Freddy Stebbins, one of Miami’s preeminent standup comics, will debut some new shows in South Florida this year. But, like one of the characters that he impersonates, Walter Mercado, Stebbins discusses how experienced both joy and pathos on his path to notoriety.
What’s your claim-to-fame?
I’m a professional standup comedian and a college professor. Some call me Miami’s “Nutty Professor.”
Where did you grow up?
I haven’t (laughs).
What’s something special about Miami that isn’t common knowledge?
Miami is one of the only major cities founded by a woman.
How long have you lived in South Florida?
It’s a life sentence…
What part of South Florida do you live in?
I live in South Miami.
What do you like most about living here?
It makes every other city seem incredibly friendly.
Where do you hang out in South Florida?
At dive bars that have live comedy or bands, with family and friends, and on Biscayne Bay.
What’s your favorite restaurant in South Florida?
The Peacock Garden in Coconut Grove.
What South Florida venue do you miss that’s gone?
The Orange Bowl.
If you had to live somewhere else other than here, where would you live?
In the United States (laughs).
Which one of your old jobs least prepared you for what you do now?
A play-by-play announcer for Jai-Alai.
How did you perform during the quarantine?
I joined various zoom meetings and/or parties as a surprise guest, such as the astrologer Walter Mercado!
What’s the best stand-up gig that you ever did?
I performed once at an afternoon “grand opening” of an LA Fitness. I did my act in front of 100 sweaty, exhausted people that were on stationary bikes or treadmills. Making them laugh proved that I’m a professional (laughs).
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you onstage?
Someone told me to “break a leg” before a show. Halfway through the show, I tripped over the mic wire and actually broke my leg! I did three shots of Patron tequila and finished the performance. The leg took four months to heal, by the way.
Of all the comic festivals you’ve been a part of, which was the most special to you?
The 2017 Miami’s Ultimate Comedian competition; I won it. It was a huge audience, I won $5,000, and I was named Miami’s Best Standup Comedian.
Of all the characters that you do, which one is your favorite?
The legendary astrologer, Walter Mercado! He’s outrageous, he’s very Miami, he has a great accent, and he allows me to improvise.
How did you come up with the idea to do historical comic lectures about Miami?
I love Miami’s colorful history, and I wanted to teach people about it in a fun way.
What’s the best TV show or film that you ever did?
A season on the Travel Channel’s Get Packing. I got to be on national TV almost every day. It was fun while it lasted (laughs)!
What’s your dream gig?
To be on Saturday Night Live.
Sophie’s Choice: if you could make the same amount of money teaching college or being an entertainer, which one would you choose?
Teaching college, because it also allows me to do standup comedy in class.
What’s the weirdest question that a fan has asked you?
“Is that your real hair?”
Will you ever retire?
What’s the last thing that you looked at online?
Grindr… but I swear that I’m deleting it!
What would your drag name be?
Miss Elona Musky.
What would your autobiography be called?
Lemme Tell Jou Somesing!
What’s the greatest tragedy of your life?
After a performance late one night in June of 2008, I was the victim of a most brutal, premeditated, bloody, gay-bashing attack. I was hospitalized and endured years of pain and surgery to recover. To this day, the perpetrator has not been identified or caught. He was an anonymous person who had been stalking me at my shows. As Miami’s first “out” standup comedian, I was publicly exposed to both supportive and antagonistic people. I have fully recovered from this traumatic event, and I’m stronger, prouder, tougher, and a more resilient person because of it.
What’s something secretive about you that people don’t know?
That I can be a very solitary person, and that I like country music (laughs).
Where can we see you?
My schedule is on my website—it’s freddystebbins.com—but I’m delighted to announce that my 1960’s Copacabana variety/comedy lounge show called Freddy & The Flamingos is back. My next Freddy & The Flamingos show will be on April Fool’s Day at Bar Nancy in Little Havana. I occasionally invite some of Miami’s best drag queens to perform with us in it. I’ll also debut my new one man comedy/history show, Sentenced to Miami Without the Possibility of Parole!, on May 14. And if that isn’t enough, in August I’m also starting my famous walking history tours of Miami again. But once a month, I’ll give the tour as Walter Mercado, in full costume and character of course (laughs).