What’s Up South Texas!: Man overcomes anxiety, becomes local comedian

Albert Orona hopes to encourage others to never let go of their dreams

San Antonio – A San Antonio man is hoping to inspire others through comedy after overcoming his own severe anxiety.

Albert Orona, 45, is a standup comedian known as Cuzin Berto. He performs often at the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club where he also works as a cook.

“When I am getting ready, I am writing stuff down and going over stuff,” Orona said. “I am preparing stuff. Sometimes I write with my friends, but not often.”

He said the task of making people laugh can be very difficult.

“I am really a shy person away from the stage,” Orona said. “When I am in front of an audience, I am getting pumped. Once I get on stage, all of that just goes away. That moment I see everyone just feeds my spirit because I love people and I love to make people laugh.”

Orona said seeing people laugh is the ultimate reward for him.

“It is like an adrenalin rush that kicks in and takes over,” Orona said. “Just to see people get the joke is amazing.”

Starting off, Orona admits that he wasn’t that great.

“I got booed off stage,” Orona said. “It is like everything when you first start off though. It is really hard, but you learn and progress. I won the Worst Comic in one competition but that was six months into doing this. Now, I am almost four years in, so I have come a long way.”

Orona said his sense of humor has been around his entire life.

“I was always funny,” Orona said. “I was always making people laugh but I never tapped into it. I took my inspiration from Richard Prior and Bernie Mac. Now that I have tapped into comedy, I know I will be doing this for the rest of my life.”

Orona said he is coming from a large family where no one finished high school.

“I grew up in a household where my parents were sexually active,” Orona joked. “They had seven kids but then my grandparents were also sexually active. She had 24 kids, just hatching them out left and right.”

With his large family came financial struggles.

“We were really poor,” Orona said. “Not like you see nowadays poor. We were third-world-country poor. That is how poor we were. We didn’t have running water in the house. There were times where all of us had to sleep in one room on the floor, no water, no heat. It was bad but we managed to get through that. We knew our parents were trying hard, but it is a lot of kids to feed.”

Orona said becoming an entertainer was something he never planned to do.

“I always thought becoming an entertainer was too big of a dream,” Orona said. “I just had that mentality I guess but I met some cousins for the first time, and they inspired me to tap into doing comedy. That is how Cuzin Berto came about.”

Doing comedy led to a series of struggles for Berto later on in life.

“I was homeless, living out of my car for about six months,” Orona said. “I never had any money to get a place and was sleeping from parking lot to parking lot. I still showed up to open mic night though. Nobody knew I was homeless because I was either too embarrassed to tell anyone or to get help.”

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Now, Orona is no longer homeless and is flourishing with his dream. Sadly, his mother passed away.

“We were expecting it,” Orona said. “We just didn’t think it would happen anytime soon. She lived with a bad heart for eight or nine years. She held on. She was a strong person — a really strong person. It was really hard for me.”

He said he spoke with her weeks prior to her passing.

“I was making her laugh like I always do, and she was asking me about comedy and stuff, and she was really excited,” Orona said. “But she had a heart attack and passed away suddenly.”

Now when Orona performs, he thinks of his mother.

“She pushes me because she was a jokester like I am,” Orona said. “She would always make a joke and her jokes are like mine. It was subtle jokes. That inspires me a lot because I see a lot of her in me.”

Though Orona has to take medication for his anxiety, he hopes doing comedy inspires others to keep following their dreams.

“There is a saying, ‘When one door closes, another opens,’” Orona said. “I believe in that, but I also believe when a door is closed, that doesn’t mean you can’t push that door down. It is all up to you. You can push that door down. It doesn’t have to be closed. So that is my message. Just keep going.”

He said he loves meeting and talking with people at his shows, but if there was one thing people could remember about him the most, it would be his laugh. It is something he said he has always been self-conscious about but has learned to embrace.

“I have a jacked-up laugh, I know,” Orona said. “It is weird. It is an ugly laugh, but it is me. Hey, listen, my friends don’t even invite me anywhere because they are scared that I am going to laugh. I am so serious,” he said jokingly.

Orona said though he doesn’t have any acting experience, he hopes to become a movie star one day so his impact can be even larger.

“When someone is talking, they don’t understand they are talking with someone’s kids or grandchildren. Right now, I am talking to a daughter, or a son, or what have you. My message to them would be to not let go of your dreams,” Orona said. “Keep grinding and moving forward. I like when people tell me you can’t do it because that just motivates me even more. I love it.”

If you know someone like Orona who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.

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