Rob Schneider Talks Stand-up Comedy, His Netflix Series & The Human Condition

Rob Schneider Headshot
Photo Credit: Julia Kuzmenko

Rob Schneider is the actor and comedian that everyone knows. Whether it’s from his various appearances in Adam Sandler films or as “the copy guy” from his days on Saturday Night Live, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that Schneider hasn’t made laugh throughout the years.  From Deuce Bigelow to screaming “You Can Do It!” at a disheartened Waterboy, Schneider has always found a way to permeate American pop culture.

In more recent years, Schneider has ventured into different areas of show business, flexing his artistic abilities as he made his directorial debut in Big Stan. His show Real Rob entered its second season on Netflix September 29. Schneider’s  most recent venture has been his return to stand-up comedy after a long hiatus. Schneider will be performing his standup act on Friday October 6th at the Newton Theatre in New Jersey.

I sat down with Rob to discuss his renewed love of standup comedy, his dedication to Real Rob, advice to up-and-coming comics, and more. Never one to be quiet on his beliefs, we had a very impassioned and fascinating discussion.

You recently came back to stand-up after a long hiatus. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

It was definitely a combination of things. Stand-up is tough. It beats you up. The people and the audience are the best part, by far. Society is faster now and there’s more demands on people’s time. There are more distractions. It’s been really fun for me to subvert people from what’s happening in their lives. I’ve had to really stay on top of it. We are dealing with a lot of whiners and complainers in society and I think that those most sensitive should not be in control of TV or what people watch. Those complaining seem to be the loudest. It’s a challenge, but I like it. Like Mel Brooks said the other day — I don’t think you could make Blazing Saddles today. Comedy should be liberated from the confines of personal and societal sensitivities. We need to be immune. I refuse to be a part of that. 

Has your writing changed?

I’m definitely more aware of the sensitivities. Like Louis C.K. said recently — nothing is off-limits, you just have to make sure the logic is there. I have to be a little more surgical in my exactness. People are afraid to laugh at things sometimes. I did a midnight show in Salt Lake City, Utah last night. It was sold out and I received a standing ovation. I think I was successful last night. Comedy is incredibly subversive when done right. 

You started really gaining recognition on SNL. Do you still watch the show?

Usually I’m working on Saturdays so I don’t get the chance to watch it. I work every Saturday. I also have two children, which doesn’t help. I still think the show is great, but Saturday is when I perform.

The second season of Real Rob just premiered. When did the idea for this show first hit you?

When CBS cancelled my show (¡Rob! which aired in 2012). 11.5 million viewers wasn’t enough for CBS, but it was enough for me, and it was enough for Netflix. Netflix is the best place in the world. Not many people know this, but Netflix is currently worth more than CBS and Time Warner combined.

Your wife Patricia Maya Schneider plays herself on Real Rob. Has it been fun bringing that real-life dynamic to the screen?

Hopefully it’s fun for the audience! It feels fun. We can’t judge that for ourselves. No husband and wife shows are working right now. We are like the Reverse I love Lucy. I want the audience to not know what’s true and what isn’t. That’s a lot of fun for us. The show is really just how we wanted. The creative freedom at Netflix is unparalleled. There’s no room full of writers. It’s just myself, Patricia, and Jamie Lissow.

What’s the project you’ve worked on that you’re most proud of? 

I’m proud, I’m very proud of so many things I’ve done. I’m incredibly proud of Real Rob. Real Rob was very difficult to produce, to finance and get it out there. And now it’s in 190 countries. I’m proud of my stand-up, that I can go on stage in a room full of strangers and subvert them to my point of view.

You just marked your 20th film with Adam Sandler. Do you have a favorite character you’ve portrayed in one of those films? 

I don’t have a favorite, mostly because I try not to look towards the past. I look towards the future. We’re going to do one with Steve Buscemi again, and I’m very excited about that. Steve is great.

Do you think comedy is important, especially right now?

I think that’s a false notion that each era seems to think. Like there’s always an arrogance, like there are the ‘50 greatest NBA players.’ They don’t have the humility to say the 50 greatest NBA players so far. And there’s never been a time in humanity where people haven’t looked at themselves and said, “We are the most modern — but maybe not.”

Rob Schneider Head Shot 2
Photo Credit: Julia Kuzmenko

I feel like humanity is still at an adolescence phase and we may not make it to adulthood. It’s always important. It could always be not important too. The important things are the human condition. If humor can be used to shed light on that, then that’s better. No one will come out to a show to see me speak of my ideas of the human condition. But you can speak of the human condition, if you’re clever about it.

There are more challenges now about being a comedian. It’s not a conservative era, but it’s very impulsive and its impulse is to shun and silence and demonize those that you disagree with. It is so close to being an amazing era with all the info at our fingertips but instead of the wealth of the internet people just see what they’re interested in. I wish people had to see what they don’t know about.

Comedians have a little more time to ask questions and they can know themselves a little bit more and then they can do the short cut for the audience a bit. And in my case, I let them see some absurdity, some irony. And they can see the silliness, absurdity, and irony of our culture. It’s fun and it lightens people’s load.

People are so serious right now. Cause I’m in my 50s now. If you forced me to compare, it’s a similar time period now to post-Vietnam. It feels like right after Vietnam, when people were war-weary then very politics-weary. It feels very serious. And I’m against that kind of impulse to be dogmatic in your views like people are now. I think people are subversive to silliness and that’s my job. It’s good to question their ideas. Undermine their ideology a little bit. Screw up people’s foundational thinking. 

Do you have any advice for a novice stand-up?

Try to write a joke from two different angles at nighttime. Then at 7 a.m., before you check your phone and email, go right to that old fashioned notepad. If you have to work from a computer, do that, but an old-fashioned pad works best I think. I have the best ideas late at night. I put one idea per page, on the top. Then in the morning I go right to the pad. The different part of your brain, the creative side, the right side, is awake earlier. By the time the other side is awake it, it takes a little bit longer, but it crushes the other side. So go back and take another look a little bit later. You’ll be surprised.

You know what they call creativity? Creativity is the merciless mistress of innovation. They don’t call it the wife, they call it the mistress, because you never know when she will come. So that’s the thing, you can increase the likelihood of her appearance by setting a regular time and tricking your brain into writing more

Rob Schneider will be performing at the Newton Theatre on Friday October 6 (click here for tickets).  The second season of Real Rob premiered September 29, only on Netflix. Be sure to check out for upcoming tour dates and more!

-Jess Alaimo

Jess Alaimo is a standup comedian, emcee, and writer from Asbury Park, NJ, with roots in the Jersey Shore music and arts scene. She is a strong proponent of women in the arts and also has a cat named Oprah Winfrey. Jess can be seen hosting her weekly comedy show "So You Want To Be A Comedian" at The Anchor’s Bend in Asbury Park. You can also catch her performing standup around the tri-state area.