Comic Nick Guerra talks love, growing up in the RGV

McAllen native Nick Guerra wanted to film his HBO Latino special “Love Me At My Worst” as close to the Rio Grande Valley as possible.

Recorded live in San Antonio, the comedy segment is Guerra’s homage to his hometown, where he tells stories of 4 a.m. trips to Whataburger, and the difference between Mexican and American doctors.

The special premieres at 8:30 p.m. Friday on HBO Latino.

“I wanted to talk about South Texas specifically,” said Guerra, 37. “Because through other comedians, you learn about cities like Jacksonville … New York … everywhere. I wanted people to learn about South Texas.”

The segment will be available on all HBO streaming services after its premiere. The special is an edition of HBO Latino’s “Entre Nos” comedy shows.

Guerra attended McAllen High School, where he said he carried the reputation of being the class clown. Making his friends laugh is where his passion for stand-up originated.

“Apparently, I was the funny one in the group,” he recalled, chuckling. “I was always trying to make my friends laugh, and when you make your friends laugh, that is where you learn to love it.”

After graduating, Guerra spent one semester at the University of North Texas before deciding that school was not for him. After a rough period of trying to find his place, he found a spotlight during a stand-up show.

He remembers the exact date when he walked on his first stage — April 25, 2005.

Since 2009, Guerra has lived in North Hollywood. He was voted audience favorite after his run on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” and has also made debuts on Comedy Central’s “Gabriel Iglesias’ Stand Up Revolution,” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

Throughout his comedic career, as he travels the country to make people laugh, Guerra said that his roots in the Valley are his main source of content and motivation.

“I mean, I am working hard and seeking exposure to fulfill my dream and goal of bringing the spotlight back to the Valley,” Guerra said. “The Valley is a very big part of me and I want the world to know, or at least America to understand, that we are not what they think we are. We are more than that.”

Guerra said — through jokes and stories — the half-hour special encourages his audience to see the Valley with a more open mind. He addresses weighty topics, such as the immigration situation at the southern border.

Guerra is also inspired by love, another deep subject he covers in the segment.

“My work, my entire career, my main focus on jokes has been about relationships and searching for love,” Guerra said.

“The main thing we all strive for is a good relationship. It is one of the few things that can be translated in every language — love,” he said. “Talking about love can be a scary and complicated thing to do, but once we realize that it is something we all go through, it can be made easier.”

Guerra said the title of the special, “Love Me At My Worst,” was inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s famous saying — “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

His goal through the segment is to remind people that they are not alone in facing relationship issues.

“The big thing is, I think in our lives, we feel like we are the only ones experiencing the problems we go through,” he said. “We think that we are the only ones … having fights and going through depression. But when you hear a comic talk about it and see people laugh along, you realize that you are not alone at all.

“The show is a therapy in that kind of way … laughing it off is the best thing.”

Guerra emphasized that the show is meant to be light-hearted with meaningful messages to take away.

“You are going to laugh, that is still, and will always be, the main thing,” he said. “This is not a heavy show, there is no big message, it is not a lecture or TED Talk, it is still a comedy show. But in it, there are jokes that do have a message in them.

“If you want to have a good laugh and are maybe going through a tough time, and want to see something from a different perspective, you want to watch this. It is decently safe for grandma, but there might be some jokes you have to explain to her.”