Vail comedy: ‘My job is not to insult’ |

Vail comedy: ‘My job is not to insult’

Brenda Himelfarb
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –If academic degrees were given for the field of comedy, Paul Rodriguez – who performs in the Vail Valley Monday – would have a master’s degree. No, make that a doctorate.

The man has experience and insight for which young comic would kill.

And it all flows so naturally, so matter-of-factly. He could package it.

Rodriguez has appeared in more than 40 films and has written, directed and produced a host of projects. However, it’s doing “stand-up” that makes his soul sing, he says.

“Everything else that I do is so I can do standup,” says Rodriguez. “You do movies and television so that people will recognize your name. But stand-up is like taking your clothes off in front of an audience and hoping that they won’t notice.

“You’re out there talking about things that may be personal,” he says. “Of course you have to embellish, but you don’t want to embellish too much.”

Rodriguez has been baring it all and embellishing since he was a kid. “

“I have lots of brothers and sisters,” he says, “but I was the one who always looked at life in a different way. I was the one asking the questions and found that grown-ups didn’t have the answers. And then I was the one who got spanked for asking all the questions.

“A comedian is the one that parents cherish, because he is the troubled one. They go to the PTA meetings because of him. My parents went because of me.”

‘Feeling bamboozled’

Rodriguez has honed his craft over the past 25 years, and has built a solid fan base from coast to coast. And his comedic take on everyday life has put him in the realm of Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and George Carlin. However, Rodriguez is careful not to get “preachy.”

“People don’t want to hear your troubles,” says Rodriguez. “They’re there to get away from their own.

“Some comedians get too political or too morose. I’ve never been political. People have a right to go to a concert and hear their favorite song. For instance, it you go to an Eagle’s concert and you don’t hear ‘Black Magic Woman,’ you feel robbed. When you hear a comic, he should make you laugh. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

Rodriguez continues, “My job is not to insult, not to be profane, but to get up there and talk about things that are part of life – your divorce, your views on love, your children, your success.

“There are a myriad of things you can touch on to connect with an audience without having to trouble or pain them. They should walk out of a show feeling bamboozled. They might walk out for other reason, but I’d rather not be funny than to be insulting. Not that I wouldn’t insult.”

‘Comedy is in good hands’

It was while performing comedy warm-up for producer, Norman Lear’s show, “Gloria,” that Rodriguez got his first big break. Lear was so impressed with the young comedian’s talents that he wrote and developed the show “A.K.A Pablo,” to showcase his work. Rodriguez soon segued from appearing in television to motion pictures to producing specials for HBO.

Even with all that he does, Rodriguez still has that touch of insecurity that makes a comic so engaging, so relevant.

“Insecurity in comedians is ridiculous,” says Rodriguez. “A musician might have a drummer or a bass player or someone backstage to blame if something goes wrong. But when you’re a stand-up, it’s only you, naked you and there’s no one to blame for your words. They just come out of your mouth. And the trick is to have them come out naturally and to have a flow and make sense.

“But when it’s abrupt and disjointed, there’s no way to make an audience forget that you started wrong. There’s no doing it again when it’s live. Perhaps that’s the joy of it. You have such adrenaline.

“Man, you got one shot to get it right.”

Naturally, Rodriguez always has an eye out for the inevitable younger comedians – and he’s the first to tout their work and to help get them spotlighted.

“My generation scared the old. But I promised myself that I would not become a crotchety old guy,” says Rodriguez. “I think comedy is in good hands. Each comedian will have his own following. If everybody likes you, you’re doing something wrong.

“I think comedians should pursue being different for the sake of novelty. The work should be insightful and hopefully not something that’s been treaded on too much. Some of the guys I initially helped out are so successful that I have to call upon them to give me a job.

“In fact, there’s a comedian named Manny Maldonado who has the quickness of Robin Williams and the intelligence of Dennis Miller – but not as far to the left as Dennis is. If he were a company, I’d buy stock.”

Said by a man who loves his work so much that he feels guilty taking money for performing. “But I take it anyway,” he says with a laugh.

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