Actor and comic Rob Schneider thinks he contracted COVID-19 in January, weeks before it was known to be spreading all over the United States unchecked.
“I didn’t know what it was until after,” said Schneider in an interview in late October with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to promote his three upcoming shows at Center Stage in Midtown Dec. 4 and 5. “For weeks I felt run down. It was tough to breathe. My heart was racing.”
By the time he taped his Netflix special Feb. 29, he said he felt OK.
“We just got in under the wire," he said. “People were starting to get nervous, but they were still going out. We did two sold-out shows. It was an honor to be able to be the last Netflix comedy shot before everything shut down.”
But, he said there were some lingering after-effects from the virus. He dubbed it “brain fog."
“I’ve always been a little dense anyway,” Schneider said. “It took me longer to figure out basic stuff like where my car keys were. I feel like I’ve been coming out of that the last month."
Schneider, 57, often plays goofball characters in Adam Sandler films and starred in his own popular “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” movies. But during the interview, he was well-spoken and thoughtful off camera, not even attempting to make jokes. Instead, he referenced philosopher Noam Chomsky multiple times and expressed how difficult it is for people to change their beliefs — even if their beliefs are based on false premises.
“You have to be careful if you are trying to change someone’s belief system,” Schneider said. “If you do it poorly, people get angry and attack.” Humor, he said, helps.
The show Atlantans will see in a reduced-capacity Center Stage will be 100% new material from what he performed on his Netflix special “Asian Momma, Mexican Kids.” (The two Friday shows are sold-out. The Saturday show still has tickets available.)
“I’ll talk about having to deal with the wife 24/7 during COVID,” he said. “It tests your relationship. It tests your finances. It tests your sanity. We are not going to know the real ramifications of all this yet. We have to be careful not to panic our children and make them more fearful of the world." (He has two young children with his wife, Patricia, and an older daughter from a previous marriage, Elle King, a pop singer.)
He said the Center Stage shows are among the first he’s done since the pandemic in an indoor space. And, he is not doing these shows for financial gain.
“I just need to get out of the house,” he said. “This is not a money gig. I want to talk to people who want to listen and want to be entertained. I am a satirist for our times.”
Since the pandemic began, he has dabbled in shows featuring people in cars. He found them wanting: “You don’t get a real response. You get honking instead of laughter. It’s hard for my brain to connect a honk to, ‘Oh, they liked it!’"
After the pandemic began, he said he was fed up with Democratic-run California and all its wildfires, sold all his property there and moved to Arizona. “I didn’t like the way California was shutting down the economy,” he said. “The state seems to be coming apart at the seams.”
While he has Libertarian tendencies, he said tech companies are too powerful and need to be reined in. He watched Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” and was deeply disturbed. “They are deciding what the truth is,” he said. “You are the product. Artificial intelligence is now manipulating us and inflaming hostilities. It’s an antitrust issue. The biggest companies, like Google and Facebook, need to be broken up like AT&T years ago."
Schneider also is taking on an issue Bill Maher likes to discuss personal responsibility for one’s own health. He is very much against big pharmaceutical companies.
“Politicians are afraid to talk about it,” he said. “How are we going to take care of seniors? How are we going to get them off so many prescription drugs? We need people to lose weight in a safe way. My mom is 91 years old. She got COVID. She got through it. It was rough. She’s not taking any prescription drugs. There are better ways to do it."
The “Saturday Night Live" alum knows people are not buying tickets to see him express his more erudite thoughts. Rather, they want to be reminded of him in films like the latest Netflix movie starring Sandler, “Hubie Halloween.”
“Silly comedy is king,” Schneider said. “Adam Sandler is a prince of a human being. He makes these films as a way to hang out with his friends as much as he wants to make good movies. I promise my stand-up show will not be that serious. It’s very silly."
And he won’t take political sides during his show: “It’s important not to alienate people or make them feel uncomfortable when they are coming to enjoy themselves and have a laugh.”
7 and 9:45 p.m. Friday Dec. 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.