BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
Within the span of a scheduled ten-minute interview that turned into a twenty-four minutes comedian Rob Schneider cited three books (“you must read Sharyl Attkisson’s new book”), sneezed four times (“I’m feeling a little under the weather, but it’s all good”) and gushed about the five upcoming shows he will be doing here in Chicago (“there is just something about that Midwestern hospitality and pride that I just get”).
Not bad for claiming to have woken up just one minute before.
“People come up to people my age and say ‘you look tired’,” begins the 51-year-old husband and father to two-year-old daughter Miranda, with wife Patricia. “I mean, I slept 12 hours. I just have been alive for 50 years. That’s why I look so damn tired.”
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And so goes the characteristic deadpan attitude of the actor and writer and funnyman who first garnered attention as the “Richmeister” character sitting by the copy machine in countless “Saturday Night Live” skits in the early ’90s. After leaving “SNL” in 1994, Schneider went on to appear in a long list of movies (including “Deuce Bigalow,” “Grown-Ups”), many of which were alongside friend and fellow comedian Adam Sandler. In 2009, he returned to standup after a nearly 20-year break.
And stand-up ain’t what it used to be.
“Most people don’t care about what I think about history or politics when they come see me, but if I can find ways to sneak it in there, I’m going to do it,” explains Schneider. “You have to be aware of all this stuff to be a comedian with any relevance these days. The fact is that there is something funny about everything. But I will bring up Edward Snowden and I can immediately feel the audience tightening up. I mean, you can hear a pin drop because they don’t know how they feel about it. You can’t be there to preach, but you can take them to a place where they discover something, hopefully.”
Schneider has never been afraid to be that comedian — the one who takes serious stances on serious subjects. “Of course you have to get up there and you have to entertain people,” says Schneider, who is currently in post-production for his new self-financed comedy series “Real Rob.” “But just because I am an actor doesn’t mean I have to give up my rights as an American. The problem is that these days, if you say something and 20 people attack you, all of a sudden they can create a false perception to the whole world that’s it’s a big deal. Comedians have become some sort of target, that’s for sure.”
The overly sensitive environment in which we live is something that Schneider says affects many of his favorite comedians at the moment, including everyone from Sarah Silverman to Bill Burr to fellow “SNL” alum Chris Rock.
“Chris Rock said nothing George Carlin wouldn’t have said,” says Schneider of the controversy surrounding Rock’s recent “SNL” monologue that touched on everything from the Boston Marathon to 9/11. “They were great jokes, and Chris is one of our best comics. He is constantly dancing on the razor’s edge. But then some bloggers get online and say we shouldn’t be laughing at his material? C’mon. The most sensitive members of society shouldn’t decide what everyone else gets to hear and see and watch. There should be electric shocks on their computers.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.