Spotlight on the Brown: Comedian Rudy Moreno
He's there for the community, and the community is there for him
Besides listening and dancing to good music, enjoying time with familia and friends, and watching my grandkids grow up, one of life's simple pleasures for me is just having a good laugh.
Published on LatinoLA: October 20, 2006
Granted, times are tough right now, with the war in Iraq still going on, and a lot of my Gente bitin' the bullet, giving up goodies and working a little extra in order to afford gas, pay rent, feed the familia, and maybe, if we're lucky, have a little extra left over to step out once in awhile.
We all need a good laugh once in awhile to keep from going crazy, know what I mean?
A good laugh is not only welcome at times like these, but almost neccessary in order to keep a sense of balance and focus in our lives.
If you take life too serious, you sometimes forget to live it...know what I mean?
Studies have shown that levity in the workplace can reduce stress and time lost due to illness, and can improve productivity. I can personally attest that after serving almost 10 years in the Military, and almost 30 years in the workforce, the best leaders and bosses I ever had were those who knew how to laugh and lighten up when times got tough, motivating others to stick together and move forward in life.
Ever notice how a well timed wisecrack in a time of crisis makes it more bearable?
Over the past couple of years, public speakers have learned that a joke is a great ice breaker in an unfamiliar crowd, and increases attention to subject matter.
Show business and the Television industry have learned that they cannot survive without comedy in the mix.
So...it's obvious that laughter is outright healthy, if not medicinal, wouldn't you agree?
That being said, this month's spotlight on the Brown focuses on one of Aztlan's favorite prescriber of puns and masters of punchlines, East L.A.'s Rudy Moreno.
Starting off in show business at age 13, when he formed a garage band after surviving a bout with chldhood arthritis that had him in a wheelchair for awhile, Rudy worked as mobile/club DJ for awhile before being called upon by TIERRA's Rudy Salas to open up for one of their shows.
"I had been friends with the Salas brothers for many years, growing up in the same neighborhood in Lincoln Heights in East L.A. I was working for the Gas Company around 1991, occasionally helping TIERRA as a roadie when they performed in L.A., you know, helping load and unload their equipment. It was a great way to get into some great shows for free", Rudy laughs, "Anyways, I was always cracking jokes and making people laugh backstage when Rudy Salas came up to me one day and said 'You ought to be a comedian, you're really funny. I would like you to open up for one of our next shows'. I thought he was kidding but he was serious. So I thought what the heck, let's have some fun. I put together a 10 minute routine and had a ball! The crowd loved it. I thought that was it, but can you believe that 3 weeks later, I was invited to open up for the Temptations at the Lakewood Hop? After that, I was bitten by the show biz bug," Rudy relates.
Rudy says he has always been a comedian. "I was born and raised in East L.A. Growing up in Lincoln Heights was no picnic, but thank God I had two strong willed, dedicated, and loving parents that instilled discipline and pushed education. Sure, there were gangs, drugs, and violence all around me while I was growing up, and I wasn't no angel...but because of my parents, I didn't get too involved and I couldn't see letting them down after all they had done for me. I knew some real tough guys in the 'hood, but I was always the guy cutting up, cracking jokes, and making people laugh, so I was lucky not to get into too many fights, and I made friends easily," Rudy recalls, "I also played on the basketball team for Lincoln High School, so I wasn't a little guy either," he laughs.
Being a comedian has taken Rudy Moreno across the Country and back, landing him acting roles in movies and on TV. "Until I started traveling, I didn't even know there was RAZA in places like Idaho and Minnesota. Hell, Chicanos are like VISA...we're everywhere!", Rudy proudly boasts...his comedy routines can take Chicano life to another perpective, putting a cool spin on hard times, and instilling a deep appreciation on lessons learned on the streets of the barrio, while making you laugh so hard you almost pee your pants.
...but life as a Chicano comedian wasn't always as glamorous, Rudy admits.
"There was a lot of heartache when I first started out. After my first couple of gigs,I began to notice that outside of Chicano venues, not a lot of promoters were too keen on the idea of English language Chicano comedians. A lot of clubs were unsure of our element, worrying that we might not be funny enough for American audiences...we had to prove ourselves," Rudy remembers.
In 1993, Rudy teamed up with brother Chicano comedian Gilbert Esquivel of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, and helped form the East L.A. Comedy group, with a mission to promote Chicano comedians. "We started out mainly doing small clubs and benefit shows in and around East L.A., promoting ourselves and giving other Latino comedians a chance to show their stuff. Then, Bob Fisher of the Pasadena Ice House gave us a break and opportunity, and since then, the Pasadena Ice House has become one of the hottest comedy spots on the West Coast, with the majority of the performing comedians being Chicano."
In 1996, Rudy and company teamed up with Jeff Valdez for the Latino Laugh Festival held in San Antonio, Texas, which was broadcast nationwide on the Showtime cable channel. "We had a lot of support from a lot of Latino Hollywood stars on this one,and after that, a lot of doors stated opening up in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and New York," Rudy remembers. "Sadly, not enough credit is given to pioneer L.A. Chicano comedians Paul Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, and George Lopez. These guys did it solo back in the day, set a standard, and opened a lot of doors for English language Latino comedy, and now George has his own TV show. Up until then, all America had was a 1950's stereotype of the great Desi Arnaz as a Latino comedian...and he was much more than that," Rudy Laments. "Just like English language Chicano Music, it was hard work just proving ourselves good enough".
All the hard work culminated in 2003, when Rudy Moreno, Frankie Firme, Steven Chavez's East L.A. Revue All Star Band, Rampart Record's Hector Gonzalez, Sal Rodriguez of WAR, and Johnny Burolla joined Gilbert Esquivel at the World renown Comedy Store on Hollywood's legendary Sunset Strip for the Gilbert Esquivel Old School Comedy and Music Revue Show, an all Latino starring production that packed the house for 3 straight weeks. This was the first time in over 50 years that an all-Latino produced and starring music~comedy show headlined and sold out on the Sunset Strip since Desi Arnaz pulled it off in 1952.
Over the past years, Rudy has launched a successful comedy and acting career, and along with his lovely wife of 25 years, Arlene, has formed the ARLO Entertainment Group, which for the last 13 years has spearheaded the annual Komics for Kids Christmas Toy Drive. Never forgetting where he came from, he gives back the love. In 2005, he and his wife Arlene were awarded the National Latino Peace Officers' Ed Sandoval Humanitarian of the Year Award for their Komics for Kids program.
Also in 2005, he reunited with brother Chicano comedian Gilbert Esquivel for the filming and release of their succesful comedy CD "Double Date".
"I've been lucky, blessed, and surrounded with the love and support of my family, friends, and my people...I gotta give some back!" Rudy proudly states.
I've been fortunate to call Rudy my friend, and have had more opportunities to work with him since the Hollywood gig, most recently at the Latino Behavioral Health Institute Conference in Universal City (a national conference promoting advances in Mental Health treatment for Latinos), and the W.A.V.E. fundraising Concert~Dance Show in Mission Hills (promoting the rights of domestic violence victims) this year alone.
He's there for the community, and the community is there for him...it's a Brown thing, tu sabes! Gracias, Rudy!
His advice for aspiring comedians: "First of all, get an education! Secondly, have patience and have fun. And lastly, don't expect to make a million and be instantly popular right away. I know some 'overnight sensations' that took 20 years to get there!".
So what's next for Rudy Moreno? "I would like to get into dramatic acting...although comedy will alway be my first love ".
And so, with that stated, LatinoLA takes pride in saluting another Chicano warrior de Aztlan in the Land of 1000 Dances...
...Rudy Moreno... comedian, actor, philanthropist,friend...CHICANO!
Keep it alive forever, Carnal! Si se puede!
Note: For more info on Rudy Moreno: www.rudymoreno.com ~ and tell him you heard it from Frankie Firme and LatinoLA.com!
Frankie Firme is the "Al Capone of the microphone, and the Hitman of West Coast Chicano Soul" www.frankiefirme.50megs.com