To find inspiration for culture-clashing comedy for his new sitcom, Rob Schneider rarely needs to look any further than his own home.
“Like, at about 11 o'clock at night, my wife just says ‘Translator off,’” he explains. “In other words, she's not going to listen to anything I say after that.”
Schneider says that the entire premise of the series “Rob” – which chronicles a lily-white lifetime bachelor’s attempts to assimilate into his new wife’s large Latino family – came directly from his own life after he married Mexican television producer Patricia Azarcoya Arce last April. “It's like a sitcom at our house, in the sense of she's constantly joking. She's a very funny person, and she kept saying ‘Now in Spanish, I'm much funnier – you have no idea.’”
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His first TV series after starring in dozens of lowbrow but always profitable film comedies over the years since his tenure on “Saturday Night Live”, he says, was her idea. “‘You should do a show with you married to a Mexican girl, and then and you should have a crazy uncle who never leaves..." So she's been great about that. And the cultural differences – I mean, her parents really don't speak English, so it's interesting in that kind of forum. But I think for our audience, it's nice to have people that speak English.”
Schneider surrounded himself with an impressive ensemble of actors as his new influents who are as fluent in the language of laughter as they are in both Spanish and English – including Cheech Marin, Diana Maria Riva, Lupe Ontiveros and Eugenio Derbez - in hopes of finding the same comedic moments on the small screen that he’s found at home.
“Everybody's got a family, and the idea of this show is to be a family, and it just happens to be a Hispanic family,” says Schneider. “I think there are differences and cultural things which are fun, but ultimately there's always one person who's kind of on the way out or doesn't fit in, and there's always somebody misunderstanding something, and there's something that is going on behind somebody else's back. So I think it's really relatable for everyone.”
Schneider, who himself has Jewish and Filipino heritage and has occasionally caught flack for trying to mine laughs from cultural differences in his films, says “Rob” won’t walk the razor’s edge when it comes to social commentary, but he says there is room to push some boundaries. “As long as you deal with it in a way that's respectful and deal with the real problems in America,” he says. “I mean, this isn't a drama, but I think you have to deal with it. I think we want to do things that are funny, and I think, if we could shed some light on it in a way that could be fun and people can relate to it, it's fine.”
“I think people expect me to go push things a little farther,” he adds. “But if anything bad happens, it's mostly to my character. My wife is not going to let me do anything overly offensive, I guarantee you. I have to go home to my wife –she'll let me know. And I think you have to be able to laugh at yourselves. I mean, in Mexico, she says they are laughing at everything. She told me, like ‘In Mexico, they've always had a [financial] crisis in Mexico. So what are you guys talking about here?’”
"Rob" airs Thursday nights at 8:30 PM on CBS