Crowning the next Latin Kings of Comedy is serious business -- seriously funny, that is.
Original Latin King co-founder Paul Rodriguez has brought the popular tour back on the road with a new breed of monarchy. Among the royal court is Modesto native Manny Maldonado. The show brings the regal laughs to Stockton's Bob Hope Theatre on Saturday.
Rodriguez culled his new comedy court from some of the hottest up-and-coming Latin comics around. Joining Maldonado, who was born in Modesto and raised in Ceres, are Frank Lucero, from "Loco Comedy Jam," and Gene Pompa, from "Late Night Show with Conan O'Brien" and "In Living Color."
Rodriguez was among the Original Latin Kings who hit it big with their 2002 film and subsequent tours. An actor in more than 30 films, including "Tortilla Soup," "Ali" and "The World's Fastest Indian," Rodriguez said he restarted the tour to give the next generation of Latin comics a chance.
"It's become a showcase for comedians that are on their way up," he said in a phone interview with The Bee from his Los Angeles home. "People will be pleasantly surprised with the youngsters I'm bringing."
Rodriguez discussed the tour, opportunities for Latinos and his plans for the future.
Q: It's been half a dozen years since the original movie. What is it about the formula of the Latin Kings that keeps it a success?
A: It is a formula. We aren't the originators. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this is downright thievery. I saw the success of the Original Kings (Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac) and I said, "These aren't the Original Kings -- they are Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor." But if you say it loud enough, it gives it credibility. So I sat back and said, who are the most prominent Latin comedians? It was a very short list.
Q: How did you select the lineup?
A: I have been doing this for a while and I've had most of them if not all of them open for me at one time or another. You can gauge their growth and see if they're ready.
Q: Manny is actually from Modesto. What was it about him that struck you, and how has be been doing on the tour?
A: Manny eventually will be the most successful of us all. He has got youth on his side. He has quirkiness and a lot of likability. That boy was born with a lot of aces. Has a helpless child look. Even if the jokes aren't all that, they laugh. I wish I had what he's got. He is very talented.
Q: When you're on tour with a group of comics, what's the atmosphere like backstage? Do you compare war stories, check out each other's acts, keep it professional?
A: There is nothing professional about this. I didn't have a lot of camaraderie when I was starting out. But they are excited and looking forward to the things that are coming. For us -- Hispanic, Mexicans, whatever we're calling ourselves -- the future is there.
Q: Do you think opportunities for Latino comics have increased since the Original Latin Kings came out?
A: I'm an optimist. You have to be. Yes, it has changed, but considering what you're measuring, it's still lagging. I was talking to a producer of "Spider-Man" and said, "Even if it's a fictitious city, you have to include us. I'd like to see Spider-Man eating a churro." Even if, say, this takes place in the '40s, we were there in the '40s. We're here and we want to be accepted as Americans. We want the good and the bad.
Q: What else is on your horizon?
A: I want to make a gracious transition into behind the scenes, hopefully, to direct. I'm in the new Disney animated film "South of the Border." So, finally now, my nieces and nephews will know what I do. I've done all the road I want to do after this tour. Hopefully, I can stay at home and drink Coronas and write.