Comedian Frankie Quiñones Talks His Sketch Comedy Podcast, Family-Inspired Characters and ‘This Fool’
2022 was a pretty damn good year for Frankie Quiñones. The stand-up comic worked with Will Ferrell’s Big Money Players Network on Season Two of The Frankie Quiñones Show. Unlike a lot of other comedian podcasts, which often are simply comics bullshitting with other comics, The Frankie Quiñones Show is straight-up sensational sketch comedy with Quiñones playing multiple characters. And he just got nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his role as just-out-of-prison Luis on This Fool, a comedy currently streaming on Hulu. We recently sat down with Frankie to talk about his crazy year.
For those who have never heard your podcast, what should they expect?
For me, it was a nostalgic thing because I grew up listening to Cheech and Chong, older Adam Sandler CDs and sketches with just audio. So I always knew I wanted to do that. You know, pretty much every comedian has a podcast. So I was on that tip for a while — should I start one? Well, I would love to do sketches like I used to listen to growing up. Then Will Ferrell started the Big Money Players, and his people reached out. He said some good things about my characters: “Man, I really love how specific they are.” I was pumped. But it turned out to be a lot more work, recording sketches and adding the sound effects.
This season, we’ve also incorporated interviews, which has been cool. Sometimes I’m a character interviewing a guest, or myself interviewing a guest, or myself interviewing one of my characters, or one of my characters interviewing one of my other characters. It’s a lot of fun.
A lot of your characters, like Creeper and Juanita Carmelita, are based on members of your family. Do you ever get pushback that they don’t want you making fun of them?
Not really. If anything, my mom a couple of times will give me some pushback: “I don’t act like that.” I’m like, “Mom, come on, we all know that you do.” Then she’ll admit it: “Okay, maybe a little bit, but you don’t have to act all crazy like that, you know?” I just spice it up. She can get a little defensive, but everything I’m doing about her is true. But she’s supportive and embraces it,. She just likes to talk her shit every now and then.
One character that cracks me up is Emo Primo. Where did he come from?
So in our community, we always have a cousin that’s in one of these phases. And during the pandemic, I was just messing around with characters to keep myself from going crazy. I was even dressing up and walking around, doing the voice for whole days. It got weird. But anyways, it was this emo thing. I was posting these little Instagram stories and getting a big response from my friends.
I went to this makeup artist, and I go, “Look, I’ve been doing this person. Could we do something?” And she went and got a wig, got a nose ring, got some eyeliner. We had a test day where we started doing him up. Then I was like, “Oh man, this is a dude!” And so, I started writing music as Emo. We recorded a music video. We did a behind-the-music interview. We got a big response so I started embracing him more.
Each character is like a little piece of me. I still deal with depression and anxiety, and I zoom in on that with Emo Primo. In a selfish way, it’s kind of therapeutic. People can relate to it, and it’s cool to see. You’re rooting for him, and he has some success in his music. I'm excited to dig into the deeper layers of him.
Do you have a process for developing characters? How long are you working on something before you decide, “I'm going to put this on Instagram and see how people respond”?
Social media allows you to test stuff out, which is cool because I still need to get better at it. I’m 42, so I’m coming from when Myspace was introduced. I’m still getting hip to it in a lot of ways. I just love doing voices, and I’ve always done that since I was little. With Juanita Carmelita, the character based on my mom, I started doing her probably over 15 years ago. And Creeper was based off my father, so those characters were in the works for a long time. I might mess around with voices on social media outlets, but I wouldn’t do a whole production, not even a little YouTube thing, until I feel like the character is ready, until I can see some layers in them.
That’s when I get pumped — when I’ve figured out a character enough where I can just become that person to the point of where I’m even thinking as them. Like, “Oh man, remember when you were little and that one thing happened?” Like I’m having their memories in my head. When I can get there, that’s when I’m comfortable turning the cameras on. But sometimes it takes me a while. I’ll sit there and write, doing creative writing as them. What would this person talk about? What’s their story? What’s something that happened to them when they were younger that makes them behave this way?
And just watching legends and their character work, like Robin Williams and all those characters he used to do. It gives me goosebumps on the back of my neck. You forget who it is because they’re so good at it. I try to tap into all that.
There’s a particular talent that people have for playing sketch characters that doesn’t always translate to playing a real character in a movie or a TV show. But what you're doing in This Fool is impressive. Luis feels like a real guy. Are you using a different skill set when you’re acting in This Fool versus when you’re doing a sketch character?
It’s so funny, because I was just talking to the homie Bobby Lee. It gets him angry that sometimes comedians or guys who do sketch work aren’t looked at as real actors — “He does sketch comedy, he's not a real actor.” And Bobby’s like, “That is fucking acting! When I see you doing your characters, you’re that person!” And I’m like, “I guess you’re right.”
To me, it’s almost the same. I know some of my characters are over-the-top, obviously, but I do like them to feel grounded and real. I definitely tapped more into that when Luis came at me. I was grateful. (This Fool creator and star) Chris Estrada was my close friend, and he toured with me for years. When they started developing the show, they had a more on-the-nose person in mind to play Luis, a bigger, tatted-up, tougher kind of dude. But I grew up around that. I always knew I could do it. They were gonna have me be part of the show in some capacity — in the writers’ room or a smaller character. But they were having trouble finding that guy for Luis. They could find the aesthetic, but they couldn’t find the person who had the chops.
And so, Chris said, “We should have you read for it.” Maybe it was just to punch up the character at first and figure him out. But then they were like, “Oh shit, you can play it!” In my head, I knew I could do it, and Chris knew I could do it. But he had to go to bat for me because you have these executives you’re dealing with. I’m sure you’re familiar with how that process goes: “Okay, this guy’s a sketch comedy guy. We love Frankie but we don’t know if we can see him playing this part.” But then (producer) Fred Armisen took a liking to it, and Jonathan Groff, who’s an EP on it and did Black-ish, said the perfect thing: “Dude, he’s making the character more interesting. He’s giving it a Joe Pesci kind of vibe.” When he said that, everybody was like, “All right!” Once I got the part, I was like, “Hell yeah, let’s go to work, man.”
I took inspiration from family and Chris’ cousin, who is named Luis. Luckily, it all came together. It was a lot of fun on set. We do the script, and then they would let me have my takes — “Alright, Frankie, do your thing.” I’m excited for Season Two.
Vulture named you one of the 24 comedians you should know in 2022. That’s pretty cool at this stage of the game, right?
When that kind of stuff happens, it’s very humbling and just cool. It motivates me, and it’s inspiring. In the end, I know it sounds cheesy as hell, but I really see myself as a true artist. I’m making people laugh. People are watching my material or listening to it. All the people that I’ll never get to meet face-to-face, I get an opportunity to touch in some way. That shit gets me motivated. That’s crazy, you know? That is a wild thing to me. So when I get recognition like that, there’s an opportunity to reach these people. Just put some fuel into me, right? I love it.