In 2012, CBS canceled Rob Schneider's self-titled sitcom ¡Rob!. Rather than wait for another network to give him a shot at his own show, he decided to give himself one instead.
"We averaged 11 million viewers and the premiere had 13.5 million viewers and it wasn't enough for them," Schneider said from a set in Florida. "They canceled it after eight shows, so I was like, 11 million, I'll take that. I'll take it some place else and make it even funnier. I met John Cleese who wrote six episodes [of Fawlty Towers] with his wife and he made a brilliant show. So I'm hoping to make my own Fawlty Towers."
That's why he alternates his time between the stand-up circuit and the set of his self-produced sitcom Real Rob which he wrote about himself with his wife, Patricia, and comedian Jamie Lissow. He'll be at the Addison Improv tonight at 8 and 10:30 p.m, Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Schneider's stand-up shows cover the cost of his sitcom that he's written, directed and produced entirely out of his own pocket.
"My touring is paying for my shooting so that helps," he said. "I'm quite a bit over budget for my sitcom. I'm the only actor I know that's paid for a whole season of a TV series before."
He described Real Rob as "an exaggerated version of my life" that doesn't have to survive the pressure of a network that's constantly scared of offending its viewers or (even worse) their advertisers. He hasn't sold the idea to a network or even a distribution house. He's making and releasing it on his own terms and that's not as crazy of an idea as it sounds. Sites such as Netflix and Hulu are developing huge audiences with shows that would never have a chanceunder the thumb of an executive who's only interested in selling peanut butter and life insurance.
"I wanted it to be like a comedy House of Cards thing where people really fall in love with it, so we treat it like they are all eight, one hour movies," Schneider said. "This is balls to the wall funny. That's what we're going for."
He said it not only gives him the chance to act and write again but he also gets to direct his own project, an option that may be in his future if he decides he doesn't want to be in front of the camera anymore or take on something more serious.
"I like directing and I like acting when I'm doing something fun," he said. "I'd be open to that if it's something interesting. There's a movie I want to do that's a Spanish play called Arbol, which is "Tree" and it's a beautiful little Spanish story. It's a play about this woman who has a son who's not really her son, like a pretend son, because the real son is a schmuck, and it's a really interesting dynamic and I like it. That's something I really want to make."
He's also been back on the road doing stand-up again for the last five years following a 20-year absence from the stage, something he said that comedian Chris Rock had been urging him to do for awhile.
"I got back to it about five years ago with a passion," Schneider said. "I love it. It's taken me about five years to really find my voice again and I want to be at the top of my game with the other guys that are out there."
Schneider said he sees a surge in American comedy because of the tough economic times in which nearly 49 million people live near or below the poverty line. He compared it to England's comedy surge that came just towards the end of rationing and the total collapse of its empire.
"There was a certain kind of, I don't want to say bitterness, but there was a certain edge to their humor," he said. "That's why those Ealing comedies that came out in the '50s with people like Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers were so interesting, and I think that the audience was kind of craving for that. In some ways, I feel like the audience is there now in the same way for America where American audiences are looking for something a little bit more, and I think that's a challenge."
He credited names like Louis CK, Doug Stanhope and Sarah Silverman with changing the shape and form of live comedy. He called Bill Burr, who just did a set of shows at the Arlington Improv, the best comedian in America.
"You have some people who are really at their peak at the same time," he said. "There's some great, terrific comics out there and I want to be one of them. That's what I'm working towards.
"I saw George Carlin perform just before he passed away and he was fantastic," he said. "You could tell he was not well, but he was still brilliant and it really intimidated me. I was like, fuck, I've done a lot of things in my career but I haven't done that. That's what made me want to get back into it."
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