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Meet Freddy Stebbins, Homegrown Miami Comic

November 28, 2009 By Maria de los Angeles in Miami: Things to Do  | 6 Comments


Freddy Stebbins, born and raised in Miami, is an easygoing guy.  But he’s a little hard to talk to when he’s on a roll.  It’s almost impossible to keep a straight face and a dry eye in front of this stand-up comedic genius.  When he starts improvising, belly laughs ensue, endorphins rise and the conversation gets put on hold.

Stebbins, who is rather quiet, subdued and maybe even a little shy off stage, is actually a great conversationalist and as genuine hearted as they come.  But when he does what he does best, he’s a perfect example of a beautiful Miami anomaly – someone who is so deadpan American yet so deliciously Cuban when he goes into character. The forty-something man barely speaks a lick of Spanish, yet manages to parody every stereotype our magic city has put forth this last century—and then some.

When in character, Stebbins serves up accents, mannerisms and figures of speech like the best steaming hot plate of fried plantains east of the Palmetto Expressway.  If you have a love/hate relationship with Miami, Stebbins is your man and he’s on to you – you know you’re laughing harder because you’re laughing with him too.

But Stebbins also had some scholarly inclinations that were no laughing matter.  He enrolled at the University of Miami and became a politically active leader on campus.  An Iron Arrow inductee his senior year (UM’s highest honor), he eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Humanities. Today, he continues to be involved in academia, teaching Social Science at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus.  His classes are so popular that they fill up quickly as soon as enrollment is announced.

It’s not surprising that someone who can portray characters so easily is also a very entertaining teacher.  Stebbins teaches a Social Environment course, one segment of which is World History.  “You should see me do Napoleon in class,” he said, tucking his right palm into his buttoned-down shirt.  “I’m the nutty professor.”

It’s also not surprising that a passion for history runs in the family. Dr. Paul George, Miami’s foremost historian and tour guide, is not a blood relative, but Stebbins still calls him “uncle” because the Georges and Stebbins have always been close friends.  Both families have very strong ties to old Miami. Stebbins sometimes substitutes Dr. G’s tours in Little Havana. “I’m very passionate about the city,” he claimed.  “I want people to understand Miami for the complex and colorful place it is.  Being a true Miamian is a unique experience. I want to share that.”


But it’s not surprising. Stebbins has roots here that go way back—“B.C.” as one of his characters, Freddy Stebbinowitz, would call it—“Before Cubans.”  He’s lived, breathed and eaten Miami since before he was born.  His father’s side comes from Miami-Dade County pioneering stock, sturdy folk who never minced their words.  His mother is Colombian.  The meeting of cultures produced a precocious child who “got” Miami and loved it in spite of its quirkiness.  Today, Stebbins makes fun of the city he so dearly loves because he knows it too darn well.

“I was around during the days when my American grandmother would still call Miami ‘My-am-uh’ in a Southern accent,” said Stebbins in an interview.  “I’d always go home to a Southern household in southwest Miami, after spending a day with Cuban friends in school.”

Most of us tend to forget that before the influx of Caribbean and Latin American immigrants, Miami was a bit of a backwater Southern city.  For Stebbins, family life could’ve been a peachy portrait of Georgia from the 1940s, except that one fine day the Cubans came and changed everything.  Stebbins can relate to the same bicultural upbringing that most of his forty-something, second-generation Cuban-American friends also experienced in Miami, but with a gringo twist.

“We’d be eating arroz con pollo and flan at the dinner table,” he continued. “But I’d have no choice to hear stories from these bitter Anglos about the Cubans, even though I had Cuban buddies.”

The juxtaposition of accents, culture and home versus school life fed Stebbins’ inspiration throughout the years. His characters range from a hunchback, hilarious curmudgeon Jewish landlord (Freddy Stebbinowtiz) to a buxom, bossy Cuban grandmother (Frederika) – all a social commentary on the variety of characters that make Miami what it is today.

Stebbins is a living sponge, capturing everything that surrounds him without missing a beat. He had hints of his talent at a young age.  The awkward kid attended Christopher Columbus High School and discovered that making people laugh was a way to get around the social mores of being a teenager.  “Cubans found me hysterical,” he claimed.  “I started impersonating everyone around me.  By age 15, I knew I was really good at accents.”


Although Stebbins is inspired by Miami, he didn’t miss the chance to portray Sarah Palin.  All is fair fodder on the comedy stage.

Sometime between high school and grad school, Stebbins also trained for the stage.  He spent five years in Los Angeles with The Groundlings, one of the best improvisation troupes in the country.  He did some show biz work, including a radio job with the LA Dodgers and a full season stint with the Travel Channel’s show Get Packing.

But Miami was always his muse, calling him back home.  “My talent reflects the unique faces of Miami,” he said.  “There are so many nuances.  Personalities here aren’t just about the accents, but their point of view.”

Stebbins would know.  “The reason why there’s so much passion here it’s because it’s so raw,” he explained.  “Old Southerners lived here and then overnight Spanish-speaking people came.  My dad was a real gringo and my mom was Colombian.  There was always conflict, tension at the dinner table.  I was always caught in the middle.”

Growing up in Miami was a riot for Stebbins, but not in a funny way. “People up north have snow days,” he said. “In the 80’s, we had riot days.”

Stebbins grew up in the thick of things, experiencing the Mariel boatlift Tent City first hand.  “Tent City was just 100 yards from my great grandfather’s house on the Miami river,” he reminisced.  “He was the first optometrist on the river bank.”

Having absorbed the rich and controversial history of this city, Stebbins has created a pantheon of unique Miami characters.  “Aunt Weezie” is an old Georgia cracker woman, based on his real great aunt.  “She was the last American to leave Miami,” he laughed.  “Bringing the stars and stripes flag with her.”

But then there’s the bubbly young Latina FIU student with the quasi-Valley girl accent.  “She’s too young to realize she loves Miami,” Freddy admitted.  “She’s materialistic, but you still have to love her.”


The hit 70’s sitcom, Que Pasa, USA? was another big influence in Stebbins’ comedy.  He liked the “Super Chaperona” character, a bodacious Cuban woman who kept unwed teenage girls out of trouble.  His biggest inspiration, however, was the Cuban grandmother, played brilliantly by the late Velia Martinez.

“I loved the grandma’s accent,” Stebbins claimed.  “I loved the exaggeration, the tackiness, cheesiness, flamboyance and even arrogance of that show.  The color and confusion attracted me.  It was a weird, freakin’ fruitcake.  This fruitcake is still thing this we call Miami.”

Stebbins has been running a successful improv comedy night every Thursday at John Martin’s in Coral Gables for over 80 weeks, with no cover and no drink minimums.  The show also features local comics who are just getting started, as well as more seasoned professionals.  Be prepared for a good heckling if Stebbins brings out one of his most popular characters, Walter Mercado, the flamboyant, Liberace-like Cuban astrologer.

Stebbins is also affiliated with Miami Improv in Coconut Grove. Check his website and his Facebook page for schedules and updates.  He’s also @freddystebbins on Twitter.

Here’s a Stebbins sampler:

Related Categories: Miami: Things to Do,

About the Author: Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith who loves to write about all things travel in Florida and the Caribbean. She is also the author of the award-winning blog Sex and the Beach.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles.

See more articles by Maria de los Angeles

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6 Comments on

"Meet Freddy Stebbins, Homegrown Miami Comic"

Jonathan Ware, MD says:

Amazingly talented and a great guy!

Posted on 11/29/2009 at 8:07 PM

Lisa Corrao says:

Hooray for Freddy!

Posted on 11/29/2009 at 8:36 PM

John B says:

Great interview, of THE funniest man in MIA!!!

Posted on 11/29/2009 at 11:01 PM

Willard Woodrow says:

Aye, que Freddi, que bonita.  Love to see your success, Dude.  Smack the hell out of life…

Posted on 11/30/2009 at 8:10 AM

Javier Garcon says:

He is freaking hilarious in class. He is the funniest and most original comic in Miami! His classes teaches us the same science that makes him funny and original.

Posted on 11/30/2009 at 6:24 PM

Doug says:

He’s really good! The old Jewish guy reminds me of a Billy Crystal character…it’s wonderful that he’s so multi-cultural in his appeal!

Posted on 11/30/2009 at 6:53 PM

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