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Louis Anderson and Paul Rodriguez:

Louis Anderson and Paul Rodriguez: a very full night of comedy at Cerritos

A strange thing happened to the delightful comedy concert at the Performing Arts Center on Friday night that was steaming full speed ahead toward four stars. Louis Anderson’s  understated droll stories had won over the mostly mature house and at the intermission there were a couple of thousand happy Cerritos visitors, smiling from ear to ear. What could go wrong with the same group, having a drink or two in the twenty minutes between sets and the headliner, local favorite Paul Rodriguez taking the stage. No problem, no problem at all…for the first hour and fifteen minutes as Rodriguez kept it clean and down the middle at a dizzying pace, bouncing from one topic to another like a man with pure caffeine pumping through his veins. One had to wonder with the rapid pace of jokes and the changes of subject just how long could the comedian keep this up. The answer was for a long, long, long time. The first hour was classic Paul Rodriguez, the veteran stand-up with extensive knowledge in keeping a crowd laughing at absurdist vignettes ranging from crossing the blurred border back to a Latino America to tales of religions, strange Winter sports, his Mother’s  blue chip stamp collecting and his ideas  on family/kids/relationships with women. All funny, all delivered briskly, spraying memories all around the hall which seemed to be with him. When the energy started to lag he returned to the story of the bicycle he longed for as a  kid and his Father’s refusal to take him to Western Auto to purchase the object of his dreams. The last time Rodriguez visited the Center he told this tale and gave goose bumps since it signified the sacrifices an immigrant family would make to please a child raised without much but love under the Christmas tree in Compton. But, this time the story had a different ending that turned it from heartwarming to cynical and elicited a sigh of disappointment where there was a dabbing of eyes before.

At some point Paul Rodriguez grew restless at the responses and sometimes the monologue wavered from hilarious stand-up to petulant, self-conscious nervous talking. As the clock approached the three hour mark for the audience Rodriguez seemed to be frustrated that they were more quizzical than jolly and he just kept talking as they shifted in their seats. As the old Henny Youngman joke went “he reminded me of a Chinese comic “On Too Long.”  Too bad because Rodriguez is in a very small group of the very best comics in America and deserves the stardom he has paid big dues for but on this night he just stayed too long at the Fair.

Louis Anderson, on the other hand, was pure butter and totally captivated the crowd with his low-key style and droll stories about his colorful home life in Minnesota, especially his hoarder Mom and “loud Dad.” He turned ordinary experience at the airports and security measures into laugh out loud moments of joy. He does spend a lot of time on his weight and love of food but it all works since he is only making fun of himself in the end. His finishing kick on aging which involved interplay with audience mem­bers was a delightful bit of storytelling and insight into the human condition. In forty-five minutes Louis Anderson gave the Cerritos audience their money’s worth in laughter. The following two hours were gravy, so to speak.