Left, right or down the middle, Rod Man aims to make laughs


June 19, 2018 at 3:03 AM

Last year when comedian Rod Man was on Conan O'Brien's talk show, he, like most comedians, riffed on the new Trump administration, saying that America now is like a restaurant under new management. And what does the new management do but change the seasoning of the dishes?

"It's a little too salty right now, that's all," he tells me in a phone interview about this bit. "You got to be careful with salt."

In the routine, he goes on say that that Ben Carson is "substitute salt." The whole thing gets a big laugh from O'Brien's audience.

Political humor isn't exactly a scarce resource these days, but what is rare in these polarizing times is for a comedian to make some cracks about the president and have everyone react like the joke is for them regardless of political affiliation.

"I'm just looking for the facts of what I see, and then I just report that. Some comedians their forte is I'm left, I'm right. I'm none of that. I'm looking for the funny," Man says. "I find that people appreciate that more rather than if I get on my soapbox. I'm just observing."

Man will bring his comedic observations next weekend to Tommy T's Comedy Club in Rancho Cordova.

He's been working since 1995 but jumped into the national spotlight in 2014 when he won the eighth season of "Last Comic Standing." As the winner, he got a lot of immediate notoriety. Some people would go see him live just because he was on TV. But the show opened a door for him, which he's working hard to keep open.

"I had some cool opportunities, but I'm still looking for that next big Rod Man thing," he says. " 'Last Comic Standing' launched me, but there's still another level that I got to get to. I still have to grind. I'm in a new growth phase. I'm now building the fans up and being one of the best live stand-up shows you can come see."

Before winning the contest, Man says he played mostly to black audiences. He was getting by doing just comedy, but not a lot of people were familiar with him.

"Before it was probably 80-90 percent black. I did a lot of 'Showtime at the Apollo,' 'Def Comedy Jam.' Mainstream America hasn't seen me yet. Then it flipped on me," Man says. "I always felt like my comedy would play anywhere, I just hadn't had the opportunity. Then 'Last Comic Standing' came along and boom, now we're ready to go."

When he first got the call that he was going to be on "Last Comic Standing," he made the decision to go into it extremely focused. It paid off.

"I was very locked in on winning," he says.

TV audiences that watched the show could see just what was so great about his comedy style. He is uniquely observational, and he can take hot topics, and make it seemingly inoffensive. One routine he in the competition began with him comparing babies to terrorists, and then went on to talk about ugly babies, which he referred to as "babies going through changes." He had the judges cracking up and telling him he did a near perfect set.

"I don't call nobody's baby ugly, but I will say that baby is going through changes," Rod Man explains. "It can change for the good. You got to wait for the development."

There's also something about the friendly, conversational way he delivers these lines, accompanied by a gregarious smile and matter-of-fact details that allows you to go with him on his thought process and not at all feel like a bad person for considering how babies might be terrorists.

After all, all he's really doing is sharing his observations with you.

"I've always been observing people – why people do what they do and have certain attitudes. I've always been attracted to human behavior, what makes people tick. That comes out in my comedy," Man says. "I have a mind that wants to look beyond the surface, and take the conversations a little deeper. Some people are like 'I'm not ready for that Rod. You're digging too deep.' I always want to know."

Now four years later, the initial buzz from "Last Comic Standing" has simmered down. Man has had to reassess his career some. He's thankfully picked up plenty of new fans that stuck with him and is working hard to polish his act.

"You got to come to my world," Man says. "The beautiful thing about when people pay to see you. They put you on the calendar and they say 'I'm going to go see Rod Man' they kind of know what it is. They come to see you do what you do. I don't have to change anything, I just got to refine it."


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