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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rob Schneider Gets Real

Posted By on Tue, Jun 2, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Rob Schneider - NEIL VISEL
  • Neil Visel
  • Rob Schneider

Actor-comedian Rob Schneider thinks that criticism of Native American stereotyping in The Ridiculous Six, the Adam-Sandler-for-Netflix-movie, in which the comedian co-stars, is, well...ridiculous. And he has choice words for anyone offended by any of the alcoholism jokes, women characters named "Beaver’s Breath" and "Sits-on-Face" and the Apache woman peeing outdoors while smoking a calumet. Not to mention the media who report these stories

"I think the media will make something out of nothing," he says. "The truth of the matter was, nobody walked off the set. Three people didn’t show up the next day. And I really would say to anyone who’s offended by the term "Wears No Bra" as Native American, you probably have other issues that are more important than being offended by that." Rob Schneider knows a thing or three about this sort of thing, having been accused of ethnic stereotyping, himself, in films 50 First Dates, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.  SF Weekly chatted with the San Francisco native about the oversensitivity epidemic; his hilarious, new semi-autobiographical show Real Rob; and what he will and won't do at his upcoming Punch Line Comedy Club dates.

What's your current standup show all about?

A little bit of everything. My life, some recent stuff that’s happened to me, some accusations of racism from this movie I just worked on. Stuff about being part Asian in San Francisco and Jewish — what that was like. You always knew you could get Chinese food on Christmas.

Are people today too sensitive about race-related issues?

I think there’s an absolute oversensitivity to stuff.  But in some ways I think it’s a good backlash. Growing up in San Francisco, every one of my teachers at San Francisco State University was gay. You had to be a complete moron to not have sensitivity to what was happening in the gay community in the early ‘80s, with all the prejudice. And it’s still happening. You have to have a sense of responsibility. At the same time I think self-censorship is the worst form of censorship. Whatever issues someone believes in, they should be able to express that without recrimination. That said, if someone expresses a truly vulgar opinion, that should be condemned. But the level of condemnation has to be taken in context with what the person was doing.

When I was growing up, everyone was calling everyone else gay slurs. Were you always so sensitive to the gay community?

My brother and I, we grew up in the ‘70s. We used to call each other names, the foulest possible, and used to question the other’s sexuality. My brother and I would call each other "Queer Baits." My mother, not knowing English swear words, would call us those names to get us to pick up around the house: “Alright, you Queer Baits, just pick up your towels.“ But with kids being aware about bullying and understanding that certain names can push a kid to a place that’s cruel, those are jokes that I have to be aware that people can take the wrong way.

What was it like growing up, part Jewish in San Francisco — a city where people still ask me what a bagel is?

It’s odd. You only felt really comfortable at your Jewish relative’s house because you could let your guard down. It was kind of weird though, because my dad married a Filipino lady, and not everyone on his side of the family was happy about that. But they both put their faith second to themselves, which was a nice thing. But the jokes were better on my dad’s side of the family, and the food was more interesting and a lot spicier on my mom's side of the family. It used to be that at [Passover] Seder, you had to stand up and tell a joke. You couldn’t go to a dinner without telling a joke, and you knew that eventually it would come to you, and it meant something to have a big laugh. We had five kids from mixed marriages in my family, and the one thing that would get their attention was getting a laugh.

I'm sure most San Franciscans would be surprised to learn that you once co-owned the DNA Lounge.

I decided to lose money the fastest way I could, and the only way I could think of was to own the DNA Lounge for five years. Once I was dumb enough to let people know that I owned it, we started getting sued every weekend every time someone dropped a drink on someone’s shoes. Then even part-owners of the restaurant sued us, because when people know you have money you’re in trouble.

At the same time, it was a fun place to be in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. We had a disco night on Friday nights that was packed. We had incredible people that would come in. Prince performed there. It was also a great place to hang out, knowing that I can get into the VIP room because I owned it. But I definitely don’t recommend it.

Any thoughts on San Francisco's current nightlife scene?

I realize San Francisco needs a nightclub scene. If they were smart, then they’d have made 11th Street the nightclub district. Instead, people moved down there, knowing about the nightclubs, and they built lofts and then started complaining about the noise, and that shut us down.

Tell us about “Real Rob.”

I’ve got my new show “Real Rob,” which we financed and made ourselves. I have my real wife [Mexican television producer Patricia Azarcoya] in it, and she co-wrote it along with [comedian] Jamie Lissow. We spent a year on the first season. I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever done. It’s more of a cable-ish FX, HBO, or Netflix-type show. Now that we’re done, we’re going to find a nice home for it. I’m going to send it to Dawn French, and if she wants to work with me, I’ll be very happy.

If Dawn French were interested, would you leave the U.S. for Britain?

I could see myself moving to London tomorrow. England is where the work is. American network television is dying. It’s going to be a slow, lucrative death, but when NBC produces a show and puts it on Netflix, they’re signing their own death certificate. They know it’s over. It’s the most asinine thing I’ve heard in show business. It’s like cutting off your foot to go on the long-distance run. But it’s getting into the internet. The Harvard Lampoon honored me, and I asked them if they watch TV, and not one of them said they watch TV. They all watch Netflix and stuff on the computer. It’s just dinosaurs like me who are still watching TV.

What will viewers learn about the real Rob Schneider from the show?

They’re going to not know what’s real and what’s not real, but they’re going to know that some of it is real, and they’re going to be blown away by it in a good way and in a bad way. It’s brutally honest. And that’s where TV is going to have to go; not with reality, but where you don’t know how much is reality and how much is made up. That’s the natural evolution of TV. I put a lot of money into it, so that’s what I’m betting on.

How brutally honest can you be in San Francisco these days?

Being from San Francisco, I witnessed the transformation firsthand. They used to reward you for being different at The Other Cafe or the Holy City Zoo. You could say anything you wanted there, and it didn’t matter. The Punch Line Comedy Club was the fancy club. You wanted to put on whatever nice jacket you had, and it was a reward to work there.

But San Francisco became super-politicized, and there are a million different groups, and to get them to coalesce around an idea, there’s always going to be some problem. But that’s what makes San Francisco great. It’s an island of free thought. But even in free thought, you can have people being censored. But if anyone has earned the right to be oversensitive, it’s San Francisco. When you have your leaders Harvey Milk and George Moscone murdered, it’s going to make you oversensitive. I myself will never forget that day. I think it’s in the core of everyone there. And I promise you, I’m going to offend some people when I’m there, but it’s not mean-spirited. Otherwise, I’m not doing the show.

Rob Schneider, June 3-5, at Punch Line Comedy Club, ($40), 444 Battery, 415-397-7573 or punchlinecomedyclub.com.



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