It's hard to think of Rob Schneider, the comedian who portrayed absurd characters like Rich (the "makin' copies" guy) on Saturday Night Live as anything else, even though he left the show in 1994. Though he went to star in The Animal, The Hot Chick and the Deuce Bigelow movies, the Richmeister remains timeless.
People who watched him as Richmeister (and the Donut Hut Slut and a host of others) when they were kids still come up to him once in a while to talk about the SNL characters.
"When you see stuff when you're younger, it resonates more because, I think, you're more open to being influenced by things," he tells Art Attack. "Like when I was a young comedian, when I was 13 or 14, my mind was so open and excited about things. And so it's fun when people remember those things, because they were excited about it."
On the phone from Hollywood, Schneider's funny but not silly, talkative but not verbose, and fiercely political but not loudly so. He calls Art Attack directly without being patched through by a publicist or manager, and quietly jokes "I'm so over that," when we express our surprise.
Schneider's in town this weekend for a few stand-up shows at the Improv. Stand-up is something Schneider only recently took back up after 20 years of being absent from the stage. He finds the immediacy of stand-up appealing and loves the idea of getting instant feedback on a joke.
"I was really itching, because it's such an immediate thing where you can have an audience of people and if you can get them to a place where they are really laughing, it can be fantastic," he says.
He recalls running down to the Donahue studio in the early '90s to thank Richard Pryor for his influential Live in Concert film. Pryor's response: "I was still figuring that shit out! You should have seen it four months later!"
Schneider explains, "I couldn't imagine it any better than it already was."
His stand-up material draws on his own relationships, culture clash (his wife is of Mexican descent; he is half-Jewish and half-Filipino) and the bottomless well of politics.
"People laugh, because it's insane," he says. "It's crazy that they advertise surgical procedures on billboards. That's not done in Germany. In Germany, it's unlawful to make money off of anything that is deemed a basic medical procedure...And here, the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to make billions of dollars, and they do."
As worked up as he gets over the state of Medicare, Social Security, taxes, the environment and you guessed it, the media, Schneider says he pulls back in his act.
"If anything, people go to comedy just to have a good laugh," he says. "People don't want to go there to be lectured, they want to go and laugh."
8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday. 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit www.improv.com. Tickets are $35.