Rojo Perez performing in front of a crowd. Photo courtesy of Mindy Tucker.
Nov 28, 2016
A communications major during college, alumnus Rojo Perez ’07 is now using his skills as a successful comedian in New York City, traveling around the country spreading the joy of laughter. We interviewed him to get more detail on how his background inspired his career and passion to make people smile. Here’s what he had to say:
Where are you originally from?
San Sebastian, Puerto Rico
Why did you choose to come to FSC?
Coming from a small high school, I was worried I would get lost in a sea of hundreds per class. At 18, I felt like I needed to be held somewhat accountable.
What was your experience as a communications major?
It was an amazing foundation for grownup life. Since the number of students per class was no more than 20, you learned how to do everything. If one week you edited, the next week you were behind the camera, the week after that you might be in the studio learning how to read a teleprompter. Doing a bit of everything allowed me to think outside the box.
Did you publish anything while you were a student?
I regularly wrote and had articles published for The Southern. As an intern I had multiple pieces published in Vision Latina, the Lakeland Ledger's weekly Spanish newspaper.
What professors at FSC helped you the most?
Dr. Vicki Wuertz for teaching me the basics of public speaking and helping me secure an internship that would actually benefit me in the future. Also Dr. Mike Trice for helping me grow as a person and always having an open door policy even if I had nothing to talk about.
Did you take a public speaking class in college that contributed to the confidence you have on stage?
At the time as a Comm major it was mandatory to take a public speaking class. Dr. Vicky Wuertz taught it and you had to give four speeches throughout the semester. Freshman year I was introduced to it and kind of had fun with it. I took some acting classes as electives that also helped with performance. That was an excellent foundation to help me find my humor and how to relay it.
How did you choose this career path?
I’m a comedian because I realized I’m a bit more narcissistic and self-centered than I originally thought. I realized I wanted to tell a story but I wanted it to be my story. That last part is kind of tongue and cheek, what you want to hear is how I got on stage the first time and fell in love, that there was no looking back and I knew I was destined for this. And part of that is true, but there is also truth in the self-centered part. Anybody who does any sort of performance deep down feels like that if you think you’re so important that people should pay you to hear your thoughts. The truth is I do love stand-up and I am very grateful to do this, but loving something is hard. My parents love each other but my mom will turn up the music volume to tune out my dad’s craziness at times and my dad will wash the car three or four times in a week just to have some silence.
All of college led to this decision. I would make silly videos in college with my buddy Jordan and we would film them, edit them, turn them in as actual class projects and professors not only allowed it, but encouraged it. FSC allowed me the freedom to create funny content and without that I might have never ended up in comedy.
What do you like most about your job now?
The thing I love the most about my job is that I get to call "making people laugh" a job. With the energy around the country right now, any escape I can provide is a beautiful feeling. I like being able to distract people from their issues for one night and have strangers put aside their differences to come together and smile over things like our hatred of cats. When someone comes up to you after a show and thanks you or quotes your own joke back to you or tries to hook you up with their granddaughter is also pretty cool.
What does your day look like?
Get up around 10, and check my emails. Make sure I didn't have too much fun the night before and type something dumb on Twitter or Facebook. Check the news, go for a run (eat a bagel), watch two episodes of Grey's Anatomy on Lifetime. Listen to the audio recording of jokes I told the night before. Have a salad for lunch (order Chinese), and learn lines if I have an audition or work on other writing projects that are not stand-up. Leave the house around 6 p.m. and start running around different shows until anywhere from midnight to 2:30 a.m. Rinse and repeat.
How do you come up with your material?
There’s no one way I come up with material. I prefer to talk about personal experiences on stage, so a lot of it comes from putting myself in different positions: experiencing life, finding out what I feel strongly about. I know “experience life” sounds so vague, but what I mean is not falling in a rut. Mixing up the routine is usually what helps me the most. After you’ve been doing something for enough time, you can kind of find the funny in very basic things. You look at things differently because your brain is wired a certain way. I forget birthdays and appointments but I’ll never forget the time a stranger got in a revolving door with me.
What is your audience like? What’s it like getting up in front of them?
There is no real demographic as far as audiences go. When I’m in NY it tends to be younger, hip kids in their 20’s with tight jeans, beards, and funky haircuts. Girls with tattoos, in the know, who are figuring out life. Open minded, liberal, sometimes to a fault. But when I travel to the Midwest it’s a bit older, usually married or on a date night. This is their night out or girls’ night leaving the husbands at home. Then you go down South and it’s mostly black and brown people who can be a bit tougher of a crowd, but when they rock with you, they love you. It’s fun trying to figure out how to adjust to who’s in the crowd and adjust what you do on stage but still staying true to you and not selling out or dancing like a clown or monkey.
There is a comedy club on campus called Studio Box that was created a few years ago. Did you perform in college?
Hearing about Studio Box is very cool; from what I understand it’s an improv/sketch troupe and I couldn’t be happier for those performing and the college itself for continuing to encourage art. I would love to do something with them one day. ACE people, why don’t we make this happen!
I started performing the summer before my final semester. At the time I was 20 and Jordan and I would drive to Tampa, Clearwater, Orlando, anywhere we could find an open mic: coffee shops, hookah bars, terrible comedy clubs, wherever. Once the semester started I kept it up, not as much as I wanted to, but I would try to get up at least a couple times a week.
When is your next gig?
Tonight, tomorrow, every day. There aren’t really days off, I force myself to take a day here and there but overall it’s forever a search of improvement. Jokes are never really done even. If they get laughs there’s always something that can be added. A tag, a pause, an infliction, and the only way to find out if it works is by getting on stage.
Have you performed nationwide?
Yes. This year I was on the road for half the year. I’m writing this currently in a hotel room in Minneapolis, while planning out the next few months of travel and yelling at the housekeeper, “No means no!”
I’ve been lucky enough to go all over the country and Mexico and Canada to do this. Hoping overseas will be the next move. My goal is to have my passport looking like a drunken weekend in Ybor with all the stamps. (Not a great line, but good local reference).
It looks like I’m going to be in Orlando in January and Tampa in the summer so it would be dope to see anyone who reads this.
What are your plans going forward?
Besides becoming the most recognizable FSC alumni (Move over Lee Janzen and Matt Joyce), hopefully to get some more TV exposure that allows me to continue traveling and bringing some joy to strangers. I am also recording an album in the next few months.
Have you done any volunteer work?
I've done multiple shows over the years where all the proceeds go to charity or a foundation, whether it’s for a natural disaster relief, domestic violence, gun violence, etc. The one that stands out the most for me was doing some shows for Hurricane Sandy relief. Living in NY, I was so close to it and saw in person how people were directly affected. During that time I did multiple shows where everything was donated. Having gone through a bad hurricane as a kid in Puerto Rico, all those memories came back. I was too young at the time to really help, so anything I could do this time around I was game for. There is something so magical about how humans come together during difficult times, whether it be a hurricane, shootings around the country, or even a friend who is sick and struggling to pay bills. So being a small part of the healing process is very important to me.
What advice would do you have for current students or young alumni?
Find out what makes you unique, don't stress if you are in your early 20's and haven't figured it all out. This isn't your parent's generation, a 24 year old doesn't necessarily need to be married and working a 9-5 you hate because you think that's what life is supposed to be.
FYI: This may not be that funny but it's free advice. FREE being the key word, I'm putting this as a write off on my taxes...
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