July 11--Moviegoers might notice Rob Schneider is missing from "Grown Ups 2," opening in theaters this weekend, but he will be in Pittsburgh in person on Friday and Saturday doing four shows at Pittsburgh Improv.
He had a good reason for passing on the summer flick and said, "My wife got pregnant and I wasn't gonna miss this for anything, even my buddy's movie, so I stayed home and it's been great. I don't regret it at all. I hope they do well, but this baby's been, honestly, the best thing that's ever happened to me." That was just a bit of what he had to say during a phone interview.
Mr. Schneider began writing jokes as a teenager and appearing at local venues. He opened for comedians including Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld and made his network TV debut in 1987 on "The Letterman Show." Three years later, he was hired as a regular on "Saturday Night Live." He is well-known for his relationship with Adam Sandler and has appeared in films including "The Benchwarmers," "50 First Dates," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "The Hot Chick."
After a nearly two decade hiatus, he's returned to his stand-up roots. Here's part of a recent conversation with the Post-Gazette.
Friday and Saturday you'll be at Pittsburgh Improv. Is this a stop on a bigger tour or is it a special event?
I'm working on my new hour for my next comedy special. The best place for doing that is in small clubs. And I'm gonna start a new television show that's more closely related to my stand-up. Right now, it's just called "Real Rob." I did one on CBS that was less real. So this is more real Rob. I'm gonna have my wife in it. It's like a written show, but very similar to what's happening in my life.
What happened with "Rob" on CBS in 2012?
We averaged 11 million viewers. It was roughly three times the viewership of NBC, but CBS is the number one network and they can do whatever they want. They think they can do more. I hope that they can regret they didn't keep it on.
Pittsburgher Jamie Widdoes directed the pilot for "Rob." Do you have any other Pittsburgh connections?
Jamie's a great guy. I know Dennis Miller, back in the day we were on "Saturday Night Live" together, he's my big Pittsburgh connection. I've been to Pittsburgh before. I kinda know my way around. It's a beautiful city. In the '50s it was a little tougher, but now it's voted a top 10 city in America. It's got hills and you don't have the steel mills anymore stinking up the skies. It's a good place. People are friendly. You know, crazy Steeler fans.
Pittsburgh's a real city. You don't get the same attitude you do in Los Angeles or New York. I think it's a real test ... if it works there it's gonna work anywhere in America. I'm interested in bringing a new act there that I'm still working on. You have to be there to entertain. It's not all new material, but most of it is and I've been working on it. I think in a small club you can try some things and I like that. It's great.
You kind of work through it. I'm still working on this stuff. I had the concepts and the ideas and you just go deeper with it and explore it a little more and I'm looking forward to it. I just recorded my last hour, which is gonna be available on Netflix next month.
How do you think comedy and improv has changed with new resources like the Internet?
I think funny's funny. There's just more outlets for it and it's harder to get an audience to find it. I feel it's definitely tougher for younger comedians than it was when I first started. Because, even though we still had cable TV, we didn't have YouTube 25 years ago. You basically just had cable TV. Network TV was still the dominant channel and we could get 8 million people to watch us on "Saturday Night Live." I don't think they have that anymore. It's more of a fragmented market, but I think in some ways it's good because all you need's a million people to watch your show and that's enough for a cable show and you have some real hardcore fans who will watch your stuff.
I still wanna work and try some different things. That's the reason why I think I'm still doing it. I don't have to do it anymore. I'm doing it 'cause I enjoy it. I saw George Carlin perform before he passed away and he was amazing, and that's what kind of talked me into doing it again. That and Chris Rock bothering me about it.
How has your stand-up material changed?
I think it's better. I mean it's definitely more mature. I think it's more for people around my age, you know? I mean people still in their 20s come and see me, which is nice 'cause some of them kind of grew up seeing movies like "Deuce Bigalow" or "The Hot Chick" or Adam Sandler's movies. And then there are people, who are around my age, in their 40s, who come out and they can relate. I do talk a lot about being in your 40s and differences between being in their 20s and 40s and stuff and people love that. The idea is to get them laughing really hard and that's still pretty fun for an hour.
Do people come to your shows and expect to see some of the characters that you've played on screen?
Sometimes they do, but I don't do it. I don't mean to disappoint them, but I'm a stand-up. If they want to see those movies they can rent them. Or they can stick around after and I'll do it really quick after the show.
What was your favorite movie to make?
"50 First Dates" seemed like it was pretty good when we were making it. 'Cause we had real movie stars in there like Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler at their peaks. We didn't realize it at the time. I think most of that movie holds up. I like it when people come up and say: "Our first date was seeing one of your movies." It's nice. When you've been around for years, people expect to laugh hard when they see your movies and they like them. It's not everybody, but for the people who wanna see it. ... It's a nice feeling, because we do try hard. I think the movies can be just silly and fun. People wanna sit back and laugh. They have to get a baby sitter, stand in line, get lousy popcorn, but when the lights come down and the movie comes on, you wanna make sure they have a good time. And that I take very seriously.
Has your attitude toward stand-up changed?
I don't feel the same pressure that I did when I first started. I don't feel like I have to do it anymore. I feel like I do it because I love it and I still wanna do it and I still like performing. But I don't feel like I'm the same comedian that I was 20 years ago for sure. I don't feel like I'm the same comedian I was 10 years ago. Some of those things, I probably wouldn't do again. You're not gonna see another Deuce Bigalow out of me. I promise you. I just think at 35 you can get away with it. At 45, getting closer to 50, it's kinda gross.
This next stand-up tour I take very seriously. I wanna make sure it's a killer show. There's some great comics out there. We're in an era of, I think, the best comedians we've ever had. And I mean that. You have Chris Rock, Bill Burr, Louis C.K., Daniel Tosh. ... In my opinion, you didn't have comedians of that caliber 25 years ago. I do think this is a particularly good time for stand-up and a lot of people wanna go out. I do think it's tougher now to kind of break through.
Do you keep an eye out for up-and-coming comedians? Is that something you're interested in?
You know it's funny. I am. This comedian, Gary Vider, I flew him out to LA and had him do some sets out here. This guy's a terrific comedian and I wanna help manage his career. There's a couple of guys ... Jamie Lissow is like brilliantly funny, and he just missed the boat a little bit or I should say Hollywood missed the boat on this guy. These guys are world class comedians that deserve to be known. I'm pretty lucky and I'd like to help their career a little bit and see if I can work with them on some different things."
Sacha Baron Cohen ... I think he's one of the funniest comic actors ever. I've never laughed harder at a movie in my adult life than I did at "Borat." He can't top himself. He's set the bar only for himself. "Bruno" I laughed hysterically in a lot of it, but it's hard to beat that first one."
What haven't you accomplished in your career that you really want to do?
I'd like to have that international character that's gone all over the world in a bigger way than Deuce Bigalow did. Deuce Bigalow made me famous all over the world, but I'd like to be able to do another for kids and parents and grandparents that everybody can enjoy. And I'm working on that now. I'm still having fun, and as long as I'm having a good time I'm gonna keep doing it. But if I'm not, that's it, I'll find something else.
Katie Foglia: email@example.com or 412-263-4903. Twitter: @ktfogs.
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