The first time Paul Rodriguez came through the Tri-Cities, he was traveling with his parents to work in the fields around Pasco.
“When my family first came here years ago, there wasn’t much to Pasco — just a few houses,” he said in a Thursday morning interview. “We just followed the crops. We’d pick apples here, oranges in the Central Valley. That’s all my family ever did.”
Now a world-famous comedian with a career in movies and television spanning more than three decades, Rodriguez is returning to the Tri-Cities to perform at Joker’s Comedy Club in Richland.
Tickets are still available for the 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances at the Richland comedy club. They cost $32.49 for the show through brownpapertickets.com.
Since his start working in the Los Angeles Comedy Store while sleeping in his car, Rodriguez has put together a career that includes more than 45 films, more than a dozen comedy specials and numerous television shows.
Rodriguez jokes that as his career has gotten longer, his crowds have gotten older, but he has a beloved place among the Latino community.
“I consider myself lucky, really,” he said. “I think I like doing stand-up more than anything else, but if someone offers you a movie or a television show, you do it because it helps to keep your name out there.”
Now 64, Rodriguez was a trailblazer for Latino comedy, and he remains busy. He recently returned from tour dates overseas to perform for service members, and he is continuing to tour across the country.
Along with his comedy performances, he has a number of movies coming out, including a role in “Silent Life”, which tells the story of the silent movie star Rudolph Valentino.
“There are a lot of fine and famous Latino comics, and deservedly so,” he said. “I think the future is bright. I kind of wish I was young again.”
When a back injury prevented his family from traveling, they settled in Compton. He didn’t forget the lessons he learned as a young man marching along with Cesar Chavez when he was 11.
He said there is still more room for Latino faces in television and movies. He wants to serve as an inspiration for children looking to break into the entertainment industry, and wants to convince producers and directors to make more roles available.
“I’m not fighting for Paul Rodriguez,” he said. “I’ve always been an optimist. Any dream, no matter how far away it seems, is worth pursuing.”