As one of the Latino Kings of Comedy, alongside Cheech Marin, Charo and George Lopez, Paul Rodriguez has been keeping pretty busy in the past two years.
He will be at the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center on Saturday, April 13. Rodriguez just finished taping on a film with Clint Eastwood, in which he plays a serious role — a very long stretch for a man who got his start at the Comedy Store while going to Long Beach State University to become a lawyer.
“One of my teachers, Mrs Cano, told me there are too many lawyers in this world and not enough funny people,” Rodriguez said in a telephone interview. “I think my dad may have been a little disappointed, but I would rather make people laugh than to make people cry.”
Not long before wrapping up “Blood Work”, starring and directed by Eastwood, Rodri-guez played fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco in Michael Mann’s “Ali”. Rodriguez beat out Benicio del Toro and John Leguizamo for the part that has opened some doors for him.
“It was fun getting to work with Jon Voight and Will Smith,” Rodriguez said. “But, before taping in Mozambique, I had to be immunized for so many things, I could snort anthrax and be just fine.”
Even with all of the immunizations he had to go through, the worst thing about spending four months in Mozambique was the lack of Mexican food.
“I can’t wait to get to Albuquerque,” he said. “I’m going to eat sopaipillas until I explode.”
Rodriguez also recently finished a film, called “Price of Glory,” with Jimmy Smits, who plays a prize fighter who is pushed into the ring prematurely. Rodriguez has also acted alongside red-hot star Russell Crowe, who he met in New York while studying theater, in “Rough Magic.”
While on the set of “Rough Magic,” Rodriguez asked Crowe for some acting tips.
“He told me ‘forget all that Stanislavski and method acting and all that stuff. Acting is all in the eyes,'” Rodriguez said. “I thought about it, and, really, every emotion can be shown just in the eyes.”
Rodriguez has been in a number of stand-up videos, including a special at San Quentin. “I need the couch” (an early release), and an upcoming release with his fellow Latin Kings of Comedy, which will be out in August. Despite his sudden surge in the film industry, Rodriguez still considers himself just a comedian.
“Movies are just something I do so that people will know my name,” he said. “Stand up is really what I love, it just comes natural to me.”
Even though Rodriguez and his fellow Latin Kings of Comedy are big stars now, they aren’t without their run-ins with the law. While on the road outside of Deming, the group was pulled over by a State Police officer and tried talking their way out of a ticket. This whole fiasco was caught on tape and can be found on the Latin Kings of Comedy video.
Rodriguez, a native of Mexico, has been in seven movies in the past two years. However, Rodriguez’s career didn’t start last night. Paul acted alongside Cheech Marin in “Born in East L.A.” (1987) and starred in “A Million to Juan” (1994). Rodriguez was also the first Mexican-American actor to star in his own Latino-based sitcom, “a.k.a. Pablo” in 1984.
As an old pro in the stand up and movie worlds, Paul “Pablo” Rodriguez has acted with everyone from Clint Eastwood and Jeff Daniels to Cheech Marin and Will Smith. And, in the near future, Rodriguez will be reading for a part in a movie with Al Pacino.
“This is really a dream come true,” Rodriguez said. “First Clint Eastwood, which is when I knew I had made it. My mom is an 80-year-old Mexican woman, if you’re not Erik Estrada or on a Telenovela, you’re not a star, but when I told her I was in a movie with Clint Eastwood, she actually asked for an autograph. Now I’m reading with Pacino, and, even if I don’t get the part, it will be a dream come true.”
Rodriguez had difficulty finding someone to look up to as a Latino comic.
“There was no one else who was like me. So I had to draw from some other comics,” Rodriguez recalls. “I looked up to Freddie Prinze; he was kind of my hero. I had the opportunity to meet his son while I was in Albuquerque and he was still in high school.”
Rodriguez, in turn, had to take some other comic influences and combine them to invent himself. He lived with Jim Carey, Andrew “Dice” Clay and Sam Kennison and met John Belushi while he was working at the Comedy Store. And he was personally assigned to Richard Pryor when he would come to do stand up.
“I used to just run errands for him (Pryor). He would tell me to park his car or to go get him something, and the manager told me to take care of him,” Rodriguez recalled.
From a flunky at the Comedy Store to a movie and comic mogul, Paul Rodriguez has come a long way and will be coming to Albuquerque’s Kiva Auditorium on Saturday for another performance.
“I just really want people to know that this is not just a Mexican show. We have people of all races, and we tell all kinds of jokes,” Rodriguez said.