Fr. Greg Boyle works another miracle! Saves Last Comic Standing!
Comic winner's life turned around after encounter with Jesuit priest
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- On Aug. 9, as television viewers tuned in to find out who would be the 2010 "Last Comic Standing," finalist Felipe Esparza was walking back and forth on an NBC stage, microphone in his right hand. The young man with an Amish-style beard was talking about his Mexican father who liked to patrol the neighborhood for discarded furniture. One day he returned with what young Felipe and his five brothers and one sister thought was the most humongous television set they'd ever seen with a dial that had 500 -- yes, 500 -- channels. "When I got older, it didn't have 500 channels," the stand-up comic deadpanned. "It was a knob from the oven. My favorite channel was 300 degrees. It was a hot show." The TV and online audiences voted Esparza the "Last Comic Standing," awarding him the $250,000 grand prize along with a one-year development deal with NBC. But Esparza's life has not been a laughing matter. He became involved with a gang "just for the drugs," started drinking at 15 and by 19, he said, he was an alcoholic. His mother went to the priest at Dolores Mission, their parish. Jesuit Father Greg Boyle came to the family's house and talked to Esparza, persuading him to turn in a weapon and telling him about a drug treatment center that had helped other youths. Esparza wound up staying at the center for more than a year and returned for another six months as a volunteer. While he was going through the 12-step program, the priest offered encouragement. Now, Esparza said he has been sober for more than 12 years, and he believes his time in the center helped him to realize what his dreams were.