Comedian, actor, writer, producer, and director Rob Schneider has built a career on his self-deprecating humor and willingness to use his whole body to get laughs. From the Deuce Bigalow series and The Hot Chick to Adam Sandler films such as The Waterboy, Grown-Ups, and 50 First Dates, he's been around the Hollywood block a time or two.
Now, he'll be visiting our block: Schneider will perform at the Tempe Improv on Sunday and Monday, December 30 and 31. Schneider has also been directing, co-writing, and starring in Real Rob, a Netflix series also featuring his wife, Patricia Maya Schneider.
Phoenix New Times spoke with Schneider about his Netflix series, influences, and evolution as a comedian.
I know Real Rob is based somewhat off your real-life experiences. Can you tell me about the writing process and decision process of what to include from your real life?
Just the most embarrassing stuff, we try to put in the show. The stuff that makes me look like a complete and utter jerk, that’s what usually stays in. My wife and Jamie [Lissow] are the writing partners. They ask me for stories, and I tell them stories, and the next thing I know, there are new episodes. I’ve had kind of a crazy life, in and out of show business. The best comedies are always the ones where the people look like assholes.
What’s it been like working with your wife on this?
You know it’s tough, but at the same time, it’s really rewarding. She usually wins the arguments, I don’t mind telling you ... it’s nice to see her grow and trust me to do this because she’s not acting in her first language. She’s crazy talented, and I’m very proud of her. The show is basically a reverse I Love Lucy.
I’ve heard that a big influence for you is John Cleese. What was about him that really influenced you growing up?
He never worried about looking cool. He was just so physically funny and was just an absolute loon. Luckily, I met him before we started shooting. He was kind enough to give me some advice. He told me, “Silly is king.” It doesn’t get the accolades, but silly is what it’s about.
Did you have other comedy influences growing up?
I loved Peter Sellers ... and of course the American guys, Richard Pryor and of course Steve Martin … I was very lucky to grow up and be like them, a young teenager after Vietnam when America wanted to get silly.
Did it take a while to develop your comedy style?
It took a long time because I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s like an artist. You have to observe everything, and then you have to reject everything at a certain point … I was lucky because I came of age after Robin Williams, and things became more personalized and more person-specific.
What do you feel it takes to establish a career like you have?
You have to have thick skin ... You have to deal with the fact that everybody wants to be doing what you’re doing ... you have to deal with the negativity and not focus on it or concentrate on it ... I think you have to continually not necessarily reinvent yourself but find ways to continue to have fun, make yourself laugh, and not be stuck in a particular image of yourself.
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You’ve worked a lot with Adam Sandler and Norm MacDonald. What’s it like to work with them now that you have that established relationship with them?
It’s like visiting an old shirt. It’s comfortable. You know it, and there might be something in the pocket you’ve forgotten about ... It’s good to work with these guys. We’ve grown up together. We’ve actually known each other longer than we haven’t known each other.
I know you guys started on SNL. Did that give you a great foundation for what you are doing now?
We weren’t in show business until SNL. It was the foundation. It’s like you’re not really playing baseball, and then all of a sudden you’re in the major leagues. Saturday Night Live was the show, and we were in show business after that. Now, staying in show business after we left, we had to figure out a way to stay in.
Do you feel like your stand-up is very different from what you do in film?
It’s still evolving. It’s like the tide. It’s not a constant. It’s ebbing and flowing. I feel like the audiences have changed in the last six months, three months. I think it’s changing, and I think the comedians are having to change their stuff ... I’m not the same comedian I was a year ago.
Rob Schneider. 6 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, December 30. 7 and 10 p.m. Monday, December 31 at Tempe Improv, 930 East University Drive, Tempe; 480-921-9877; tempeimprov.com. Tickets are $40 via tempeimprov.com.