Gabriel Iglesias believes that the jokes he doesn't tell are at least as important as the ones he does.

"I'm onstage, and I'm not talking about politics," says the 37-year-old comedian, widely known by the nickname Fluffy, during a recent phone interview. "I'm not getting religious. I'm not coming across as preachy. I'm not beating up anybody about what they've got to do with their life to make it better.

"I go out there, and I tell stories," he adds. "I tell stories about hanging out with friends. I tell stories about being in relationships. A lot of the material is stuff that people can connect with and relate to."

He is also a humble performer, big on self-deprecating jokes, often about his own weight. One of his standard catchphrases is "I'm not fat, I'm Fluffy."

It's certainly working for him.

Don't look now, but the San Diego native ranks as one of the world's most popular comics. His dance card is filled with high-profile TV and film work, and he's become a top draw on the stand-up circuit.

Big San Jose shows

While most comedians play relatively small clubs, Iglesias has risen to the point where he warrants a two-night stand, Friday and Saturday, at the sizable SAP Center in San Jose. This impressive Shark Tank stand is really the culmination of all the time and effort Iglesias has spent nurturing a fan base in the Bay Area. The shows are being taped for an upcoming concert film, which is expected to hit theaters in July.


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"The Bay Area has always treated me great," he says. "You name it, I've played it (in the Bay Area). I've done Cobb's. I've done the Punch Line. I've done all the theaters -- the Fox, the Fillmore -- and even Shoreline Amphitheatre. I've pretty much been to all of them."

Iglesias says that switching from playing comedy clubs to hockey arenas isn't as tall a task as one might think. In fact, he says there are some definite advantages to a larger setting -- including, counterintuitive as it may sound, fewer distractions.

"In a comedy club, it's very intimate, and you can hear everything," he says. "You can hear a guy clinking a glass in the back. You've got servers walking around taking orders. You've got people who keep checking their phones. You've got people getting up to use the restrooms."

On the other hand, Iglesias says, folks tend to treat an arena show like "it's an event" and pay close attention to what's happening onstage.

"People plan around it for months," he says. "They are actually a lot more connected, believe it or not, in an arena show than they would be in a comedy club."

Working all media

Iglesias credits his rise in popularity to his multimedia approach. He's found success on TV, with such specials as "I'm Not Fat ... I'm Fluffy" and his ongoing Comedy Central series "Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution." He's also put out a number of recordings, including last year's "Aloha Fluffy," and he has appeared in such films as 2012's hugely successful "Magic Mike." Iglesias is due to hit the big screen again in April with the high-profile horror spoof "A Haunted House 2."

"I think that everything has kind of finally come together," he says. "Everything is just firing on all cylinders now. Before, I was working on this, and then I was working on that, and then I was working on that. I figured, 'You know, let me try working on all of them at the same time and see what happens.' "

One of the "that's" is his voice-over work. He's landed roles on such TV shows the Disney Channel's "The Emperor's New School" and Fox's "Family Guy." And his big-screen credits include the Disney-Pixar movie "Planes" (voicing Dusty's bombastic rivals Ned and Zed) and the more recent "Nut Job" (Jimmy, one of the Bruisers groundhogs).

Pleasing the little ones

"I love the idea of doing voice-over work," he says. "It keeps the younger fan base going as well. A lot of people had forgotten who Eddie Murphy was, until he did 'Shrek.' Then all the kids jumped onboard. Now, people know him as the voice of Donkey. So, his fan base is young again."

Iglesias is also active on Twitter and Facebook, firmly believing that social media can have a big impact on a comedian's career. He points out Dane Cook, who starred in "Planes," as a prime example.

"He was the first comic to really jump into social media," Iglesias says of the platinum-selling comedian, who ranks as a MySpace success story. "Next thing you know, he's got a million followers, then 2 million. When he was up to 5 million, he was basically selling out arenas without having to walk into a radio station or go on TV (to promote himself)."

It's about taking charge of your own career, which is exactly what Iglesias is doing through social media and his many other endeavors.

"I think there are a lot of major comedians out there who just want to focus on the craft and allow management to take care of everything else," he says. "You know, nobody is going to take care of your career like you."

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

Gabriel Iglesias

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: SAP Center at San Jose
Tickets: $30-$65, www.ticketmaster.com