Revered as the original Latin “King of Comedy,” Paul Rodriguez has done just about everything there is to do over the last thirty-three years of his comedy career. Philanthropist, actor, producer and comedian, Rodriguez has had starring roles and guest appearances in more than forty films, as well as in countless television series and comedy specials . . . and more.
Rodriguez’s first big break
Rodriguez’s first big break came while doing comedy warm-ups for Norman Lear’s show “Gloria.” Lear ultimately wrote and developed a weekly series for Paul entitled “a.k.a. Pablo,” which is now enshrined at the Smithsonian and holds the honor of being the first television show about a Mexican-American family on mainstream American television.
A concerned citizen of the world
As part owner of the world famous “Laugh Factory,” Rodriguez has participated in the club’s annual free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the underprivileged for over 25 years. And, he teaches at the “Laugh Factory’s” comedy camp for at-risk children.
Rodriguez’s family are farmers in the Central Valley. Rodriguez was recently honored with the “Humanitarian of the Year Award” by the City of Fresno for his tireless work on behalf of water conservation. As chairman of the “California Latino Water Coalition,” Rodriguez has been the driving force behind the recently signed “Water Bond Measure” that will have a great impact on the citizens of California.
“My family is blessed. We were able to dig some wells over the water. It’s very salty, but it still keeps the trees up and going. Without water, nothing happens.”
“Mis Videos Locos with Paul Rodriguez”
Rodriguez has a new television show, “Mis Videos Locos with Paul Rodriguez,” which debuted in July on Tr3s:MTV (pronounced “tresMTV”). Imagine videos of people from all around the world engaging in the wildest and, often, the stupidest behavior, but with (thanks to green-screen technology) Rodriguez joining in with his lively antics, sharp wit and commentary.
“I’m Not Like That No More”
Rodriquez stars in the low-budget, independent comedy, “I’m Not Like That No More,” with “Last Comic Standing” winner, Felipe Esparza.
“‘I’m Not Like That No More’ is really one of the funniest things that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s funnier than ‘Born in East LA.’ It’s really a funny movie. Somebody should find the money and release this movie because . . . he (Esparza) captures lightening in a bottle. It might get a little too coarse for adults, but the kids really get it. And they just enjoy it.”
When Rodriguez and Esparza went to the screening, the projector system broke down twenty or thirty minutes before the end of the movie. Up until that point, the audience was getting the gist and was really enjoying the film. Confused, people were saying, “Well, this is ridiculous! Is this the way it ends?”
“It was a disaster,” said Rodriguez.
Felipe Esparza, a hard guy to follow
“I took Felipe to Las Vegas and he opened for me. He was a hard guy to follow, which is okay with me. I’ve never told anybody to keep it down for me. This kid is really going to go all the way. He’s so talented. He’s fresh. And, he knew his material. He’s not common. He comes out of left field. I expect big things from him . . . I think Hollywood is going to beat a path to his door, as they should, because he has this deadpan delivery. It’s hard to pinpoint to what kind of style he has, because he created this with his own style, which is really the hardest thing to do, to stand out and be unique. He has done it. If he were a horse, I’d bet on him.”
Showcasing upcoming talent Manny Maldonado
Like Rodney Dangerfield and Vince Vaughn, Rodriguez likes to showcase young, upcoming talent. One of the comedians he believes in is Manny Maldonado, a Los Angeles comic who got his start in the small, rural Central California town of Modesto.
“I really see talent in that boy. There’s a certain energy that is not common, you know. A quick wit. Robin Williams was the same manic kind of attitude. I think there’s a market for that.”
“Comedy Rehab” and Dennis Gaxiola
Rodriquez’s latest stand-up comedy concert, “Comedy Rehab,” finds the “Latin King of Comedy” returning to Santa Fe, N.M., where he got his start in comedy, to perform and introduce a crew of up-and-coming Latino comics. Dennis Gaxiola, who performed in “Comedy Rehab” with Rodriguez, is another up-and-coming comedian in whom Rodriguez believes. Gaxiola will be Rodriguez’s opening act at Tommy T’s in Rancho Cordova, Calif. on Sept 4,5.
“Dennis’ material is really intelligent. He’s one of these guys I’ve always had belief in to the point that, in ‘Rehab,’ we’ve gotten a lot of comments. We just got our first payment. It’s going slowly, but it’s doing well . . . I wanted him to be more prominent on it, but I couldn’t convince the producer until towards the end, when he said, ‘Boy, this guy is really going to be something.’ So now, David Valdés is trying to work with him privately. Something’s going to happen. He’s overdue. But, then again, if you think about it, there’s a lot of people who are overdue.”
“I’ve always thought that comedians are like popcorn. Some pop fast and some take awhile and some never pop at all.”
A high-pitched, distinctive kind of voice
Rodriguez has also lent his voice to several popular animated series and movies, including “King of the Hill,” “Dora the Explorer,” “The Proud Family,” and “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”
“Voice-over work is a blessing because it pays well and it’s a relatively small amount of time you work. I’ll take all the voice-over work that I can. I don’t really change my voice too much. I wouldn’t go for that. But once they hire me, they say I have of a high pitched, distinctive kind of voice and I’m glad for that. I’ll take all those jobs I can get.”
At-risk students create comedy from real life at “The Laugh Factory’s” comedy camp with volunteer comedians, such as Chris Tucker, Jamie Foxx, Shawn Wayans, Rob Schneider, Paul Rodriguez, Bob Saget, among others. At “Comedy Camp,” the children find a safe place to relax, learn the craft, and discover the pleasures of performing, as well as laughter’s healing powers. Saturday trips to the “Sunset Strip’s” unorthodox classroom focus on improving self-esteem and facing life’s hardships.
“‘Comedy Camp’ has really paid off. It’s been going on for the last 23 years. CBS did a special on it. One of the most rewarding things about ‘Comedy Camp’ is when you see the kids from the first classes have all grown up. These kids come from foster homes and really sad lives, but they blossom. We have a couple of pastors now. We have a bunch of nurses. School teachers. We have a lot of successful young men and women who came out of South Central Los Angeles. Of course, we have a lot of sadness, too. One young man was a cancer victim and he passed away last year, but you know these kids become a part of your life. You keep up with them. All the great comics who have become their teachers feel the connection through these kids. As you grow old and they grow up, they continue to remember you. It’s like adopting a whole bunch of children.”
His first love
Rodriguez’s first love will always be live stand-up.
“Everything I do, the talk show, the videos . . . everything I do, I do for one reason — so that my name will have some kind of resonance in the public so I can do comedy live. I really jones for that. I enjoy being in front of an audience. I like being here. I’m like that kind of guy who hopes that his parachute opens. I like the adrenalin, the danger, the possibility of falling on your face, or the probability of having a great show and coming up with another angle. Doing stand-up live is the best. Even if I didn’t really need the money, I would continue to do it. It’s like Leno certainly doesn’t need the money, but he does it. He does it every night because there is no other drug, there is no other place, where you can get that feeling of that moment. It’s like actors who do television and actors who do theater. Theater is a real act because, right then and there, there’s no telling the audience to get amnesia and start over. There’s no doing that. You’ve got to do it light, you’ve got to do it funny, you’ve got to do it through good and bad times. And that’s alive, that’s stage, that’s the best.”
A 401(k) plan
Rodriguez suspects that “people who laugh a lot, live longer.” Laughter, according to Rodriguez, is the perfect 401(k) plan.
“If you have the ability to laugh at yourself or if you have the ability to laugh at each other, it’s a 410K plan. You can always depend on it. They can take your house, you can go through a marriage, lose your money, you can do all those things, but as long as you have a sense of wonder — that’s what I want to have my kids inherit — and a certainty that you can always laugh at ‘it,’ no matter what ‘it’ is.”
One thing left
In spite of Rodriguez’s television shows, movies, live performances and myriad other creative endeavors, there is one thing he hasn’t done . . . yet. He has always wanted to do a play on Broadway. Suffice it to say that there is a possibility of a Broadway show in the works, as well as a new talk show and some other opportunities. We’ll see what emerges for Rodriguez.
Remember, “Mis Videos Locos with Paul Rodriguez” airs every Thurs., 7 p.m. EST/PST on “Tr3s: MTV.”
Below is a video interview with Paul Rodriguez before his show. Enjoy!
About the Author: Jennifer A Gordon is the author of "A Woman's Mind Half Naked," an empowered woman, and a lover of life in general and comedy in particular.