After Keystone, Gonzales attended Alamo Heights High School, where — full disclosure — he and I could often be seen looking truly miserable in royal-blue polyester marching-band uniforms, beating on bass drums in the Texas heat. At San Antonio College and the University of Texas at Austin, he studied philosophy and art history with the intention of becoming a lawyer or teacher. In his 20s, he socialized amid the colorful scene that populated Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Botánica Infinito — a legendary emporium that displayed some of Gonzales’ cartoony paintings.
While passing through San Antonio in the 1990s, late poet Michele Serros bought a couple of Gonzales’ paintings from Botánica Infinito and encouraged him to give his art career a shot in Los Angeles, where he “floundered for five years.” Although he seems to regret his lack of direction during his California years (“I had zero game plan,” he confessed), Gonzales showed and sold his work in L.A. coffeehouses, taught himself graphic art and eventually landed a design gig for a trade publication.
Fast-forward a few years, and Gonzales had moved back to San Antonio and landed a string of full-time graphic design jobs (working for an architecture firm, the Witte Museum and most recently the Majestic Theatre). As successful as that might sound, Gonzales describes this period of his life as uninspiring. “I was doing graphic art, and just bored out of my mind,” he said. “Going from fine arts into doing brochures? Oh, my God. I was totally bored doing brochures and posters and all that shit. And I started to feel the pull of doing other stuff, but painting was a little less appealing to me.”
Feeling disillusioned by both the financial complexities of fine art and an increasing saturation within the field of graphic design, Gonzales decided to flip the script. “The kind of switch that I consciously made was stopping doing paintings that were cartoony and just saying, ‘Fuck it, I’m doing cartoons.’” Much like he’d taught himself graphic design, Gonzales dove into animation with no formal training and found his footing quickly.
Once he’d created a decent number of episodes, Gonzales started reaching out to other creators and struck up a well-received collaboration with Houston-based rapper/producer Chingo Bling. When he learned that Saturday Night Live alums Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen were looking for creative content for a Latino offshoot of Above Average, the web wing of Lorne Michaels’ media company Broadway Video Entertainment, Gonzales tweeted Sanz a link to The Ernie Show. As a result of that tweet, Gonzales ended up signing a contract in 2016 with Más Mejor, which developed a 30-minute pilot for The Ernie Show with Bento Box Entertainment, the Emmy-winning studio behind Bob’s Burgers and Bordertown. Gonzales co-wrote and executive-produced the pilot, which came extremely close to getting picked up by a cable network and is still being shopped around by Más Mejor. “I’m still hopeful for it,” Gonzales said. “There’s still life to it.”
This realization has sparked several new projects that are similar in tone and style to The Ernie Show but introduce new settings and characters. One project transforms characters reminiscent of Rudy and Jojo into a minotaur and a centaur who get stoned a lot and roam a Conan the Barbarian-era wasteland complete with lasers and babes in leather bikinis. Inspired by the wild stories Gonzales hears from several educators in his life, the other project follows a middle-aged Mexican-American woman named Janie who works in a dysfunctional high school administration office.
But before she clocks in for another thankless day at the office, Janie is anxious to share some crafty tips to help you make the most of Fiesta.
Money Saving Tips
In the first episode, Janie warns viewers that if you don’t do Fiesta right, you can wind up “broke, hungover and even fired.” In Janie’s opinion, doing Fiesta “right” involves scamming (and possibly counterfeiting) food tickets, smuggling booze into events and whatever else it might take to save a little “diaper money.”
In episode two, our hostess introduces herself as “Janie from HR” but doesn’t bother disclosing who her employer is. Citing the copious amounts of beer Fiesta-goers consume at each and every event, she presents Porta Potties as one of the annual celebration’s necessary evils. Tie your shoes, bring your own wipes (preferably Hill Country Fare) and be prepared to hold your breath.
Fiesta Arts and Crafts
Always ready to save a little “beer money,” Janie isn’t about to drop her hard-earned coins on Fiesta fanfare — especially if she can make it at home herself. In episode three, she proves herself as a creative reuse specialist, upcycling children’s chanclas into a festive wreath and constructing what’s quite possibly the world’s first and only “Fiesta dinosaur” from discarded turkey bones.
Clearly speaking from experience, Janie shares tested ways to nip that Tuesday morning Fiesta hangover in the bud – whether it be a thermos full of menudo, a full quart of beer for lunch or a nap in an empty office cubicle. But when it's really serious? “Call in sick. A hangover is alcohol poisoning. You want to go to work poisoned? Hell no!”
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