How Gay Funny Man Alec Mapa Became a Baby Daddy

Alec Mapa
Andrea James
Alec Mapa

When was the last time a riotous, raunchy standup comedy act melted your heart and left you bawling like a baby? Grab a hankie (or 12) and check out the new Showtime special Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy (premiering Friday, June 12, 10/9c), in which Filipino actor Alec Mapa (Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Devious Maids) hilariously details how he and his husband, Jamie Hebert, who is white, came to adopt Zion, a five-year-old black boy, and become a family “that looks like the last two minutes of It’s a Small World.” Mapa gave us the sweet deets.

Look at you on Showtime!
I am all about self-effacing humor and minimizing the things I do. I’m the first one to get a great job and say, “It’s no big deal.” But to be on Showtime is an undeniably big deal! They’ve been behind us 200 percent and I’m so excited and grateful for that. It’s a sign of the times when my kind of alternative comedy is now a very mainstream entertainment. Showtime is not promoting it, like, “Hey, it’s Crazy Gay Asian Hour!” It’s being treated like anybody else’s comedy special and that’s pretty cool.

Baby Daddy
Emily Kuroda/SHOWTIME

This project owes its existence to Kickstarter, right?
Yes! After I performed Baby Daddy as a stage show in L.A. and New York for a year, my husband, Jamie, and his producing partner, Andrea James, wanted to put it on film. We raised enough money through Kickstarter to pay the crew, but we were so green we didn’t know that after you’ve finished filming, you have to have a whole other post-production budget. What were we thinking? [Laughs] Clearly, we weren’t. So we needed to raise more money and I went to [Desperate Housewives creator] Marc Cherry and told him about the project and wanted to pick his brain. And he just wrote us a check for the rest and became our executive producer! It played some festivals and won some awards and, then, Showtime wanted it. The whole journey has been unbelievable.

The adoption process seemed pretty easy for you guys, compared to so many arduous adoption experiences we hear about. It takes some couples years and years to get a child.
That’s because Zion was considered to be in the unadoptable category—a black male—and also because we did a foster adoption. The fact that we could become a family in such an incredibly short time speaks to the crisis in the current system. The reason I wrote this show was because I was really ignorant when we first started exploring adoption. I thought only rich people with connections adopted kids. I didn’t know there was a type of adoption—foster adoption—that was available to everyone. So many people who have seen Baby Daddy on stage came up to me afterward and said, “Foster adoption, I had no idea!” So it’s really important for me to keep getting the message out there. Now the best thing is when people come up and say, “Because of you, we’re parents!” There are so many available kids in the foster system who need a loving home and so few people willing to explore it as an option. So, yeah, it was remarkably easy for us. From the time Jamie and I started foster-adoption classes to the time Zion was living with us was exactly nine months. Like birthing a baby!

When did you know you wanted and needed to be a parent?
When I realized I was depressed because I wasn’t one. I’m the type of person who, when I get up in the morning, needs to be needed. I need to be useful. And with a kid you are always needed. So this has been a big reboot for me. A terrible audition used to devastate me, and now it’s, like, “Screw it. Whatever.” It’s still important to me to do a good job, but if I miss the mark it’s no longer the end of the world because I have something much more important in my life. I would have been a lot happier if I’d gotten to this place a lot sooner. But it happens when it happens. I’m just so glad we got our adoption story on film because, for us, Baby Daddy is like a home movie, something captured forever. Zion is not the same kid he was in the film when we shot it two years ago. And I’m not the same parent that I was. Back then, I was a wizard in my son’s eyes, the fountain of knowledge. Now I’m the village idiot. I know nothing! Zion is 10 now, and on the brink of adolescence. The eye-rolling has already started, and the back talk. Every parent goes through it. But the wonderful thing is that I can still see traces of that little one we adopted, and that’s very precious to me.

Speaking of attitude, at one point in the special you do a gut-busting impression of Bette Davis singing Miley Cyrus’s Party in the USA. You do know that most young viewers won’t know what the hell you’re doing, right?
I know. Isn’t that horrible? How can you not know Bette Davis? Young people, Google her! I had great cultural mentors growing up, people who introduced me to Davis and Judy Garland and all the other fabulous and important people in film and musical theater. And I was really thirsty for that. But today’s young generation doesn’t give a damn about nostalgia. They’re not looking back. They’re looking at their iPhones. But that’s okay. They’re missing out. Bette Davis cracks me up and that’s why she’s in my show. [Laughs] I write to my own interests.

Baby Daddy
Emily Kuroda/SHOWTIME

As open and blunt as you get in Baby Daddy, you do not talk about how you dealt with the “Zion has two daddies” thing. What happened when you explained to your son that you and Jamie are gay?
That is a huge omission in the show but that’s because the topic could be a show unto itself. And it’s coming! I’ve already written a lot of material on the subject. Here’s what’s interesting: Sexuality and gender and all of that stuff isn’t complicated to children. Jamie and I were right away up front with Zion and said, “There are all kinds of families. Some have a mom and dad, or only a mom or only a dad. Some have two moms and some, like us, have two dads. And look at us! We’re all different. Papa [Jamie] is Cajun, which means he’s from Louisiana, which is kind of French. I’m Filipino and you’re black. But the thing that makes us a family is that we all love each other.” So one day I’m picking Zion up from school and a little girl says to him, “Why do you have two dads?” And he says, “Because we’re French!” That was his takeaway from the conversation! I’m the room parent and the carpool dad and Jamie is on the PTA, so these children see us all the time. They’ll say to Zion, “You have two dads?” He says, “Yes.” And they go back to eating paste. The kids are fine about it. They don’t care about this gay thing. It’s the adults who make it complicated.