Press Tour: Rob Schneider says ‘Rob’ will ‘deal with stereotypes’

After the morning’s contentious panel for “2 Broke Girls” at CBS’ press day, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the expected hot potato “Rob,” which the Washington Post said would leave viewers “horrified and nauseated” and which the Daily Beast decried as “racist and unfunny,” received a surprisingly friendly response from the assembled critics. 

Rob Schneider and co-star Cheech Marin easily handled softball questions about working together (they like it) and Schneider’s marriage to Mexican television producer Patricia Azarcoya Arce, which became the original premise for the show. Although the sitcom, which was originally slated for fall 2011 but was reportedly recast with Cheech Marin, Diana Maria Riva and Claudia Bassols, has undergone changes, no mention was made of the revamp. 

Schneider, however, was a far more affable subject than Michael Patrick King, talking about his wife’s sense of humor and how the series should be resonate with all audiences, regardless of race. “Everyone’s got a family, and this just happens to be a Hispanic family,” he said. “There’s always one person who doesn’t fit in or someobody misunderstanding someone, so I think it’s relatable for everyone. CBS has been really supportive to having Spanish actors. It’s wonderful to have this on TV. I think it will be fun for everyone and [people of Hispanic descent] can catch these little words in Mexican Spanish slang.”

The issue of race came up when Cheech Marin, who plays Schneider’s father-in-law, was asked about his conservative character. “I think he’s fairly up from the streets, conservative and hard working,” Marin said. “Many Mexicans are. I think he’s kind of in the Archie Bunker stage. He’s not a bleeding heart liberal.”

Schneider continued, “In Arizona, some of the supporters of what I think is racist legislation are Hispanic, believe it or not.”

Producer Eric Tannenbaum fielded a question about CBS’ interest in appealing to a Hispanic viewership. “It’s a target audience everyone’s been chasing for a long time,” he said. “They never backed away from it, and it comes down to they really liked the show.”

When asked if the series would tiptoe around racial stereotypes,  Schneider said, “I think you have to deal with them. I think we want to do things that are funny, and I think if you can shed some light on it, that’s great. We’re not going out of our way to be disrespectful,” he said, adding that he thought of the show in as a Mexican “All in the Family” and his character as Basil Fawlty.  “I want people to think and laugh hard. Our agenda is to get some laughs. In saying that, I don’t think we’ll avoid it. We’re not the Charlie Rose show.”

One reporter did point out that it seemed most of the jokes were made at the expense of Schneider’s clueless gringo character. “It’s being played by me, so I think people expect me to push things a little further. My wife won’t let me do anything really offensive. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.” Well, at least someone’s laughing.