Paul Rodriguez is not the comedian he once was. And that’s not a bad thing.
After 29 years of telling jokes for a living, Rodriguez has ditched his raunchier lines for cleaner anecdotes. He will present his new material at 8 p.m. July 11 at the California State Fair.
Rodriguez does not memorize a set list of jokes or stories to tell, he said. People who go to his show expecting to hear something from a previous album will be left hanging.
“It’s not like music. Once you hear a joke once, it loses its power. By the time you hear it the third time, you’re wondering why you laughed in the first place,” he said.
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Aside from Cheech Marin, Rodriguez was the only prominent Mexican American comedian when he first started performing nationally. With no guidance on what was appropriate, he spewed out content that now makes him cringe, he said.
Nearly three decades in stand-up have taught Rodriguez to tone down his material. He still uses current events like Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation as comedy fodder, but keeps his jokes lighthearted and nonpolitical.
“For example, if I talk about same-sex marriage, I say that’s all any marriage is anyways. Same sex with the same person,” Rodriguez said.
Off stage, though, Rodriguez is not shy about sharing his political views. He switched from a Democrat to a Republican in 2009 because he felt farmers were not being adequately supported, and was a vocal supporter of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor.
Rodriguez is the chairman of the California Latino Water Coalition and often argues for more water to farmers. The Endangered Species Act provides unnecessary protection to relatively plentiful animals like the striped bass, he said, and should be re-examined in light of the state’s water crisis.
“Everyone – not just farmers – should take a little bit of a break in the amount of water they use,” he said. “Farmers are growing food for people. I can’t think of anything more valuable than that.”
Rodriguez is also a partial owner of the Laugh Factory comedy club franchise, which has eight franchises across the United States. The owners hope to develop four to seven more clubs so they can hire top name acts to tour all the locations.
Latino comedians have become more popular since Rodriguez started out, with comics like George Lopez and Gabriel Iglesias now household names. Rodriguez performed alongside Marin, Lopez, Alex Reymundo and Joey Medina in a 2002 stand-up collection called “The Original Latin Kings of Comedy.”
If young people recognize Rodriguez’s name, it is usually because of his son, pro skateboarder Paul “P-Rod” Rodriguez Jr. The two will appear alongside Edward James Olmos, who plays the senior Rodriguez’s father, in a new TV show called “Three Generations.”
The show has not yet been picked up by a network, though Rodriguez said he and his co-stars were nearing the end of negotiations with TBS, ABC and NBC and hoped to air the pilot by November.
“Think of it like Sanford and Son plus one,” Rodriguez said. “I’m using my son’s popularity to make a comeback, even though I haven’t gone anywhere.”
- What: Rodriguez will perform his stand-up comedy act at the California State Fair
- When: 8 p.m. Saturday July 11
- Where: Cal Expo, Golden 1 stage
- Tickets: Resrved seating $12 plus fair admission
- Information: www.castatefair.org