Comic and Young Turks Host Aida Rodriguez: “Go Read a Book!”

Aida Rodriguez is not afraid to mix things up in person or online
Aida Rodriguez is not afraid to mix things up in person or online Photo by Cate Hellman

Aida Rodriguez’s new tour is called Don’t @ Me – and anyone intending to come at her better bring back up. The whip smart wit has a new special streaming on HBO Max and is doing a special one-night event at Houston Improv on March 2.

“That’s the reason I named the tour The Don’t @ Me Tour, because I actually de-activated my twitter account when The Woman King came out,” the comedian shares on the initial idea behind the name. “I remember distinctly, because there was this horrible tweet about Viola Davis and I thought: this really effects my psyche to constantly watch the dismantling and dehumanization of women. It came at a time when a lot of things were happening. So I was never really on Twitter during the Elon Musk takeover and the abundance of the use of racial slurs, because I could see it coming.”

“I was like, I need to get off of here because I am losing brain cells as we speak. So Don’t @ Me was how I was feeling, and I think everyone feels that because many people with social media feel like they can say whatever they want to say. That their opinion overrides yours, that if you don’t think like them there is something wrong with you. You know, we’re all imperfect. Yeah, systems exist and people are bigots and racists and homophobes and transphobes and misogynists and so on and so forth. All of us have been something at some point, and that’s not to normalize or excuse systemic ills and racism. But the reality is we love to virtue signal and point fingers at others and then we check out this person’s Twitter and see them back in the day and see their problematic tweets. What does this become: a constant take down? I don’t want to participate in that. If you don’t like what I have to say, then don’t follow me. Don’t chastise me, don’t criticize me, I don’t want any part of it.”

While her first HBO Max special Fighting Words just hit the digital airwaves, Rodriguez already has a very fresh act to present to audiences making the long journey from their homes to see her in person. “It’s about 80 percent new material” she estimates. “That’s the great thing about having a lot of time, which we had during the pandemic, we had a lot of opportunity to write. And you know, we had a lot of material. So I took a lot of observations and this one is a lot more fun for me. I’m really getting into a lot of social commentary and observation, but even deep into my family experiences. As you evolve and grow and look backwards, you start to observe things differently.”

As clear from her onstage style, those who are followers of her online commentary will recognize not only her humor on display, but also a willingness to take life’s bumps in the road with humility and occasionally profound insight. “I will say I became very introspective during the pandemic,” she says in a somber tone. “We were faced with our mortality, and I was really reminded of how vulnerable we are. We take that for granted when we are living and we are thriving and things are happening in our favor. It was really life changing for me and gave me a lot more insight on people and how information is not just delivered, but digested. I do think it will forever impact who I am, not just a comedian but as a human being.”

Fighting Words was not only special for offering her premiere platform to share her thoughts, but the special also offered her something once-in-a-lifetime: the chance to return to the Dominican Republic to meet her birth father. In documentary style footage inter-spliced with her on-stage act, Rodriguez puts herself out there in a very vulnerable way to capture this moment.

“I’m very private, and as much as I share about my personal life, it is all very curated and approved by my family members. There’s nothing I go out and talk about without making sure the people I’m talking about are OK with it. But this was something I needed to do, and I decided to do it publicly. I kind of jumped out there and I was freaking out when it was about to happen. But I just knew I would be coasting through it because it was such an emotional moment for me. I was pretty numb. I didn’t know what to expect or how it would happen. I wanted to have the opportunity to see it afterwards so I could be outside of it and just be able to look at it, watch it, feel it, process it. I also wanted to share it so I could help normalize it for people like me who felt a certain way growing up their entire life because they had a missing parent. I wanted them to see that there was an upside to it, that I’m doing OK and that you can be OK too. It was an act of bravery for me.”

While the title is still pending, Rodriguez teases that she will be cover the occasion in more detail in a forthcoming book. “I am happy with the result,” she says. “I would say writing has always been an extension of me - an opportunity for me to express myself, especially when I was younger and I felt silenced. Being able to get the word out was a way for me to express myself and you know, it is cathartic. And we get so caught up with destinations that we forget the journey and how these journeys can impact the future. So for me this was such a great lesson in life about not feeling solutions in life lies with one person, one thing, one experience.  They are all connected to the greater journey and you evolving into your best self.”

While this journey to visit a past has long been building, most know Rodriguez is best off-the-cuff, as she is often seen commenting on current events as a co-host on the popular online news outlet, The Young Turks. With Tucker Carlson releasing a special on The Death of Comedy and the rumor that the new honchos at CNN may be looking to bring a comedian in to anchor their primetime broadcasts, the media landscaping appears to be adapting fast. As a comedian and a commentator, what does she make of this recent pivot toward comedy intermingling with news? 

“Writing is the foundation of all the things that I do,” she begins, “not just as a comedian but as a voice in the political-social sector, which I do very lightly.  I don’t call myself a pundit or a correspondent but I am a host on The Young Turks. But I will say, comedians are among the smartest people on the planet. The ones who take their jobs seriously really take the time to connect with all people, not just the ones who think like them.”

“If you think about when we were just dealing with the Supreme Court and women’s reproductive rights, you saw so many videos of George Carlin going viral that were shot years ago.  That’s because his perspective, his point of view, his sense of information was so on point that people who were 19 years old were sharing his videos and probably didn’t know who he was.

"It’s smart to have a comedian on board when talking through issues that polarize us because through laughter, it disarms us as we process information. Sometimes through a joke, you are able to reach people you wouldn’t if it seems like you are talking down to them or preaching at them. Laughter is just inviting. It’s disarming, with the right comedian, armed with the information. You can’t just show up there and throw out jokes. You better know what you are talking about. I think it’s an idea if you have a comedian, especially if it's someone who has taken on a neutral role as opposed to some comedian who are now pledging their allegiance to political parties and ideologies. I think it’s our job to break all of that down and explore it.”

Rodriguez has some advice for whoever takes on the job as comedy anchor. It's the same as for those who spend too much time on social media: “Go read a book!” she says with a big laugh. “You have to read. Especially right now, I think it’s very important to do that because the media has taken on this role of reality television verses being a resource for the American people.”

Aida Rodriguez’s performance is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 at Improv Comedy Club Houston, 7620 Katy Freeway, Suite 455. For more information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $40-180

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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee