Song & Stage

Rob Schneider Talks Outrage Culture, SJWs and Kevin Hart Backlash

The comedian explains why his upcoming Suffolk Theater show has a no-phones policy.

Rob Schneider is serious about comedy.

The California-based funnyman, 55, is known for his breakout work on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and various comedic film roles, including turns in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Hot Chick and Grown Ups. But despite his ability to produce big laughs, Schneider feels very strongly about the seriousness of his craft, and has utilized his platform as a comic to tackle some topics that are very important to him. Schneider will bring his unique brand of standup to Suffolk Theater on Sunday, January 20.

When asked what audiences can expect at his upcoming show, Schneider’s answer is a bit unexpected. “They can expect to put their phones in bags,” he says with a laugh. “It’s for several reasons. It’s crazy. The number one reason is, people are so easily distracted—it’s a drug! If they turn it off they’ll have a better time. People around them will have a better time. I get it! It’s an addiction, you know? My wife’s addicted to it. I find myself checking it more often,” he says.

“The other thing is the lightning fast…what’s the best way to say this…the lightning fast, fake instant outrage from ‘social justice warriors’ is a concern,” Schneider admits. “Because by the time [information] gets corrected it gets taken out of context. It’s very reactionary; it reminds me of Lenny Bruce’s [court case, when he was sued for his work being considered obscene] in the ’60s. His performances were being transcribed and said by prosecutors with zero performance skills and without an audience. There’s an intimacy that a good performer creates with an audience that’s there to see him and wants to be in on it. It’s beautiful. And when that’s taken out of that room and used by others, that’s a manipulation and an intrusion on that intimacy.”

The idea of “fake outrage” is a topic Schneider feels strongly about. The comic has been very vocal about his views of a current controversy regarding comedian Kevin Hart stepping down from hosting the Oscars after he came under fire for homophobic tweets from several years ago. “I just think that when someone apologizes, forgiveness needs to be added to this equation,” Schneider says. “I think Kevin Hart is a great comedian, certainly [one of the] most popular comedians. He should be hosting the Oscars. I imagine that if everyone heard the conversations that Bob Hope had, he would say jokes that were inappropriate to his friends at dinners. They would have dinners in the ’60s and they would tell the most outrageous jokes! When I did the Friars Club roast of Quentin Tarantino, we told outrageous jokes that were inappropriate. And I just think that context is important. You also have to look at the immaturity that [Hart] has admitted to, and the language. Yes, it was offensive. And people should be offended by it, but he apologized for it!”

Schneider also believes that critics of Hart need to understand there’s a broader issue at play. “Those words [Hart wrote] are used in a culture that has a higher degree of injustice imposed upon them,” he explains. “And in that culture there are words that are expressed that, yes, are hateful to homosexuals. It’s a deeper societal issue that needs to be examined…that does not excuse that these words are hurtful, but there are deeper societal problems that are not being explored. That’s the problem with internet outrage. Instead of exploring why those words are used, it’s just going into attack mode and getting ‘brownie points’ for hurting someone!”

These serious issues are mined for comedy in Schneider’s act. “I talk about it in a way that’s funny,” he explains. “I talk up my own fears and my own possible destruction from it. I think the audience relates to it. I also talk about their own potential destruction from ‘instant outrage.’ I think that has a real resonance with people.”

Rob Schneider plays Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street, Riverhead, on Sunday, January 20. For tickets and more information, cal 631-727-4343 and visit suffolktheater.com.

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