Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Ricky Del Rosario has an ethnically ambiguous, almost familiar blend of physical characteristics that conjures Obama, Steadman and John Leguizamo. His father is Filipino and his mother Hungarian, German and Italian.
“My dad got a white girl,” he says from his current home in Santa Rosa, “at a time when it was hard to get one.”
Though the 37-year-old funnyman attended and played tennis at Monterey High, he grew up in Seaside.
“Monterey High used to steal all the best athletes,” he says. “I lived in a small house with eight to 14 people. Me and my brother slept in the den. When we had friends over, we brought them in my dad’s bedroom and pretended it was ours.”
Del Rosario says Seaside was the “best” place to grow up because it was such a roiling ethnic stew. It gave him ins to the urban and ethnic humor that would blow up in the 1990s thanks to Def Comedy Jam and BET’s ComicView, by which time the rising comedian was named one of the 10 best urban comics in the country. He was performing alongside then-peers and friends like Joey Wells, who now writes for Kevin Hart (Death at a Funeral, Soul Plane); Rodney Perry, who was on The Mo’Nique Show; Luenell (she played the plump black prostitute who has a thing for Sacha Baron Cohen in Borat); and one of his favorites, Mike Epps (The Hangover, Next Day Air, Next Friday).
“Kat Williams used to open for me,” he says. “I was farther along than him.”
But he was repelled by Hollywood burn-out, frustrating management, nepotism and cronyism, and began to spend more time with his growing faux-finishing business in Northern California, as well as a growing family, first with his wife, then two daughters. He took a “break” from show biz that stretched into a 10-year hiatus. But watching his former comedy comrades continue to reach higher plateaus, he wondered how he might have fared.
“I was missing the stage,” he says. “Entertaining people, it’s in my blood.”
Two-and-a-half years ago he made his comeback at Golden State Theatre in a sold out show starring Dennis Gaxiola. Now he has an agent working on his behalf in Los Angeles while he tends to his business and family near the Bay Area and does occasional gigs, like this Friday’s one-off at Planet Gemini. His act has changed.
“I do some ethnic jokes,” he says. “Growing up in a place like Seaside, you can’t help but play on that. But I live in the suburbs now. The past is the past. I had to adjust and become more universal.”
His newer videos reveal sharp instincts with impersonations and physical comedy, his face, body and voice as pliable and contortable as a Jamie Foxx, though not quite as much as a Jim Carey. Because topical news material has a short shelf life, he hones in on the durable family and life experience realm. He hasn’t crafted any specific jokes yet, but promises some hometown love when he lets himself riff.
“I [might] talk about Church’s Chicken [in Seaside], how it’s the bloodiest chicken. Looks like a crime scene. Otis Used Car Sales, King Middle School, Jheri Curls, hometown jokes.”
The show opens with an unbilled local comic, then features G-King, a comedian Del Rosario is bringing from Vallejo. (“He opened for me on the Half-Breed Tour; he’s really funny and clever, black and Irish.”)
It feels right that the prodigal son goes on the day after Thanksgiving. He says his friends and family here will turn out en masse for his show.
“It’s like a family reunion,” he says. Only funnier.
RICKY DEL ROSARIO performs 9pm Saturday, Nov. 26, at Planet Gemini, 2110 N. Fremont St., Monterey. $10. 373-1449.