Rob Schneider's Version of 'Louie' Is the Weirdest Show of the Year
What is reality? This is a question I found myself asking while binge-watching all eight episodes of Netflix's Real Rob, Rob Schneider's autobiographical sitcom in the mode of Louis C.K.’s Louie, Marc Maron’s Maron, and Aziz Ansari’s recent Netflix hit Master of None. Like C.K., Schneider directs and co-writes every episode, mining personal stories from his family, comedy career, and various neuroses. The only difference is that Louie is an often poignant reflection on modern life while Real Rob is a synapse-shattering doorway into another dimension that will cause you to question the very meaning of existence.
Dumped the same week as the Netflix-produced Adam Sandler vehicle The Ridiculous 6, which Schneider has a supporting role in, Real Rob has all of the familiar traits of celebrity vanity projects. The SNL vet plays himself, aka the man who starred in The Animal, The Hot Chick, two Deuce Bigalow movies, and, as he points out at one point, “17 movies with Adam Sandler.” His real wife (Patricia Schneider, also a co-writer on every episode) plays his show-wife. His real baby plays his show-baby. As Schneider’s own website boasts, “Schneider is the first actor to have written, produced, starred, directed and self-financed an entire season of a television show.” When the show was first announced, he told the press, "I want to do my own Fawlty Towers."
How mind-altering could this series be? Let’s journey into the comedic uncanny valley that is Real Rob to find out.
"Don't touch my boobs," are the words that begin the first episode of Real Rob, and it sets the tone for the whole show.
About four minutes into the episode, Rob starts narrating the show from a chair in front of a backdrop that looks like he's on a Bravo reality program. Real Rob also features stand-up scenes filmed in front of a brick wall because -- well, why not? "My wife's Mexican,” he explains in one of these awkward interstitials. “She's not like jump-out-at-you Mexican. I'm not saying Mexicans jump out of you." This is what passes for cutting social satire in the Real Rob universe.
The actual plot of the pilot is about Rob firing his lazy assistant Jamie (comedian and co-writer Jamie Lissow) and replacing him with a stalker (Johnny Jenkinson) who, because of his extensive research on Rob's life, knows the ins and outs of Schneider's daily routine. As sitcom plots go, it’s a relatively clever premise executed with all the boorish anti-charm of a Big Dogs t-shirt.
Why am I watching this? Who is this for? To investigate, I skimmed some of the customer reviews on Netflix and found one that reads, “Rob I love your show. Rob we all love you. Sincerely Michigan!!!!” Mystery solved: Michigan loves Rob Schneider.
Rob meets his daughter’s new nanny, a dancer his wife recruited for her all-male burlesque business -- the less said about this casually homophobic plotline the better. Besides, he has other threats to his genitals to worry about: his wife wants him to get a vasectomy. Rob does not like this. "These are my balls we're talking about here!" he says. As has been established, Rob is very protective of his balls. Later in the episode he says, "I like to ejaculate."
Instead of getting a vasectomy, he sends his assistant to get one to see if it will cause dementia, giving Lissow plenty of chances to say "my balls," too. This was around when my grip on what was real began to loosen. As science-fiction author Philip K. Dick once wrote, “It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” Perhaps he was thinking of Real Rob when he wrote that.
The second and third episodes of Real Rob are called “The Penis Episode Part 1” and “The Penis Episode Part 2.” True to their titles, these episodes also concern Rob’s penis. While arguing with his wife about the age of his sperm, Rob's curly-headed bro agent calls for an offer for a Prostate Pro commercial, which Rob turns down because he doesn’t want to be associated with the product. But we soon find out Rob is doing erectile dysfunction ads in Taiwan. Oh, Rob. You scamp!
If the last episode was all about people saying "my balls," this one is all about characters shouting "my dick!" like the time Rob screams "Suck my dick" at his agent. I understand his anger because I have begun to lose the feeling in my legs.
Unlike other episodes, this one has a unifying theme: Rob is famous and that is hard. The story begins with Rob running over a pedestrian and, because this is dystopian universe governed by no laws, the cops who appear at the scene are all big Deuce Bigalow fans, so they don’t pay attention to the possibly injured pedestrian.
Later, Rob takes a mime class because he’s always wanted to do some miming and, lo and behold, he’s really good at it. Maybe even too good: at a mime performance, he makes fun of a mentally challenged adult and gets punched in the face. He then goes to the hospital and, because he’s in clown make-up, the doctors don’t recognize that he's a celebrity and so they don't give him preferential treatment. Mimes treated like second class citizens? The healthcare system in the Real Rob universe is very strange.
Rob says he doesn't want to work out with his male dancer nanny because he says, "I don't want gay guys hitting on me." Despite these concerns, he goes to a gym and, in a mind-blowing twist, they think Rob, peak of all things heterosexual, is gay. During one of the needless stand-up sections in the episode, Rob says, "I'm not gay." Twice.
Just in case anyone is still confused: Rob Schneider is not gay. Wanna guess how not gay he is? He seemingly funded an entire television series to prove this point. Only a not gay person would go this far to show how not gay they are.
In yet more more comedy based entirely on stereotypes, Rob's wife wants him to get rid of bad spirits in the house. So he calls George Lopez, who refers him to a witch-doctor. In the B-plot, Rob's assistant has explosive diarrhea. Thankfully, this is the shortest episode.
Rob tells Patricia he'll get Ryan Gosling to make an appearance at the opening of her all-male burlesque show. This episode has a scene in which Real Rob tells a bank teller that the money he's taking out is for Ryan Gosling and she has an orgasm on the spot. In much the same way, this episode almost gave me a brain aneurysm.
The final episode of the show is called "Opening Night," which is also the name of a John Cassavetes movie. I can’t tell if this reference is yet another example of Schneider’s hubris or simply a divine coincidence doled out to us by our Supreme Creator, Real Rob.
The final episode documents Rob's haunting spiral into darkness and despair, as he finds out that he's broke because his mother and brother -- characters we never meet -- have stolen all his money. Without money, Rob can no longer afford to pay for Ryan Gosling's appearance at the opening of his wife’s all male burlesque revue, so he casts a homeless man to pretend to impersonate the hunky Canadian actor. At one point, they find the impersonator eating out of a dumpsite, and Rob says, "Bad Ryan Gross-ling."
Maybe it was the brain damage I suffered during this binge-watch, but I won't lie: I laughed at this joke. It turns out Rob Schneider can be funny in very small doses. Over an eight-episode binge? He can be lethal.
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Dan Jackson is a Staff Writer at Thrillist Entertainment and he may never recover from this. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.