This was posted Wednesday, March 29, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Nearly three years ago, Villa Rica native Rod Man took home the crown of “Last Comic Standing” and was given a shot at creating a TV show for NBC.
The TV show didn’t pan out but he continues to tour and seek out new TV deals. He stops at the Buckhead Theatre on Saturday night, April 15. (Buy tickets here.)
“The NBC thing didn’t go according to plan,” Rod Man said in a recent interview. “Taught me a lot of valuable lessons along the way. Sitcoms are a whole different genre, a whole set of rules to get a television show off the ground.”
Rod Man (real name Rod Thompson) is an observational comic with a distinctive, gleeful cadence and style, honed over 20 years on the road, starting with the Uptown Comedy Corner when it was in Buckhead. While his victory was hardly pre-ordained on the NBC competition show, he stood out from day one.
“I fall outside the box,” he admits. “I always said I wanted to get my own vehicle. It’s like an old-school mechanic working on his car in the garage. We finally have all the parts.”
He sees himself in a scripted/unscripted mix of a show, a mockumentary of sorts. “I like movement,” he said. “It’s going to be a single-camera deal whereas [the NBC deal] was multi-cam.” (That’s “Modern Family” vs. “The Big Bang Theory” in structure.). He admires Louis C.K.’s work where he plays himself in a somewhat fictional world on his FX show. And he loves how fellow metro Atlantan Donald Glover was able to capture his own view of Atlanta on FX’s “Atlanta.”
Rod Man, who is still seeking a production company, said it took time to find the right team of people that understands “the Rod Man sound, the Rod Man lane. You have to find your lane. I’m in a good lane.”
What type of metaphorical lane is he talking about? “A diamond lane. An HOV lane. I got people in the car. They understand the specific kind of show for me to shine in. You’ll get a gritty, raw feel. It will be something you want to watch.”
Winning “Last Comic Standing’ has expanded his audience, he said, to multiple generations and ethnicities. “There is an audience for what I do,” he said. “It was always going to come down to who sees my vision. I’m a fan of my vision. I’m in a good place creatively and building on what life has provided me.”
The show thrust him instantly into the pro leagues, he said and “expectations go up. I’m the Braves. I’m the Falcons. I expect to move around the country in a certain way. I’ve always known I had something. I just needed a vehicle, a launching pad. I’m still seeing my audience on tour. We are kind of married. I like how we’re building a relationship. TV does lose something in translation. You liked me on TV, you’ll love me live. It’s just been great.”
In his audience, he has doctors and engineers, he said, mixed in with “the dude who works for Budweiser. I have people from India. It’s just humor. I got all walks of life. I always try to get better. I never want to dumb it down.”
His show prep before going on stage is simple. Fruit. Fresh fruit. “I don’t eat heavy,” he said. “I want to be famished when I hit the stage. I might run around in place, shadow box. I’m always jumping around shadow boxing, getting ready for the match about to go down.”
Being home does add a layer of anxiety, Rod Man said. “I can look out and see someone I went to high school with or someone I used to work with. I know a lot of people here. I will localize things. I know more about this area. I can speak on some things I’ve experienced. It’s all fun.”
Rod Man loves word play and how words come together. And he keeps it clean. “When I was younger doing Def Jam, I cussed. Everybody was cussing, let me cuss, too! You learn as you grown in this business to find your own voice. I had to learn to build my vocabulary, my vernacular, how you emphasize certain words. It’s the seasoning. I’m cooking. I can play with it in different ways. I’m a craftsman. I have to make sure I have the tools. You can do so much if you hone things right.”
He said his jokes don’t necessarily read funny on paper. You have to see him perform those words.
Rod Man, a lifetime Falcons fan who now lives in Los Angeles, attended the Super Bowl in Houston to root for his home team. We all know how that went. “I paid my own money,” he said. “I won’t even say how much. It was important for me to go. It was exciting when we were up 28-3. When New England took the lead, all the Patriots fans threw dollars in the air all over the stands. I didn’t appreciate that at all.”
He was sitting with some of the Falcons family members. “A lot of them were crying at the end,” he said. “That’s how big sports are for those people. I didn’t cry but I was physically sick. I went to my hotel room and actually threw up!”