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10 Comics to Watch: Cristela Alonzo Scores a First With ABC Sitcom

10 COMICS TO WATCH: Latina comic uses penalty money to shoot her own pilot

Hailing from south Texas, Cristela Alonzo took a “huge risk” in selling ABC her self-titled show “Cristela,” resulting in a “big first,” as the Latina comic puts it. The sitcom stars Alonzo as a law-school student pursuing the American dream and dealing with her traditional Mexican-American family.

“We wrote the script, but when the network initially passed, we decided to just go ahead and shoot a pilot presentation with the penalty money,” she says. “We just felt they weren’t getting it, that something was missing in the translation from script to stage.”

Although Alonzo and her producer had “a very generous penalty clause,” it was still barely a third of a typical pilot budget. “So we used the crew and set from ‘Last Man Standing’ and just winged it, including improvising dialogue in Spanish which we’d never even rehearsed,” she says.

SEE ALSO: Gallery: Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch

The gamble paid off big time. ABC greenlit the series, which premieres Oct. 10. “No other Latina has ever done this before — and I’m pretty unknown still,” says the writer-producer-star, who got her start doing standup in Dallas. “I’ve always loved creating my own material, and my comedy’s very personal, so 90% of the show is the real me and my fami- ly. It’s pretty factual — except for the law student bit — just a heightened version.”

INFLUENCES: Carol Burnett, Roseanne, Kathleen Madigan
REPS: Agency: WME, Managers: Joe Meloche, Arson House Entertainment, Andy Corren, Andy Corren Management

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