Latin comedy king comes to Sacramento with new court

Mikhail Chernyavsky

He has helped pave the way for some of today’s most popular Latino comedians, such as George Lopez and Carlos Mencia.

For the past two decades, Paul Rodriguez has entertained audiences on television and film, as well as performed stand-up comedy in front of live crowds, which is where his roots lie.

Rodriguez’s film appearances include “Tortilla Soup,” “A Cinderella Story,” and in 2001’s “Ali,” he played the outspoken Dr. Ferdie Pacheco.

In 1984, Rodriguez made history with his short-lived sitcom “a.k.a. Pablo.” The sitcom was about a comedian (Rodriguez) struggling to find a balance between his stand-up and his family’s approval. It aired for six episodes, but the Smithsonian has recognized the show as the first mainstream TV show featuring a Mexican-American family.

Even with his television and film success, Rodriguez stays true to his comedic roots. “I only do movies so that my name gets out there and people come and see me live,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

Like most comics, Rodriguez got on stage for the first time because of strong encouragement from his friends. While he was in the Air Force, his friends encouraged him to go on stage and do an impression of their commanding officer. Everyone in the audience was left laughing – except the officer, Rodriguez said.

He was planning to become a lawyer until he sat down and asked himself some realistic questions: “Am I really going to do all that reading? Can I stay away from all the partying?”

During his amateur nights, he was roommates with Jim Carrey at the Los Angeles comedy club “The Comedy Store,” which is known for housing struggling young comedians.

Rodriguez has since performed in six HBO comedy specials, the most recent being 1998’s “Idiots and Armadillos.” He has also starred in the TBS show “The Laugh Factory: Very Funny,” in which he hosted a stand-up comedy showcase of up-and-coming comedians. The show is similar to Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” and “Live at Gotham.”

In 2002, Rodriguez starred and was executive producer of “The Original Latin Kings of Comedy.” The concert film also featured George Lopez, Cheech Marin, Joey Medina and Alex Reymundo.

Now, Rodriguez is back with a new group of kings, with “The Crown Royal Latin Kings of Comedy.” The tour consists of Frank Lucero, Manny Maldonado and Dennis Gaxiola. Rodriguez is emceeing the show and said he has brought together some of the funniest new Latin comics.

During “The Original Latin Kings of Comedy,” Rodriguez was predicting the new guy, George Lopez, would soon explode in popularity. Now, he is talking about another new guy: Maldonado, saying that he will be the next big thing. It’s not that Rodriguez is trying to give back to the community, but he recognizes talent and wants to give the other comedians exposure.

“This is the best comedy tour out there,” Rodriguez said. “It is the funniest group I have put together.”

This show is not about Rodriguez, he said, but his fans will still get a good taste of the comic they have come to love as he hosts the show.

“You don’t have to be Latino to get the jokes, but it will help,” Rodriguez said.

The tour will be coming to the Memorial Auditorium at 8 p.m. on Friday. Rodriguez said the comics are looking forward to the event as much as the fans are.

“Nothing comes close to a live audience,” he said. “There’s no second chance when you’re live.” Mikhail Chernyavsky can be reached at [email protected]