Paul Rodriguez is a famous comedian, but he’s the second Paul Rodriguez to come up in a Google search.
Rodriguez, who turns 60 on the Sunday following his Friday performance at the Clovis Civic Center, is the father of Paul Rodriguez Jr., a professional skateboarder who may be more famous these days.
Tickets are $32, or $45 with a meet-and greet option, with showtime 8 p.m. Friday (Jan. 17). Tickets are available at the Civic Center or the Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce.
Have you been to the Clovis-Portales area before?
I’ve been all over New Mexico, been to every county. I’ve been there on vacation and of course, to perform.
What stands out about this area?
New Mexico is so different; even the way they talk has a different accent. The chiles, the green and red thing, that’s something only New Mexicans would know. If you talk to them about sopapillas and the things only they know, they laugh and they go with you. They’re a great audience.
This was supposed to be Eddie Griffin coming, then he had a conflict arise. D.L. Hughley replaced him, same thing. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve had to replace a comedian. Does it change the show from any perspective?
Those guys have their own thing. Griffin has more of an edge, and Hughley is a little less blue. I’m none of those things. If people have tickets, they’re going to see you out of curiosity. Your material has to hold up and keep them.
Even if people aren’t fans of yours, your long career gives you a pretty significant “I’ve heard about him” contingent. If somebody’s just heard about you, what would you tell them about your show to encourage them to drop $40?
All I can say is seeing is believing. I’ve been at it for 35 years, so I must be doing something right. With my age, there are a lot of things I talk about, from tax evasion to marriages gone wrong. I think I have something people can relate to. I’ll sometimes have people thinking I’m a famous skatebarder because of my son … “Hey, you’re a little too old for that.”
My act isn’t memorized. It’s a stream of consciousness, and it’s worked out well for me. I like to do the kind of show where you can bring mom.
You’ve been around a while, and had a few shows that only last a few episodes or a few seasons. What do those experiences teach you about the business?
You can never tell. Bill Cosby didn’t do a show for a long time until “The Cosby Show” … hopefully, that’s what happens to me.
Standup is the reason I can do all that. I’ve done 40 movies, but standup is what I do.
Have there ever been times you asked yourself why you didn’t just do law school instead?
Many times. That comes with the territory. But I always try to reach the audience and not the other way around. I’ve performed on death row, so everything else after that doesn’t scare me.
You’ve done a lot of different shows, including the show in prison. What’s the most unusual show you’ve ever done?
I did a show for the deaf. They had an interpreter on the side. Fortunately not the guy at the Mandela service, but there was a guy signing for each joke. The good thing was every time I didn’t get a laugh, I could say, “Well, he didn’t interpret it right.” The tough thing is it messes with your rhythm, because everything you establish has a rhythm.
Performing for the Young Republicans was a disaster, but you chalk that up to experience. Once, I was performing for Xerox. A friend said, ‘Here, have a shot of whiskey to relax.’ I’m not a drinker, and that one shot knocked me down. I didn’t accept their payment; in all fairness, I was slurring all over. They were gracious enough to send it anyways, but I told my agent not to accept it.
Your mentioned your son, who is a celebrity in his own right for skateboarding. What did you try to tell your son about being a celebrity?
It’s a hard thing to handle. When he was young, around 10 years old, they’d offered him a TV series. I said no. Mom and him were upset at me at the time. I told him to go find fame on his own. Now he’s grateful he had a chance to be a child.
I’m glad for his success now; there will be a Paul Rodriguez for many, many years to come.
Who’s a comedian people wouldn’t expect you to like?
This is going to sound tripe, but I like them all. What I don’t like is this … Profanity has its place and it should be used sparingly. Some have made the f-word an adjective. Maybe I’m getting old, but I think a joke should have a beginning, a middle and an end … not a tirade of profanity. It can be popular, it’s got audiences, but it’s not my cup of tea. Irony is the bread and butter of comedy; irony will always make people laugh.
You’re known for helping foster Latino comics just getting their start. Could you tell us a little about Mr. Villareal, your opening act?
I take people with me I see a lot of promise in. (George) Lopez, (Carlos) Mencia, Fluffy (Gabriel Iglesias), I helped them out. They would have made it on their own anyhow.
The reality is there were others before me. Cheech (Marin) gave me one of my first breaks, and I consider him the real godfather of comedy.
I think they’re going to be surprised (with Villareal). The guys who open for me have promise. What they’ll see in him is a certain amount of manic energy. For lack of a better phrase, he’s a Latin Robin Williams. You’re not done laughing at one thing, and he’s onto the next thing.
Do you have a contract rider, and what’s the most unusual request?
I do have a contract rider, but I’m sure there’s no alcohol. One unusual request is warm corn tortillas. I remember when I was in Africa, shooting “Ali.” I was away from Mexican food for three months. I had a corn tortilla withdrawal, which isn’t a medical condition, but it should be. That was more difficult than quitting heroin … not that I was ever on heroin.
Any closing words?
Just come and get it. I’m ready, New Mexico.
— Compiled by CMI staff write r Kevin Wilson