Rodney Carrington became a big hit in the late 1990s with his brand of comedy that includes both standup and comedic country songs.
The 50-year-old Texan’s albums continue to soar up the comedy charts today. Carrington will stop by The Show at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage on Friday, May 31.
During a recent phone interview, Carrington tried to prank-call me, before turning serious and telling me it was him. He said he didn’t originally see comedy as a career option.
“I was in college at Kilgore College in Texas studying theater, and they had a comedy night in a little bar, and the only reason I went to do it was because it was something I thought would help me with theater,” Carrington said. “I thought it would be terrifying and scary, and if I could do that, I could do anything. I did, and I went up the first night—and people laughed. I spent about two years trying to figure out what I did that night to make them laugh, because I didn’t know what I was doing. I got bit by it, and I realized there was some way to make a living doing it.
“There was something about it I was drawn to, and there’s no school for it. You either have the timing and inkling as you go along that things are getting better, or you don’t.”
Carrington explained how music became a part of his comedy routine.
“I would have done anything. If I could have juggled, I’d probably be doing that,” he said. “I was always into music, and I bought a guitar out of boredom on the road and learned a few chords. I started writing little ditties. I was just doing whatever felt natural. You’re just trying to entertain a group of people. It wasn’t an intent to where I said, ‘I’m going to go out and do comedy and music.’ We found each other, and in the process, the music became part of it.”
In 2004, his sitcom Rodney debuted on ABC. It lasted two seasons before it was cancelled; the last six episodes never aired, although they were released on DVD and digitally.
“We came out around the time of Desperate Housewives. Our numbers were humongous in the middle of the country, but they care more about New York and Los Angeles,” Carrington said. “We were beating shows that stayed on the air, but they were going for style over substance and didn’t care what the numbers were. What they said was, ‘If you maintain the numbers, you’ll be here a long time.’ We beat those. What they said and what they did were two different things. It’s not a very fulfilling business, because you’re pushed around. … (It’s like) you’re working on a sand castle, and about 5 in the afternoon every day, some guy in a suit comes out and kicks it over, telling you to start over, because he doesn’t like it. That’s fine for about four or five days, but then it kills your spirit, and you go, ‘Why are you doing this?’ But we still accomplished a lot of great things, and the show was well-done. I have no regrets whatsoever about it.”
Carrington said he feels most comfortable onstage.
“I love the freedom of it,” he said. “Over the years of building an audience, people come out, and it feels like we know each other. It’s like you show up and see your old family members. That’s the part I enjoy—it becomes a mutual affection. I like them; they like me; and we provide each other with something and see each other down the road. That’s what I like about it, and it’s as simple as that. It involves me and them; it’s not just about me.”
These days, it’s hard to be a standup comedian, he said—even if you’re Rodney Carrington.
“There’s no subject that’s been untapped. (After) 30 years of being out here and doing it, I have the luxury of people coming to see me and knowing who I am,” he said. “… For anyone starting out new and building an audience, it’s a very difficult time. The internet is eating up so much, and there are so many other things stealing people’s time. I think the market is saturated with so many different things. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s difficult.
“I don’t personally involve myself in any social media. I come from the generation that turned the channels on TV with the pliers. I miss those days. I miss the closeness that we grew up with and the realness of it. People are missing out on that, and people are sad.”
I asked Carrington if he was ever entertained by social media and what people post.
“If you’re into that kind of thing,” he said. “Most of the people my age, they don’t spend a lot of time on the internet. I’ve noticed my audience has gotten older with me. Their lives are changing like my life is changing. I’m 50, and I talk about things that a 50-year-old can relate to.”
Rodney Carrington will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, May 31, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $35 to $55. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.