In an entertainment landscape where stars can seem to rise and disappear from the cultural radar within a few years, comic Paul Rodriguez has remained popular for nearly four decades. He was the first Latino comic to fully headline his own show with 1982’s Norman Lear creation “AKA Pablo,” and has managed to work steadily since then across television and film, nationwide club dates and frequent USO shows for American troops stationed worldwide.
He’ll be at the Ice House at 8 p.m. Friday for a special show in which he’ll take on everything from life as a “closeted Republican” to discovering the secret for what makes women happy. And as a longtime advocate for water rights for farmers in California’s Central Valley area and the owner of several farms there himself, he’s happy to see the recent abundance of rain wiping out the state’s drought status.
“I’m a closeted Republican, and it’s rare to find a Mexican-American who is a Republican,” says Rodriguez. “My audience has shrunk to three people, and I play smaller rooms now, like phone booths. It’s the wording of Trump that offends a lot of us. I agree with a lot of things he’s done, but he’s a coarse man and should be more careful how he puts things.
“I agree with him that America should protect its borders,” Rodriguez continues. “I know a lot of Mexican-Americans will disagree with me, and it’s not that I don’t care about the people who want to immigrate to this country, but you can’t let everybody in. I’m an immigrant myself. My parents came here from Mexico but they did it the right way, got in line and waited.”
The 63-year-old Rodriguez was born in Cullacon, Sinaloa, Mexico to agricultural ranchers who later migrated to Compton. He began his comedy career in Hollywood after enlisting in the US Air Force, first doing his duty while stationed in Uruguay, Iceland and Minnesota.
His innate comic abilities were rewarded when Comedy Central ranked him as one of its “100 Greatest Standups of All Time,” and he remains active, not only as a performer but as a part-owner of the Laugh Factory comedy club in Hollywood. He’s looking forward to the 2020 presidential campaign season providing plenty of fresh jokes, as evidenced by his assessment of two leaders in that field.
“We should never have a candidate named Beto,” he notes, in reference to rising-star Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke. “I have a cousin named Beto. It didn’t work out. It’s not a good name for a white guy — a cheap way to get the Hispanic vote. And between being Hispanic and Irish, you’ve got a kid born guaranteed to be alcoholic.
“As far as Bernie [Sanders], I don’t think he’ll make it through a term,” adds Rodriguez. “He’s a candidate who’s both a socialist and was there for the founding of Social Security. He’s gonna have free education for everyone, and the next thing you know, free rent. Everything’s gonna be free. You might as well have David Copperfield as president.”
Surprisingly, Rodriguez isn’t worried about the trend against politically incorrect humor in recent years.
“I’m fine with it because sexist jokes are really funny and now we’re not allowed to do sexist jokes so we don’t have the pressure to be funny,” says Rodriguez. “I can tell you’ve I’ve learned the secret of keeping a woman happy – take her to Sephora. It’s like taking R. Kelly to Chuck E. Cheese.”
Paul Rodriguez will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Visit icehousecomedy.com or call (626) 577-1894.