Politics Aside Paul Rodriguez’s “The Pitch” Adresses The Lack of Latinos on TV

If you can get past his politics, you will find Paul Rodriguez in top form in The Pitch, a semi-autobiographical play about his attempts at selling a Latino themed script to Hollywood.  The Pitch is currently running at the Los Angeles Theater Center in DTLA until Sept. 17th. Read the review here.

Although many disagree with his politics (as I do), I am sure all will agree with the powerful message Paul “pitches” at the end of the play.  Although a bit disjointed, The Pitch has a message and it comes with loads of laughs and relatable ire towards Hollywood.  Paul turns in a performance that is sharp witted and poignant and at times laugh out loud funny.

With a bit of self-deprecation and references to his personal life, Paul vulnerability gives this piece its shines.  Mike Gomez stars along with Paul and gives an excellent performance as his cohort. But this is Paul’s show all the way and he carries it well.

Paul Rodriguez was born in Culiacan, Mexico and migrated to the U.S. with his family, settling in Compton, California.   After getting out of the Air Force he went to college on the GI bill to become an attorney but got sidetracked when he worked at The Comedy Store, eventually taking up a new love, stand-up.

(Top Row) Hector Elizondo, Bert Rosario, Mario Lopez, Maria Richwine (Maria Luna). Center: Paul Rodriguez with Joe Santos on his right and Katy Jurado on the left

Paul starred in the short lived sitcom AKA Pablo in 1984. It was created by Norman Lear, who was so impressed with Paul he wrote and developed the sitcom specifically for him.  It lasted only six episodes before it was cancelled, but it employed the most Latinos of any TV show to date.

Paul also starred in several other TV shows like Trial and Error and Grand Slam, and films such as D.C. Cab, and Born in East L.A.  which was written, directed and starred Cheech Marin.  Throughout Paul’s career, one thing has remained constant, his using his Latino roots as the basis for his comedy.

In the early nineties he had his own bilingual TV talk show El Show De Paul Rodriguez which ran for four years on Telemundo.  He then took the plunge and wrote, directed and starred in the all Latino cast feature, A Million to Juan about an U.S. Latino down on his luck who is given $1 million to tests his mettle to see if he will do the right thing.  In 1994 when the film was made, a Latino starring in a romantic comedy was an anomaly.  Paul would go on to broken several barriers for Latinos in Hollywood during his career.

His film credits also include Paul Hogans Crocodile Dundee and Clint Eastwood’s Blood Work.  He has done voiceover work on  King of the HillDora the Explorer  TV shows the film a Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Still very involved in the world of comedy, Paul has produced several Latino comedy special, in addition to being part owner of The Laugh Factory comedy club in Hollywood.  In 2004 Comedy Central ranked him at #74 on its list of the “100 Greatest Stand-ups of all Time.

Throughout the years, his fan base has dwindled and much of that has to do with his politics (he is a self-proclaimed Republican).  The community which once adored him, felt alienated by his support for “Republican causes”, in spite of the fact that he still supported many charitable causes which help the Latino community, including the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Farm Aid, Leukemia Telethon, Project Literacy.

Paul originally left the Democratic party in 2009 because of the party’s lack of interest in helping drought-stricken farmers like himself in California (he and his family own a farm in Northern California).  They had been denied water by a court order under the Endangered Species Act.  He also appeared on Fox News’ Sean Hannity show and complained about the Obama administration regarding their lack of support for farmers in this respect.

When Paul came out publicly as a GOP voter in 2012 to endorse Mitt Romney for president, it was estimated that he lost up to a third of his audience over his announcement. In 2016, the nebulous support  of then presidential candidate Donald Trump only served to further alienate his fans.  And Latinos never forget when they perceive to have been slighted — especially by one of their own.

So it was not a surprise when the run of The Pitch was announced, social media was abuzz about not wanting to support anything Paul was doing.  In this day in age, your political leanings are now a factor when it comes to supporting your artistic endeavors.

However, there is also the hot button topic of the lack of Latinos on TV, and that is the topic The Pitch deals with.  According to the Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, only 5.8% percent of speaking or named characters were Hispanic/Latino in 2016, versus 17% of the total U.S. population.  Hollywood is notorious for paying lip service about doing Latino content, but almost never buys scripts about Latinos. 

Paul tackles this disparity in a series of hilarious scenes in The Pitch that ring true and are seemingly ridiculous, were they not true.  He get the message across, but just to drive the point home, he shows the audience a five minute “sizzle reel” (video) of an actual pitch he made to the networks at the end of the play.  The mostly Latino audience roared with laughter.  The network passed on the show.  But Paul is passionate.    

Paul’s message in The Pitch of inclusion of Latinos on TV and holding Hollywood accountable to doing more Latino stories resonated with me.  So politics aside, and as long as he keeps his politics out of the production, I will overlook his politics.   

The Pitch runs Thursday, September 14th Friday, Sept. 15th, 7:30PM, Saturday, Sept. 16th 2PM & 7:30PM and Sunday, 17, 2017, 2:00 PM Closing Matinee

The Los Angeles Latino Theater, 514 S. Spring St. Los Angeles (Downtown)  Click here for tickets or more INFO

 

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