Friday April 6, 2012
Rob’s serious mission
By KENNETH CHAW
Rob Schneider proves to be more than just a comedian in the new sitcom Rob.
IT’S hard to take comedians seriously. And it doesn’t help if you’re one known for starring as a gigolo and a scruffy 30-year-old man whose body is inhabited by a spoilt teenage girl. Still, veteran comedian Rob Schneider who has spent over 20 years building himself up as one of Hollywood’s leading funnymen, proves he can be just as serious as he is funny in a recent 15-minute phone interview from Los Angeles, California.
“We need workers in America, we need people to do the jobs that other Americans don’t want to do and that’s a fact. And just because it’s so easy to attack them, they’re being attacked,” the actor passionately defends foreign workers and minorities in America who face discrimination for residing in the country.
The issue in question is highlighted in Schneider’s latest sitcom Rob, which revolves around the lives of a Mexican-American family. Loosely based on events from his life, the series begins with Rob (Schneider) and Maggie (Claudia Bassols) who fall in love and within six weeks, elope to Las Vegas.
But Rob’s desire to be closer to Maggie’s family leads them back to her hometown where they are faced with the dreadful task of breaking the news about their marriage to her parents. To their dismay, Maggie’s conventional Mexican parents, Fernando (Cheech Marin) and Rosa (Diana Maria Riva), are less than impressed by their daughter’s choice of life partner, and it’s not hard to see why.
Maggie is a tall, drop-dead gorgeous book translator while Rob is a, well, vertically-challenged landscape architect (but as far as the family is concerned, he is just another “gardener”), who being white, knows little about the Mexican culture. Worse, the couple’s decision to get hitched in Vegas shatters her parents’ dream of a fairy tale wedding.
Nevertheless, the family’s black sheep, Maggie’s uncle, Hector (Eugenio Derbez), has taken a liking to Rob though his intentions are questionable (in their first meeting, he asks for a US$7,200 loan and suggests a visit to their home over the weekend but plans to stay on indefinitely).
Rob, a life-long bachelor until now, suddenly finds himself caught in the centre of a loud and expressive family, but for Maggie’s sake, he is determined to embrace the Mexican community and its culture wholeheartedly.
The premise of the show comes from Schneider’s real-life marriage to his beautiful wife, Patricia Azarcoya Ace, a Mexican TV producer. The 48-year-old actor tied the knot with Patricia last April and just a few months into their marriage, Rob was birthed.
“Patricia had suggested the idea originally. I was trying to think of an idea for a TV show and she said, ‘You should just talk about being married to a Mexican’,” Schneider recalls.
But fans of Schneider can quickly tell that the actor – who’s known for his iconic roles on the big screen – Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and The Hot Chick – is making an uncharacteristic move from film to television with Rob.
The actor explained that though he initially wanted to avoid dabbling in TV productions due to his disinterest in playing the same character for a long period of time, he eventually gave in, in light of the interesting materials that can be found on TV and also the promising prospect of the industry.
He goes on to share some of the challenges encountered when transitioning to the small screen, such as finding a way to work around the limited TV format. “On TV, one whole show is only 20 minutes and 30 seconds. So, if somebody goes to the bathroom, they can miss half the show,” Schneider jokes in his familiar comedic tone.
But putting a show out like Rob is more than just fun and games for the actor. Schneider believes that comedy serves as a great way to present hard-hitting issues, such as those surrounding minorities in a light-hearted manner. As such, Rob acts as one of very few TV comedies that gives media representation to the minorities living in America (the other being Wizards Of Waverly Place which features an Italian-Mexican family).
Unfortunately, TV critics are not receiving the series’ ethnic humour well. The Daily Beast opines that Rob “…offers a wafer-thin appreciation and awareness of Mexican culture, one that doesn’t go beyond guacamole and the occasional use of the Spanish endearment mija (my daughter)” while the Washington Post says that the series’ stereotypical portrayal of the Mexican community may leave some people “offended”.
In response, Schneider says: “You can’t self-censor yourself when you’re trying to do comedy, and if you’re trying to do a comedy that’s too safe, then you’re not interesting”. Some of the series’ ‘risky’ sequences include a scene in which Fernando expresses an anti-immigration sentiment, wishing the United States would “build a wall and patrol it with cannons”, as being an immigrant himself, Fernando reasons, “I don’t need anymore competition”.
However, Schneider assures viewers, stating: “I would not be able to continue living with a Mexican woman if I’m doing something that’s racist.”
In any case, the actor’s effort to shed light on this overlooked and underrepresented community is commendable to say the least while showing viewers that he can be more than just a comic.
Premiering this Sunday, Rob airs weekly at 8.10pm on beTV (Astro Ch 720).