the ’80s, the women that you saw on TV were overly sexualized or the damsel in distress. In Latino programming, they were either scantily-clad dancers, or we were literally clowns,” she says. “I [saw] this really strong woman. She was holding the attention of a theater full of people. She was smart, funny, and insightful. At 14, I said, ‘That’s the kind of comic I want to be.'”
The Bronx native, of Puerto Rican descent, is now teaming up with HBO Latino and the New York Latino Film Festival to promote the Latinos Stand-Up competition to find the new Latinx star of stand-up comedy. “This is a really good platform to showcase Latino talent,” she says. The winner will have the opportunity to appear in HBO Latino’s popular Entre Nos series.
“The biggest break I got was working with Gabriel Iglesias,” Brillon says, referring to the star Mexican American comedian. “He produced my first hour-long special Pacifically Speaking. We hit it off so well that we ended up having this really great professional relationship. He definitely helped to motivate and guide me in my career.”
She admits that her path to success was not easy. “I was quite often the youngest and the only female in the show. It’s a male-dominated business in a male-dominated world,” she says. “I was the odd man out for a very long time. In this time that we are living now, where women are coming forward and are allowed to speak and stand up for what they believe in, we are getting more love and support coming from networks, clubs, and audiences. It has shifted in a positive direction.”
Brillon’s husband is not intimidated by her humor and is her number-one fan. “He always says, ‘If you’re going to tell jokes about me, just make them funny,'” she says with a laugh. “What inspires me is usually what frustrates me. Frustration is something that connects us all. We all have things that frustrate us, that make us angry, whether it’s something going on in the world—whoever the President is or whatever is going on in your life. A lot of my source of material is what frustrates me, what gets under my skin,” she says of what inspires her hilarious monologues.
The day she graduated from high school was also the first time she faced a live audience. She entered the Funniest Person in the Bronx contest at NYC’s Stand Up NY club, and at just 17 years old won everyone over with her jokes. “I wasn’t nervous, I was at home,” she recalls. “I got on that stage and felt, ‘This is it. This is where I belong.”