Joe Minjares can prepare anything on the Pepitos menu, but he could’ve never cooked up many of the scenes that occurred at the Mexican restaurant he’s owned since 1971.
In Part 2 of our interview, we talk about the extremes to which some customers have gone to not pay up and about comedians with whom the actor/comedian has worked. In the accompanying video, you’ll get to hear Joe impersonating Roseanne Barr.
Q: We got to be friends when you were out in L.A. working on your acting career. I talked to you a lot after that earthquake.
A: Yeah, that was a scary thing. But do you remember the time I brought my friend from L.A., the comedian Stan Davis? He’s in a lot of stuff now, a lot of series. We bought stolen tickets and were in the Vikings owner’s private booth and the police came and hauled us out. Luckily, officer [Donny] Banham, who was in charge of security, realized it wasn’t us. They ended up taking us inside, giving us really good seats, and then he felt bad for me so he came and got us and let us stand next to the Vikings bench. So we’re slapping ballplayers on the butts — “Good play, good play” — and of course, I’m a hero to Stan now. I took that premise when I was writing for Tom Arnold, and we wrote an episode about stolen tickets.
Q: What other comedians’ careers did you influence?
A: I opened for Jeff Foxworthy, Andrew Dice Clay, Jerry Seinfeld, Rob Schneider — all these guys were club comics. I became a big fish in a small pond, and they moved on to national fame. When I got to L.A., for that little time in my life that I took that run at stardom, I would run across these people like Seinfeld. They would just say, “Give him a part.” That’s why I got to go on “Seinfeld.” Of course, Tom opened the door for a lot [of us].
Q: I was not a regular watcher of “ER” but I stumbled on the night you were on the NBC show.
A: I was just thinking about that the other day. That episode, at that time, was the largest-viewed “ER” in history. I had the part of a restaurant owner, bringing in a guy faking choking or something so he didn’t have to pay for his buffet. Of course, with type-casting like that, you do pretty damn good. I see that all the time.
Q: What is the weirdest thing somebody has pulled to avoid paying?
A: We get a lot of stuff. I had a woman here who ordered chicken wings to go and then when I brought them out she said, “These are unacceptable. They’re too small.” I said, “These are jumbo chicken wings; three to a pound. I’m sorry.” I went to walk away and she said, “Wait a minute, aren’t you going to make me a deal?” I said, “Ma’am, I already did. I made a deal to sell you chicken wings.” You ask anyone in the restaurant business ... Oh, [he slapped the table] here’s a better one for you. The Groupon thing. You can get different Groupons, right? Guy came in with a four-people Groupon and he wanted to use it for himself. That’s a $50 discount. The [staffers] didn’t know how to handle it, ’cause this guy was getting really loud. I walk in and here’s this guy, sitting there [arms folded] and he’s got a mound of takeout food. I said, “What’s the problem?” He says, “I want to use this Groupon.” “The Groupon it says right there, four people, eat-in only.” He says, “My friends are at home and I’m bringing this food over.” I said, “Naw, I don’t think so.” Then he goes on to say, “If you don’t honor this coupon, I’m going to spread the word all over town.” Then he said he had a radio program and was going to bad-mouth me on air. I said, “You know something? People could construe that as bullying. You go ahead and do it and see what happens.” Well, he didn’t.
Q: Although you’re coping with pulmonary fibrosis, you’re putting people at ease when they see you with your portable oxygen tank.
A: Because that’s what I do. What can I say? Clock’s ticking. I’ve got to get that transplant. There are a lot of people with this. I feel like I’m stronger than most people but my oxygen requirements are so high.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.