Comedian Paul Rodriguez on Appearing on Golden Girls, His Skateboarding Son, and Chihuahuas
Paul Rodriguez is more than just one of "those guys that was in that thing." You know him from The Newlywed Game, if you're a little older, and the Original Kings of Comedy if you're not so old. He's been around show business so long that his son is almost more famous than him.
Rodriguez may be slowing down on standup gigs, but he's keeping the wheels greased with voice-over work and a big ol' philanthropic heart.
Before he becomes "the guy that plays Palm Beach Improv this weekend," we chatted with Rodriguez about chihuahuas, the Golden Girls, and the streets of Compton. Seriously, how much fun does that sound?
New Times: In The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, you got to star alongside George Lopez and Cheech Marin. That's some cast. Have you all stayed close?
Paul Rodriguez: Well that's the sad part about it. It was one of the most successful videos out there, and we were very, very close ,and then all of the sudden we all wind up in court. We had a manager who literally just ripped us up and took all the profits. So I had to sue him and ended up not paying the other guys, but it didn't ruin our friendship. George and I, we don't speak that much; I've got love for him, but I just don't see him that much because he is busy, but Cheech I see once in a while.
I'd like to think we are friends, and maybe we can get together, but there was a manager there that really screwed everything up and we have been in court for the last four years. The case was settled about six months ago.
You are credited with the first-ever one hour stand up special in Spanish.
Yes, there are a lot of comedians that do it in Spanish, but not also in English, that I am aware of. I've been to the comedy circles in Colombia, I worked in Puerto Rico. My Spanish is 'English-Spanish' you know? I don't speak the proper Spanish of Spain and that Daffy Duck kind of a sound but they seem to enjoy it. It's been very successful.
How much of a role do you think body language and inflection play into comedy -- do you think someone who doesn't speak Spanish could still watch it and find the humor?
Well, not really. Maybe some. You live in Florida, for example. You would be surprised at how much Spanish you know because of the Cuban influence. You get the gestures, you catch four words, and you kind of know, but would you catch it all? I don't think so. I don't think that's fair.
When I do my show in English, I publicize that it's in English because it's not fair to be on the outside of the jokes, it's uncomfortable. In Vegas, when I was at the Tropicana, I would do a matinee in Spanish and then I would do the nightly show in English. A few people would come in and be confused, but I can't stop my show and tell you 'You have the wrong tickets.' I have to go on.
I read that you grew up in Compton, California. What was that like?
The thing about Compton was that my family was the first non-black family to go to the school called Ralph Bunche. I grew up learning 'Black English,' you know? I got to the airport and people were looking at me thinking I spoke funny, but I thought they spoke funny. Growing up, the races didn't mix too much. But I did, I crossed over and hung out and went out and tried to make friends. I was only one man, there wasn't even enough of me to form a gang. I had to use my words to get by.
You have been on lots of different talk shows including Howard and Leno. Which talk show has the nicest green room and makes you always want to come back?
Well for the most part, Letterman doesn't talk to you. He doesn't want to see you in the hall. That was uncomfortable. Leno is friendlier, he's more jovial; but, personally, I don't think he's as funny. I'm more of a Kimmel or a Conan guy -- I like that kind of comedy more.