comedians you should know

Frankie Quiñones Is Living His Toilet-Paper Dreams

Illustration: Franziska Barczyk

This week, we’re highlighting 24 talented writers and performers for Vulture’s annual list “Comedians You Should and Will Know.” Our goal is to introduce a wider audience to the talent that has the comedy community and industry buzzing. (You can read more about our methodology at the link above.) We asked the comedians on the list to answer a series of questions about their work, performing, goals for the future, and more. Next up is Frankie Quinones.

What would your Real Housewives tagline be?
“I may be a momma’s boy, but my momma is gangster.” My mom had me at a young age, so we are pretty much homies now. Although she always reminds me, “Hey don’t forget foo! I’m your momma!”

What of your work do you think you’re best known for, and what of your work are you most proud of?
I’d say I’m best known for my character work. Creeper is the most popular. He’s a fitness instructor who developed the “CholoFit” routine. Although I am proud of that, especially since Creeper is based off my father, the thing I’m most proud of right now is my work on This Fool — a Hulu series created by one of my best friends, Chris Estrada, and some other longtime homies. It gave me an opportunity to show my acting skills and that I can do more than just stand-up and sketches. I’m pumped it’s doing well.

Tell us one story from your childhood you think explains why you ended up becoming a comedian.
My mom and dad always had stand-up on in the house. They used to let me watch George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Paul Rodriguez, Eddie Murphy, and more. Even as a kid, they would just tell me to cover my ears on the bad parts. Ha. We would always watch In Living Color, Culture Clash, and SNL. It was inspiring to see how powerful humor was in their lives, how it got them through the tough times. Then one day I found a sprinkler head in my dad’s truck, and I would pretend it was a microphone. I started performing for my mom, dad, and sister in the living room. From that day on I never stopped. I was always doing some kind of performing either in the classroom, which got me in a lot of trouble, or in front of my relatives.

If a network green-lit a semi-autobiographical series for you to star in tomorrow, what would your character’s name and job be?
My character’s name would be Oscar, and I would work at a hardware store. I worked at a hardware store in real life for over six years, and I always thought that would be a cool job to have in a TV show. For me at least.

If you had to come onstage to just one song for the rest of your life, what song would it be and why?
“More Bounce to the Ounce” by Zapp & Roger. That song just brings a whole vibe. It’s old-school and funky — just the way I like it. Plus that song has already been a classic for decades. I don’t see it going anywhere.

Tell us everything about your worst show ever.
Oh man. I remember it was this East Oakland crowd, and it was this OG’s birthday. Dude was dressed up wearing gator-skin shoes. Looking fly. There were at least 100 people there if not more. As I walked in, the host told me the crowd was a little crazy, but in my mind I was cocky, like I got this. They asked me to do the gig the day of because the headliner that was supposed to be there had a falling-out with the owner. I still felt confident. At first. I had them for the first ten minutes. Then I did this joke I used to do about a gay gangster hip-hop group. Mind you, this was about ten years ago. In all Black or Latino rooms that joke would go really good, or just okay. This crowd wasn’t having it at all. I totally lost them and became this nervous robot onstage just trying to get through the rest of my set. It was crickets.

One dude stood up and said, “Motherfucka, you ain’t funny!” He hiked his pants back up and sat down. Two older women were sitting up front. They looked like really nice people. One of them said in a very calm voice, “Baby, you look scared.” It was so quiet that everybody could hear her. It was bad, and I had the audacity to hang out after the show. One guy walked by me and said, “Practice!” The only comforting thing that night was the OG whose birthday it was came up to me and said, “You’ll be alright playa. It wasn’t that bad.”

I couldn’t even sleep that night. I called every veteran I knew for advice. They all said that this needed to happen. It wasn’t until later I realized that I did need it. In the end it made me a better comic, and I take that set with me every time I take the stage — to keep me on my toes and be ready for anything.

Nominate one comedian you don’t know personally who you think is overdue for wider recognition and why.
Brian Simpson. Man I love that dude. We’ve crossed paths and shown each other love on social media, but I don’t know him personally. The guy makes me laugh out loud even just watching his clips online. He’s already on his way up, but man — his delivery, his timing, and his writing are genius. If you don’t know who Brian Simpson is, look him up!

When it comes to your comedy opinions — about material, performing, audience, the industry, etc. — what hill will you die on?
One of my personal idols is Robin Williams. His character work is legendary, obviously. Staying true to your voice in this industry is something you have to constantly fight for, and I know Robin had his battles, personally and with the industry, but in the end he did it. It’s so inspiring watching features like Mrs. Doubtfire. He mastered his character work, and my dream would be to make features doing characters. I feel like that would be the ultimate goal career-wise. I could be like, Okay. I did that, then I could wait to die.

What’s an embarrassingly earnest goal you have?
An embarrassingly earnest goal I used to have was to buy 18-24 packs of toilet paper. After 20 years of sharing apartments with other comics and cousins, it was something I always fantasized about. It was always a problem: “We’re out of toilet paper. I bought the last pack!” We’d be using fast-food restaurant napkins or rough paper towels. I’m grateful I have reached the point of ordering boxes of toilet paper right to my doorstep. Every time I get that delivery, which usually last me at least 3-4 months, I think about those days. No more chaffed booty hole, my boy.
What is the best comedy advice, and then the worst comedy advice, you’ve ever received, either when you were starting out or more recently?
The worst comedy advice I’ve ever gotten was, “You gotta go into every show wanting to be the funniest. If you’re the funniest, that’s when people notice.” I was young and took the advice. To me it added this unnecessary competitive factor. I actually feel I got better after I started going into rooms not even trippin’ about trying to be the funniest. I just concentrated on honing my craft and giving more of myself to the crowd, focusing on the energy of the room. If you’re getting laughs and giving a piece of yourself and getting better, then it’s all good. If people think you’re the funniest then that’s cool, but to me it’s not what I focus on. Different approaches work for different people. Just sharing my personal experience.

The best advice I’ve gotten was to take acting classes. I naturally do a lot of facial expressing and act-outs on stage, so at first I didn’t think I needed help or classes. I was wrong. The classes and coaches helped me better harness those expressions. Really work the timing. I still got a lot to learn, but that’s been a big help.

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Frankie Quiñones Is Living His Toilet Paper Dreams