'I've been doing nothing but stand-up for four years, that's the only way to get good at it - people need to see you up there.'
- Rob Schneider
HE'S inhabited a succession of wacky characters and outrageous personas over a 25-year movie and television career but lately, funnyman Rob Schneider - you may know him as Deuce Bigalow, The Hot Chick, the Sensitive Naked Man or maybe even Orgasm Guy - has been tickling live audiences and tackling the comedy world with perhaps his most shocking creation ever: himself.
Or an approximation of the real Rob Schneider anyway - one that has a stash of typically irreverent, sometimes offensive but always humorous observations on topical issues and life in general up his long sleeves.
Schneider has devoted the past four years to relentlessly honing his stand-up skills and will bring his act to Singapore tomorrow when he performs at The Star Theatre.
He was here in 2011 but declares that he's simply a better stand-up comic now - thanks to all the effort he's put into fine-tuning the act.
Developing a style
"Humour is a wonderful way to subvert people to your point of view," says Schneider over the phone from his hotel room in Adelaide, where he was at the tail-end of an Australia tour. "I play an exaggerated version of myself and I just developed a style after awhile. The topical stuff ebbs and flows and then during the part with some basic universal truths, you kind of explain what it is and then exploit it for comedic purposes."
It takes a lot of work to examine the lighter side of life and extract all the humour from a situation, says Schneider. "Mark Twain said explaining humour is a bit like dissecting a frog: all the parts are there but in the end it doesn't jump anymore," he says. "I've been doing nothing but stand-up for four years, that's the only way to get good at it - people need to see you up there."
Schneider's brand of humour may not appeal to everyone but he has no qualms about taking on what he calls "hot-button issues" in order to find bring attention to issues that matter.
His act takes aim at current events as well as American pop culture (such as Mylie Cyrus' sartorial sense, or lack thereof), but it also includes a bit on the Taliban practice of stoning women to death for adultery - the punchline involves using a single pebble instead of many rocks.
"I also have an Oscar Pretorius joke - not a lot of people can pull that off," he says, adding that the audience will let you know if you go over the line. "If you want to be a world comic that's what you have to do, but if you're afraid to offend, you can't be a comedian."
Taking a topic that is somewhat familiar and then going a little further by presenting a what-if scenario and shocking the audience by design - that's the comedian's job, explains Schneider. "It's about digging in and going a bit deeper - but never forget you're there to entertain."
Schneider, who turns 50 next week, is not averse to poking some fun at himself either. "I'm going to get my own special parking space in five years," he says.
On reflection though, he says the half-century mark is a positive milestone. "I'm excited about where I'm at, both in my life and my stand-up act," he notes. "I'm doing this because I love it, and because I want to be the best. It's taken 25 years to get to this - I don't know how much longer I'm going to be doing this but I'm giving it everything I've got."
Schneider credits Chris Rock - a buddy and fellow comedian - with persuading him to go the stand-up route. "Chris Rock talked me into doing this and now I want to give him a run for his money," he laughs, adding that the US comedy scene is in the pink of health at the moment.
"Stand-up comedy is a great art form and there are a lot of great comedians at their peak - they're a little angrier, more bitter, and it makes comedy better."
There's also enough going on in the world to provide stand-up material, he adds. "US democracy is a mess, but it was also invented by people that owned slaves."
Mulling various ideas
Schneider says he admires comedians like Rock, Louis CK, Daniel Tosh and Bill Burr and will continue to focus on his stage act, but his wish list includes a few more chances on the movie go-round as well.
Among the ideas he is mulling over are a story about a taxi driver who connects with a child that is born in his cab and another that reunites a bunch of ageing comedians on the big screen - an Expendables-like comedy.
He acknowledges that some of his films have bombed at the box office and been savaged mercilessly by critics. "If all my movies had worked out, I wouldn't be doing stand-up - but now there's no other place I want to be," says Schneider. "I've had some disappointments, not all my movies have worked and I've had my fights with people but I've mellowed now, like a 25-year-old Bordeaux that's ready to drink - better drink me soon though."
Rob Schneider performs tomorrow at The Star Theater at 8 pm. Local comedian Hossan Leong will be the opening act. For more information go to www.sistic.com.sg