By Lisa Morgan
Whether it was the kids at the new school he attended growing up (13 in all), his fellow soldiers in the U.S. Army, his college classroom, or the owners of the cars he parked at The Comedy Store in LA, Paul Rodriguez has always had a charm and an arsenal of wit that has left hearts full, faces smiling and sides splitting. How exactly does one, born in Mexico and raised in East LA, become one of the nation’s most beloved Hispanic entertainers in America? “I believe,” he told CV Weekly, “that in life, there are things that you chase, and there are things that chase you. I was at the right place, at the right time. It was something I was meant to do, and thank goodness it’s a pretty good job.” But upon further discussion and research, it took a lot more than that. It took the ability to turn hardships into lessons, and obstacle into stepping stones. It took an incredible work ethic, a strong, resilient heart and most of all, the courage to take risks.
“Being a comedian wasn’t really my original vocation. It’s something that came about. I was never the shy kid – I was extroverted, but I was always the new kid in school. It forced me to talk a lot, and talk fast. I didn’t have long before my father would move on to some other crop,” shared Rodriguez. “Growing up in a family of migrant farmer workers, I saw a lot of injustices. So I thought if I was smart enough, I was going to go to school to become a civil rights attorney.”
After serving in the U.S. Army and earning his G.I. Bill for tuition, Rodriguez set on the path to do just that, but found himself on a life changing detour. “I had a counselor who told me that in order to be a good trial attorney, I had to be a good actor, so I took some acting classes. That eventually landed me at The Comedy Store, which turned out being what I really wanted to do. My father went to his grave thinking I had wasted my life…that I should have been an attorney to help the cause. But to this day, I still enjoy traveling everywhere. My father was always looking for the other pot of gold on the other side of the hills. I went to 13 different schools, but I was always there for picture day it seems. To this day, I am a gypsy at heart – but after 30 years I’m running out of new places. I’ve been to every state twice.”
Standup comedy dug its hooks into Rodriguez when he won $50 his first shot on amateur night at The Comedy Store. The club owner, Mitzi Shore, gave him a job parking cars. Eventually he was seen by Norman Lear ( All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times) who was so impressed, he created “a.k.a. Pablo” in 1984. Since his start, Rodriguez’s work on television and movies, not to mention his bookings for stand up have kept him very busy over the last several decades. The short list of his works include the television comedy series, Trial and Error (1988) and Grand Slam (1990), movies D.C. Cab (1983), Born in East L.A. (1987), A Million to Juan (1994) Tortilla Soup (2001), Ali (2001), Rat Race (2001), Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001), Clint Eastwood‘s Blood Work (2002), A Cinderella Story (2004), The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) and Cloud 9 (2006). His talk show series, “El Show de Paul Rodriguez”, had a four-year run, and he branched out into directing with the film A Million to Juan (1994), which he also co-wrote and starred in. He also executive-produced and starred in the comedy concert film The Original Latin Kings of Comedy (2002). He has been seen everywhere on cable comedy showcases, including Paul Rodriguez: Behind Bars (1991), Crossing White Lines (1999), Paul Rodriguez Live!: I Need the Couch (1986) and Loco Slam (1994).
At 60 years old, Rodriguez continues to build his portfolio. “I just finished a picture in Mexico! I’ve been wanting to do a film in Spanish, and I got a hold of a good one. It’s about a kid who migrates to Mexico to look for his birth parents. It’s a story that I think will touch the hearts of people. The son resents his father for giving him away, but it turns out it wasn’t like that at all. He gave him away out of love – he had nothing to offer him, so he gave him to an American family who could give him things he couldn’t. It’s a tear jerker, and I hope people will like it.”
“I also started on a new television show with my son, Paul Jr. (also known as P-Rod, an American professional street skateboarder who has won several medals in the X Games). It’s about three strangers who realize that they have a lot more in common than they thought. I have to take my father, played by Edward James Olmos (Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver, American Me), out of the retirement home because I can’t afford it anymore. We all move in to my son’s house. It’s been a lot of fun going through rehearsals.”
When asked what it’s like to have a son who is a professional skateboarder, he responded, “I brag about him, even though I didn’t want him to be one,” he shared. “I recommend it now. If you can have a child that you can borrow money from, it’s a beautiful thing. I’m a grandpa now too. She is 6 years old, and the only woman in this family of all boys. She’s the light of my life. Everybody told me, ‘If you think you love your kids just wait until you have grandkids.’ Boy, they were right.”
Rodriguez is genuinely excited for his upcoming show here in the desert. “I was there once before, a long time ago. I haven’t played in that area in 5 or 6 years, so I’m looking forward to having all the people who have forgotten about me to come check me out,” he laughed. “It’s a win-win situation for me. I get to go work on my tan (which is hard for a Mexican), and have fun with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time.”
The show you will enjoy on July 18th will be a great time for the entire family he assured. “My shows are totally PG! Don’t be worried about bringing the whole family – there’s no adult situations or ‘F bombs’ to protect them from. Just a straight shot of good side-aching laughter. Tell them I’m on my way!”
Tickets may be purchased at www.startickets.com or at Spotlight 29 Casino – (760) 775-5566 – 46-200 Harrison Place, Coachella, California 92236