Arts and Entertainment
The iconic comedian talks fame, family and getting stranded in Hawaii
March 17, 2010 | 03:18 PMPaul Rodriguez
Maui gig: Sunday, March 21, 9pm at The Maui Theatre, Lahaina, 856-7973 or themauicelebrityseries.com
Web site: www.paulrodriguez.com
Essential stuff: Live in San Quentin, The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, Comedy Rehab
Here at MauiTime, we've got entertainment down to a science. We've even got an underground laboratory full of interns cranking out the funny. Sure, every so often, one breaks out of its cage, voice hoarse from screaming, eyes bleeding, but hey…there's no "I" in "laboratory." (But, there is "lab" and "rat.") Usually the lab is chaotic, filled with the sound of wailing and gnashing teeth and soft undertones of tortured sobbing. The air is heavy with the stench of despair, burnt coffee and stale pizza. However, this day was different. On this fateful morning, we heard the faint sound of laughter. We clambered down the hidden stairs and found the interns lying prostrate, huddled around an image of Paul Rodriguez. We knew we had found our A&E article for the week.
Rodriguez got his comedy start in Hawaii. He entered a contest, being judged the legendary Don Ho. "I thought I had won, you know?" he remembers. "When they announced I was third, the whole audience booed. After that, I cashed in my plane ticket home and got drunk. When I woke up, I was stranded in Hawaii."
After six months in the Aloha State—spent doing standup "in that pink hotel [Royal Hawaiian Hotel]" and hanging around comedy greats like Andy Bumatai—Rodriguez left with the goal of becoming the "Andy Bumatai of LA."
Back on the Mainland he excelled as a comic and hosted several shows, including The Newlywed Game. "I did it just because I needed the money," he says. "They gave the cheapest prizes. Once, this guy came up to me and said, after he had been on the show, he and his wife got divorced. It was terrible."
More recently, he starred in and produced The Original Latin Kings of Comedy along with fellow greats Cheech Marin and George Lopez. In 2004, Rodriguez ranked 74th on Comedy Central's list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians of all-time.
With all these achievements, does Rodriguez see himself as funny? "Sure I'm funny—funny looking!" he says. "I laugh every day when I see myself naked in the shower."
While Rodriguez has done extensive work in movies and television, he thinks of himself as a comedian first and foremost. "I do movie roles so I can get attention as a standup," he says. But he does speak fondly of "hanging out with Clint Eastwood and Anthony Hopkins" and calls meeting Russell Crowe "humbling."
If Rodriguez hadn't become a comedian, he says, he'd "probably be in jail or broke, unemployed and unhappily married with eight kids." Strangely enough, before becoming a full-time entertainer, Rodriguez briefly entertained the idea of becoming a lawyer. But, he adds, "All the lawyers I know aren't funny. If you don't pass the bar exam, you can't be a lawyer. If you're a comedian, you don't pass the bar—you stop and drink. Besides, you get to meet more girls."
When he isn't busy looking at himself naked, hanging with A-list celebrities or meeting chicks, Rodriguez is the chairman of the California Latino Water Coalition, which advocates conservation and the water rights of farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. He's been given a humanitarian honor by Harvard University and received commendation from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It was pretty interesting meeting the guy," says Rodriguez. "We both spoke through interpreters." Turning serious, he says he "would give up all these honors and everything, if we could just get water to these farmers."
Rodriguez is also a passionate family man. He speaks admiringly of his son, pro-skater P-Rod (Paul Rodriguez, Jr.). "If he'd been a comedian, he would have been number one, not seventy-four," he says. "Everything he touches turn to gold. Next time I see him, I'm going to get him to touch me on the top of the head.
"I'm really lucky," he continues. "I've got two great kids, who make more than I do, and have more know-how. You know, they're paying their own child support!"
Asked if he wants to say anything to the citizens of the Valley Isle, he replies simply, "I'm coming, Maui—get ready!"
If the reaction of our still-comatose interns is any indication, you should get ready indeed.
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