Comedian and actor Alec Mapa has been making people laugh for years on classic TV programs like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, as well as his own one-man comedy shows. His latest project is a new stand-up concert film called Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy, which will premiere this month at the Outfest Fusion Film Festival. If that wasn't exciting enough, Mapa will also be honored at the official Fusion Gala with an Achievement Award.
In advance of his premiere and honor, Mapa chatted with GLAAD about his new film, his favorite roles, and how fatherhood has changed his life.
GLAAD: Congratulations on your Fusion Achievement Award from Outfest! What does winning this award and the festival itself mean to you?
Alec Mapa: Gosh, I've been flying under the radar so many years. Winning a career achievement award means my efforts haven't gone entirely unnoticed. It's humbling because the festival has acknowledged that my work as an out gay artist has been of value to our community and it's weird because honestly, I didn't think anyone was paying attention. I thought I was just a gay guy telling fart jokes who sometimes was on TV, but apparently there's more to me than that.
GLAAD: In addition to being honored by the festival, your performance film Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy will have its world premiere that same night, Saturday March 15. What topics can audience expect to watch you tackle in the new film?
AP: Baby Daddy is all about how my husband and I became parents through the foster adopt system. It starts out as a very rowdy, very blue comedy special and then morphs into a more theatrical, intimate storytelling event. I cover the sensitive topic of aging in the gay community, the crime of twenty-something gays not knowing who Bette Davis is, the experience of hosting the gay porn awards for Showtime, the effect parenthood has had on our sex life, and how adopting a five-year-old boy turned our lives upside down. I wrote the show to be enjoyable and moving regardless of whether or not you liked kids. You can absolutely hate children and still have a good time.
GLAAD: In addition to being a comedian and actor, you and your husband Jamison Hebert are also dads. How did becoming a dad change your life and your comedy?
AP: I'm a gay man who lives in LA so my self-worth was always based on how much work I got or my physical appearance. That ended up making me completely miserable. I was on a hit TV show, the thinnest I've ever been, and I still didn't feel like I was enough. Having a kid gave me a sense of purpose and value I'd never felt before. Yes, there are sacrifices, but they're sacrifices I'm willing to make. I had a solid 45 years of selfishness before my kid came along, so I'm good. I'm still vain, but I'm not as freaked out about growing old. I want to see how my son turns out and I'd love grand babies and that requires aging. My currency is less tied to work or my waistline and more caught up in being a good dad. I'm exhausted, but happier. I'm not as worried about bombing. At the end of the day, time with my son and raising him to be a thoughtful, confident, loving person is what matters most.
GLAAD: How did the experience of making this movie compare to the experience of creating and performing your one-man show, I Remember Mapa?
AP: I Remember Mapa was my first solo show in LA 18 years ago. I was broke and hungry to break into TV and I thought being gay and Asian meant that would never happen. I ended up working in TV shortly thereafter, so 18 years later the things I obsessed over don't seem like such a big deal. The experience of raising the funds for this film on Kickstarter and producing it with my husband Jamison Hebert and our good friend, director Andrea James, has been a very empowering experience. We didn't need a green light from a theater, TV network or film studio so we could make the film we wanted. Now I'm completely hooked on that kind of freedom.
GLAAD: TV audiences will also know you from some of your many roles on shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. What were some of your favorite roles and experiences working in television?
AP: Connie and Carla, the drag queen musical I did with Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette, was the most fun I ever had doing anything. It was a huge flop but I got to fulfill my childhood dream of singing and dancing with Debbie Reynolds. TransAmerican Love Story was the transgender dating show I did for World of Wonder. It only aired on Logo for a single season but on that set I met Calpernia Addams and Andrea James who both made me laugh until I peed. I consider them both best friends to this day. They're also my son's coolest aunties.
GLAAD: Is there any kind of role you haven't gotten the chance to play yet, but would like to?
AP: I've always wanted to be the lead in a gay romantic comedy of some kind. Lonely gay Asian comic meets a hot farm boy, falls in love, adopts a kid, hilarity ensues. I may have to write it myself. Oh wait. I think I did.