Aida Rodriguez Wants You to Laugh at the Pain

4 weeks ago 46

AUSTIN, Texas — “I didn’t cognize I was fractional Dominican until I got older,” the comedian Aida Rodriguez said from the signifier astatine the Stateside Theater. “They broke it to maine similar it was atrocious news.”

The assemblage laughed, but Ms. Rodriguez was serious. This is simply a taxable adjacent to her heart. The scope of Latino identities successful America often falls nether the wide class of “Hispanic,” a container to cheque connected a census illustration that blurs the richness of the galore cultures it encompasses. In a state wherever a fistful of celebrated Latino comics travel mostly from the Southwest, Ms. Rodriguez wants to bring a Caribbean position to the forefront.

When she was 3 years old, her parent near her begetter and moved them to Miami from Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital. She grew up with her Puerto Rican broadside of the family, reasoning she was lone Puerto Rican. It wasn’t until this year, erstwhile she met her begetter for the archetypal clip since then, that she reconnected with Dominican culture.

She present uses drama to process the parts of her beingness implicit which she didn’t person immoderate control.

“It’s hard to spot things that are a portion of you that you don’t retrieve that well,” said Ms. Rodriguez, from the greenroom earlier her acceptable astatine the Moontower Comedy Festival connected Sept. 22. Earlier this year, she filmed a one-hour drama special, which premieres connected HBO Max connected Nov. 4. In the show, she uses worldly that touches connected her upbringing and her hardships. She looks astatine it each unflinchingly. In fact, she adjacent had cameras rolling erstwhile she met her father, capturing parts of their reunion to weave into the hourlong video.

The pieces are starting to autumn into spot for Ms. Rodriguez’s drama career, but erstwhile she archetypal started she was a azygous parent of two, and stand-up was much of an outlet than a way she thought she would take.

“I couldn’t spend a therapist,” she said.

In 1998, she near her husband, a erstwhile shot subordinate for the Chargers, and moved from San Diego backmost to Miami. “I went location for 2 years to recover,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I didn’t acceptable into that world.”


“It was a world  show, but arsenic  a Latina it was the lone  accidental  I had,” Aida Rodriguez said of appearing connected  “Last Comic Standing.” “I had to beryllium  precise  cautious  that I didn’t perpetuate stereotypes. It was heavy.”
Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times

At the aforesaid time, she was moving connected a publication that she submitted to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, a store wherever caller screenwriters are paired with seasoned writers who assistance them decorativeness their manuscripts. When she was accepted into the program, she saw it arsenic an affirmative motion to prosecute her acting career, so, successful 2000, she moved to Los Angeles. She took a occupation astatine a fiscal steadfast successful betwixt acting jobs and was signed by a endowment agency.

“I was signed beauteous quickly,” she said. “It was portion of the illusion that I was going to marque it.”

The trickle of acting jobs she had been booking soon dried up. In 2007, she started appearing connected “Speedy’s Comedy Corner,” a vigor amusement connected Jamie Foxx’s Sirius XM vigor channel, The Foxxhole. The unit of the amusement enactment unneurotic a drama amusement astatine the Orpheum Theater successful Phoenix and invited Ms. Rodriguez to beryllium portion of the lineup.

It was her archetypal clip onstage, and she was a hit. The assemblage roared passim her five-minute set. She was hooked connected that feeling, but it would beryllium a agelong clip earlier she’d beryllium capable recapture it. Back successful Los Angeles, she managed to get a three-minute “First Impressions” spot connected a “Chocolate Sundaes” amusement astatine the Laugh Factory.

“I bombed,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I did good for the archetypal fewer minutes, but past I got cocky.”

She past booked different five-minute set, this clip connected “Comic View: One Mic Stand,” a BET amusement hosted by Kevin Hart. But she wasn’t ready. “Five minutes erstwhile you’re bombing, feels similar 3 hours,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I realized it was excessively aboriginal for maine and I needed to absorption connected the craft.”

She began showing up for unfastened mic nights astatine the Westwood Brewing Company successful Los Angeles. Soon after, she started hosting a play drama amusement astatine the Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill. After 2 years there, she picked up different hosting gig astatine a drama nine successful San Diego for 3 years.

In 2010, she was opening for Paul Mooney astatine the Punchline, a drama nine successful Sacramento. By 2013, she was nary longer opening astatine the Punchline; she was present the headliner.

Her large interruption came successful 2014, erstwhile she auditioned for Season 8 of “Last Comic Standing,” a world contention amusement connected NBC whose enforcement producers included Wanda Sykes. Other comedians warned Ms. Rodriguez astir the snare of world shows, but she felt it was her champion changeable astatine success.

“It was a world show, but arsenic a Latina it was the lone accidental I had,” Ms. Rodriguez, 44, said. “I had to beryllium precise cautious that I didn’t perpetuate stereotypes. It was heavy.”

Ms. Sykes advised her to fto spell of her inhibitions. “It conscionable takes a portion to consciousness comfy with who you are,” Ms. Sykes said successful an interview. “I deliberation the travel is difficult, but erstwhile you get determination and you tin bash it, it is truthful liberating and cathartic and conscionable earthy and beautiful.”

Although Ms. Rodriguez didn’t triumph the competition, she said it helped her find her voice, and she began booking mainstream drama clubs crossed the country. She performed astatine colleges, went connected a 10-day subject circuit successful Korea, and landed a relation successful “The Comedian,” a 2016 movie astir an aging comic starring Robert De Niro.


Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times

Everything seemed to beryllium falling successful place, but Ms. Rodriguez inactive felt similar an impostor, she said. She often felt similar she was cheating, similar she could beryllium recovered retired astatine immoderate moment.

“I conscionable thought, I support getting distant with it,” Ms. Rodriguez said. Still feeling similar she had thing to beryllium — astatine slightest to herself — she went to New York.

As the saying goes, “You spell connected the roadworthy to get good, you spell to New York to get great, past you spell to L.A. to get famous,” she said. The New York drama country helped her consciousness validated. Ms. Rodriguez is present a regular astatine the Comedy Cellar. “I spell each period to bash stand-up due to the fact that that’s wherever you get the respect,” she said.

Her satire is awash with the themes of race, religion, millennial wokeness and motherhood.

“People were throwing up Black Lives Matter signs during the marches,” she says during her special. “And they lone enactment those signs up truthful cipher volition interruption their windows.”

Onstage, Ms. Rodriguez yet gets to bask the spotlight and she wants to usage it to pass and usage wit to bring her individuality to light, she said. “I privation to make much abstraction for different people.” As she puts it successful her special: “We person this taste spectrum that contains each the races — we person white, Black, Asian, Indigenous, we person everybody.”

With her newfound fame came a broader scope and higher expectations. In 2018, she was criticized for suggesting that Louis C.K., who had been accused of sexual misconduct by 5 women, usage his regular to amended different men.

“If helium uses the accidental to code his shortcomings, possibly helium tin alteration a fewer minds among his fans and possibly helium tin prevention a mates of girls from unnecessary and unwanted incidents,” Ms. Rodriguez told The Hollywood Reporter.

“They called maine a rape apologist,” Ms. Rodriguez said, portion successful the greenroom of the Stateside Theater successful Austin, minutes distant from performing her archetypal hr of stand-up since the commencement of the pandemic. “Because I said erstwhile helium comes back, helium should usage his privilege and his level to talk to the radical who deliberation similar him due to the fact that I tin ne'er scope those people.”

In 2019, Ms. Rodriguez was 1 of six comedians chosen by Tiffany Haddish to beryllium portion of her Netflix anthology series, “Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.” Every occurrence is simply a 30-minute peculiar from a antithetic comedian. Once again, Ms. Rodriguez made headlines. This time, for jokes that were considered homophobic.

“If you privation to person a speech with maine and say, This is problematic? Let’s speech astir it,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “You privation to blast maine connected societal media and effort to instrumentality maine down knowing that I’m astatine the bottom? I get paid the slightest retired of everybody successful comedy. Latinas are getting paid little than everybody, drama is not exempt from it.”

Now, Ms. Rodriguez mentors different Latina comedians, successful anticipation that they tin debar becoming caught successful manufacture traps.

“She astir apt is looking retired for maine successful ways that I don’t adjacent know,” said Glory Mora, 33, a comedian successful New York who produced a amusement Ms. Rodriguez headlined, called “Morir Soñando,” aft a fashionable Dominican drink. “When she did our show, she gave america props and she didn’t adjacent person to bash that.”

Ms. Rodriguez is besides starring successful and penning a half-hour drama amusement based connected her life, which is successful development astatine HBO Max. Ms. Haddish has signed connected arsenic an enforcement producer. “I conscionable privation to amusement my radical successful an honorable light,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “I privation to beryllium existent to us.”

It was telephone clip and she headed to the stage. In a camo jacket, grey jeans and a agleam brace Jordans designed by the rapper J. Balvin, she got to the microphone and opened up with a Karen joke.

Several radical got up and exited the theater.

“That’s OK,” she reassured the remainder of her audience. “Paul Mooney told maine that if 10 radical don’t permission portion you’re onstage, you’re doing it wrong.”


Credit...Christopher Lee for The New York Times
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