On this April afternoon, Gabriel Iglesias is speaking to Variety via Zoom, as he’s currently on the road with his “Back on Tour” show. But he’s not doing the interview alone. There are two persistent and adorable interlopers who keep making appearances: his pet Chihuahuas, Vinnie and Risa. And, as all dogs should be, they are the center of attention. Even when Vinnie walks off screen, his snores can be heard moments later. And as Iglesias holds her, Risa can’t stop gently licking his arm with her wayward tongue.
“They’re with me pretty much 22 hours out of the day,” Iglesias says. “They’re spoiled not just because of their lifestyle but with attention. They are never left alone, they always have somebody around them.”
On the rare occasion Iglesias can’t take them somewhere and has to step out for a bit — e.g. a dentist appointment — he says he returns home to confused faces. “They’re like, ‘Father! Father! We thought you weren’t coming back!’”
Iglesias says his love for the breed extends back to his childhood and his first Chihuahua, Dino, a gift from his sister. Since then, he’s had Chihuahuas all his life. With Iglesias, the dogs have been to more than 35 states. Risa is the princess who runs the show and at 3 pounds, doesn’t hesitate to boss around her 12-pound brother.
Vinnie, the brown-and-white pup, is the youngest — Iglesias has had him for almost 10 years — and the most personable. “He’s always happy,” says Iglesias. “I wish I could be that happy all the time.”
Risa, the salt-and-pepper dog whose tongue perpetually hangs at an angle outside her mouth, has been with Iglesias for 17 years and is … less expressive in her joy. “This one is not very affectionate as far as like licking your face or kisses and such,” Iglesias notes. Nevertheless, she has been quietly licking his arm for at least 10 minutes straight. “This is how she lets you know she’s OK with you.”
Iglesias asks a friend to demonstrate Risa’s hesitancy by attempting to touch her head — the dog immediately draws back. He then holds her up to his face and gives her a kiss, which she tolerates. “See, if anyone else did this, they would lose their nose. The fact I can do this — the fact that she doesn’t kill me — tells me she loves me.”
Both dogs happen to be sporting Dodger tags in support of her father’s upcoming sold-out shows at the baseball stadium. “They’re promoting,” Iglesias says. “I’m putting them to work.”
The two will soon make their feature film debuts — sort of. Director Jorge Gutiérrez says the underdog protagonist of the upcoming animated film “I, Chihuahua” is based on Iglesias’ dogs. In the meantime, the two enjoy a healthy stardom on Iglesias’ social media, where he regularly posts photos of his canine companions.