Juan Villareal keeps it fresh, funny

By by camille m. doty/cdoty@vicad.com
Sept. 5, 2012 at 4:05 a.m.

Juan Villareal

Juan Villareal

Juan Villareal can make enemies become friends with his sense of humor.

The 45-year-old Houston native diffused tense situations as a night club security guard. He preferred to make people laugh instead of seeing them fight.

Co-workers encouraged him to venture into comedy. He did. Within months of launching his career, he catapulted into the national limelight.

"It happened really fast for me. I can't explain it," he said.

Villareal will bring his comedy to the Golden Gecko on Saturday. He blazed new trails with 11 appearances on BET's "Comic View," Showtime and HBO.

It's a rare feat to share a stage with comedic greats Paul Rodriguez, Jamie Foxx, Cedric the Entertainer Steve Harvey and Carlos Mencia. But Villareal said he's flattered and humbled by the opportunity.

The father of six attributes his success to different demographics because he lived in a diverse neighborhood. Some comedy has universal appeal because people's needs and desires are similar.

"We're different on the outside, but we all want to be successful and provide for our families," he said.

Villareal's down-to-earth comedy style appealed to promoter Joey Sandoval, who began to chuckle at the mention of Villareal's name.

"He comes from humble beginnings, and he's so funny," said Sandoval. One of his favorite jokes from the funny man is his reference to being on food stamps as the best three years of his life.

Villareal's upbringing in a working class family gives him a springboard of material, but don't expect him to repeat jokes at the Golden Gecko on Saturday night. He keeps his routine fresh and funny.

Edward Hernandez will warm up the downtown Victoria stage as the evening's opening act.

Fate allowed the 43-year-old San Antonio native and Villareal to cross paths two years ago.

Hernandez competed in the Greco Rodriguez Comedy Contest in his hometown. Villareal's manager approached Hernandez, who placed third, to take his act on the road.

The father of two viewed the loss as a major win.

"The guy who won first place, I never saw him again," Hernandez said jokingly.

"I don't know if he's even doing comedy."

Hernandez said his and Villareal's comedic styles complement each other.

Villareal feels a sense of responsibility for helping other comedians get stage time, since others have paved the way for him.

Villareal encourages his fans to support others in show business and says to them, "If you go to other shows, it's not like you're cheating on me."

His heart for comedy is equally matched with serving the community.

A former chef in the U.S. Army Reserve, Villareal performs for Wounded Warriors in San Antonio. He has helped to raise $100,000 for their recovery.

Sharing his gift with others brings him joy.

"I get to make people happy," he said. The holidays come early for some Houston youth thanks to the comedian who donates Christmas gifts in July.

Fans recognize this philanthropic funnyman by his signature baseball cap. He insists that he's not covering a bald spot. Good hair runs in his genes. His 70-something-year-old father has hair comparable to Elvis.

His youthful fashion sense is vastly different from his adult-themed catch phrase, "What's up f......" The rest must be left up your to your imagination.

Villareal was floored when a 108-year-old Michigan woman greeted him with his own contagious expression.

The 20-year comedy veteran said life has changed dramatically in his career. Supporters who have grown with him have become parents and even grandparents. Social media has also adjusted the entertainment landscape.

"I had a telephone and a beeper. Now, I'm 45 and on Facebook," he said. He added that no interaction compares to real face time with the audience.

Villareal's career goal is to make others laugh, have fun, and forget about everyday stress.

"People will forget about their problems, at least for one hour," he said.



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