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How Do I Cope? Starring: Aida Rodriguez
WILD - cover art
Episode 8
33:56
How Do I Cope? Starring: Aida Rodriguez
Aida Rodriguez began her comedy career while living in a car with her two kids and working a fulltime job on the side. Now she is one of the funniest standup comics on the planet and she learned how to do that as a way of coping with the feeling of despair, something that’s helped her get through the pandemic.

Sponsors include:

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This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

[SEG A: LUSHIK INTRO]

ERICK: Would you mind introducing yourself however you like to the audience?

AIDA: So my name is Aida Rodriguez. Some of y'all know me as funny Aida on social media. I'm a stand up comedian, a writer, a producer, and an actor … and a mom. I'm a mom of a daughter and a son. And, um, yeah, I'm happy to be here.

ERICK: We'll get right into it, I know your time is valuable and limited, I was wondering if….LUSHIK: (clears throat) Hi. I’m lushik — I’m producing this episode. and if you don’t know what a producer does — you’re not alone. We do everything behind the scenes. Like right now — I’m sitting on this zoom call. my camera is off and my mic is muted. I’m taking notes. thinking of questions. Helping Erick stay on track... because getting Aida on a call is WILD — I’m not just a producer — I’m fan of Aida Rodriguez — because her speciality is — making you laugh the entire time she’s telling traumatic stories… Like on Tiffany Haddish’s Netflix Series — They Ready — Aida takes the stage…

AIDA ON THEY READY: I gotta round up these white women cause I need them to be allies to me right cause We need solutions.I got molested and I talk about it freely. But I feel like there are better solutions for people who touch children, right? Like instead of testing cosmetics on animals white ladies, i’m with you on that. Test them on Pedophiles...

LUSHIK: See Hilarious! But — also … that was a lot. And the thing is — When I talk about my trauma I do it in the same way. If only I had an audience though..ERICK: Being funny is such a good coping mechanism right?AIDA: First of all, I think my time is no more valuable than anyone else’s — we just have limited time because… time is one thing we can’t get back…

LUSHIK: As I’m tuning into my headphones and really listening — I’m forgetting to do my job.

THEME MUX SWELL: I Got Everything by Mz.007

LUSHIK: Aida’s comedy isn’t a front. And she’s been through some shit. I was really curious about what she’s like when she’s not trying to make people laugh. The plan was to ask her how she’s coped during the pandemic but the conversation that Erick and Aida are having about waaay more than coping — it’s about thriving with scares — I’m Lushik and this is Wild.

SHAKA: This is WILD — A show about what it was like to grow up during the pandemic. Season 1: Home Forever.

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

LUSHIK: Ok — back to the interview, time to do my job.

[SEG B: INTERVIEW]

ERICK: Tell me about the time you had to live in your car, just cause I'm curious about that story.

AIDA: Um, so, you know, I, I, I practice, um, this thing of not really engaging and trauma porn when it comes to myself and people of color. So I'm very judicious about talking about a lot of the things that happened to me. So I try to do it in the, in the form of comedy because… I do it so that it can free people who are dealing with the same issues and to let them know that they're not alone. Um, there was a time when I was homeless and I was living in my car with my daughter and my son. And it was, um, it was a very hard time because you know, I have friends that care about me and people who cared about me that did not want me to be homeless, but and would open their homes to me.

AIDA: Um, but there there's a level of shame and you know, this feeling of failure that accompanies you when you become homeless, because you don't realize, um, the effects of, you know, toxic capitalism and you know, systemic ills that cause us to be in the situations that we're in. So there was a brief moment where I did live in a car and it was terrifying because I had to, you know, watch over the two people who matter to me the most in the world. And it was very hard, very hard.

ERICK: I totally, I, I I've had to live in my car too and I totally respect the way you use comedy to take, like, these moments are sometimes maybe tragic or, or like, I don't know, whatever you want to call them, but like, to be able to cope, you know, like being funny is like such a good coping mechanism, right?

AIDA: It's cathartic. Um, but even sometimes it's not even about you, right? when I did last comic standing, I had just lost my grandmother and my uncle. And so it was really hard. It was hard for me to feel joy, but I guess the only, the only good good thing that came of it, or the only thing that was fulfilling for me was that I was making other people happy in the moment where I wasn't happy myself, you know? And so comedy is something that people wake up every morning, most people and go out to try to make other people happy. That's what stand-up comedians do. And so when people get, um, you know, Are so hard. I really hard on comedians, which some people deserve to be, you know, reprimanded for some of them of the things that they say, because they're intentionally being hurtful. But I would say that most people are just people trying to figure out their own pain and their own situation and comedy is their way of doing that.

LUSHIK: When Aida say that comedy is about figuring out your pain- I stop typing. I stop taking notes. She just put it so simply. I relate to the way she jokes about trauma. That is a coping mechanism I have mastered. A year and a half ago, 5 years after I came to the US — I found lawyers and applied for asylum. I’m sitting there in an office with my lawyers — in their very serious suits. telling them about very serious shit. about dangers past, present and future. But all I remember is making them laugh for months as they prepared my case. As I watched Aida’s They Ready set — She even talks about being a kid and getting kidnapped and makes the audience laugh — when they really shouldn’t.

AIDA ON THEY READY: I got kidnapped twice. I was hot in them streets. The First time it was my mom, my mom kidnapped me from my father. I was living in the DR with my dad and my mom stole me, she brought me to America, like basic parental kidnap shit. you know what I mean? she stole me. she was like that motherfucker cheated on me and he will never see you again, you hear me? And that’s how it went down. That bitch was serious. The second time I got kidnapped though I got kidnapped by my grandma and my gay uncle, imagine that. They did a whole stakeout, my grandmother flew to NY because my mother was dating a killer. Yes.

LUSHIK: [ohhhhh] — hearing that set. Was like therapy. Also — I couldn’t believe that someone could make a career out of their trauma — in comedy. Hmmmmm… maybe I have options. Back in the zoom room — With Erick and Aida — I want Aida to stop making me laugh. Tell me the story. Tell me the story behind the jokes. I write to Erick: “Ask her: Is it funny in the moment?”

ERICK: I'm wondering though, like if, when you're in the moment, is it funny at the moment? Like, are you thinking like, man, this is fucking crazy. Like you were kidnapped twice, right? Like, like, are you in those moments? Is it like, man, this is going to be funny later? Or what, what goes through your mind during those, those moments?

AIDA: Well, you know, that was something that I only spoke about on The Ready, cause it was very traumatic for me and. Uh, with, when you get kidnapped by someone that's related to you, people dismiss it as as it as if it's not traumatic. Cause it's like, oh, your mom took you from your dad. Yeah. I never saw him again. And she changed my name. And my reality in life was that of someone who thought that they were abandoned by their father. When my grandmother took me from my mother. Um, I didn't see my mother for a long time, and that was really hard for me because I wanted my mom and I was a little kid and it doesn't matter how much my grandmother loved me my, there was no replacement for my mother.

AIDA: So at the time, you know, none of it is funny. And honestly it took me a long time to make a joke about that. And I decided to do it on They Ready because I compartmentalize my comedy and my They Ready set was really about where I came from. It wasn't about me being a mom. It wasn't about me being a wife or girlfriend. It was really just about where I came from because I wanted to bring those people to life.

AIDA: You know, part of the reason I do a lot of the things that I do on stage it's not just about me. It's about releasing people like me from shame and guilt and from, you know, just releasing them from the things that happened to them and sometimes I'm just the voice to those, that pain and that journey. And so to get people messages from people saying, you know, I was taken by a family member or, you know, people try to, uh, perm my hair straight or I was, I was called the black one too and all of that stuff was, um, It was healing for me because then I knew that it was helping other people as well, be seen and heard.

ERICK: It's funny cause it is healing like, like as I'm watching it and I'm hearing some of these stories, I'm like, I do think about my own experiences. You know, when I watch your stand up, especially the like winding up sort of in the car part. Cause that happened to me, you know, I didn't have kids. You know, thankfully for me, but I was in a car and like, you know, it was a time when my career sort of like just disappeared. And so that's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. Cause I was like being able to laugh at that with you, like really helped me a lot, you know? When I was like, damn, cause I was ashamed, you know, you do get like, fuck, how did I wind up here? You know?LUSHIK: Ok — At this point I am smiling even though they can’t see me. Erick just went there shame. That feeling that lingers long after the events that evoked it. I begin reflecting. Why is it that we carry shame years after? ButI don’t write that question to Erick. I keep that one for myself. And think about what shame and comedy do for each other.

ERICK: When I, when the pandemic hit and I was like, now we're all stuck in this place. It kind of reminded me of my time, like in a car. And I was wondering if, if, if you had those same thoughts.

AIDA: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I've gone in and out of depression during the pandemic up and down. Um, I just came back from New York cause I had, I really, uh, I hit a really dark low and I wanted to get outside and walk because I needed to be outside. And yeah, I do, I do think that this is reminiscent of that because even when you're homeless, you find a place where you can seek refuge and you're afraid because you are out in the world and you are vulnerable to whatever is in that environment um, and you feel trapped. And so this feeling of being in these, you know, within these walls is very reminiscent of that. No matter how, how much, you know, you have now, or you live in a place and you're safe, it still reminds you of feeling trapped. I don't unpack at the hotel, like our friends that we travel and we go somewhere for a week for comedy and they could fully unpack and put the clothes in the closet. And, but my, I guess my trauma, like I'm always ready to go. Like, I'm always have my stuff in the bag ready to go. Like even my toiletries, I keep it in my bag. Or you go to the bathroom with it, which is such a thing that people who are homeless have to do because they have to always guard over their stuff. And. You know, I don't know if that'll ever go away. I work on it.

ERICK: What are some coping mechanisms you might've learned from back then that helped you get through the pandemic?

AIDA: First of all breathing, I got the, these meditation apps on my phone to learn how to meditate. I pray because I believe when you pray, you ask the questions and when you meditate, you get the answer. Um, simple things you could do for your safety that I never thought about before, you know, and protecting yourself and your space. And for me doing social distancing, wasn't hard because there's something that I do I would do anyway. It's like you, you know, where we from? It's like give me five feet. So six is a bonus.

AIDA: [Laughing] ERICK: [Laughing]

Vyrodok (Instrumental) by Pavel SysoyevLUSHIK: I don’t know why, but at that moment, I felt like jumping in and cracking some jokes. Maybe it was because Aida and Erick made me think about my own shame, and I just wanted to deal with it.

[SEG C: COMEDY SKIT]SHAKA: Ladies and gentleman. Let’s make a lot of noise for the next comedian. It’s a young woman by the name of Luuuuuuushikkkkk! LUSHIK: Thanks, Shaka. Thank you for the welcome.

Hi everyone, yeah. So my name is Lushik. And I’m from Vermont. I love saying that shit to freak white people out. [crowd cheering ]Yeah — the name is foriegn and I’m foriegn and it’s foriegn everywhere so you’re not special or anything. Where I come from, I’m a minority within a minority so like only … 0.01% percent of the population will get my jokes. And maybe like the 3 Americans who are from the Middle East.

My parents named me Lushik, a name like me, from nowhere. And when I was a kid very body wanted an explanation of what the name meant. So when I was 4 I came up with the perfect one. When adults would kneel down and in a baby voice ask me, “Oh what’s your name?” I’d say… “None of your business.

...And that’s how my name became none of your business.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

LUSHIK: When I was 16 I left. By myself I just left. But I didn’t just move across the country — I moved across borders. I was living on a tourist visa — which is like three months — so you’re like living on borrowed time with permission. And...I went to Eastern Europe for high school I spent the summers and winters couch surfing around Germany — hitchhiking up to Amsterdam and down the countryside of France.

One time in Berlin — it’s a crazy city. I went to a party and ended up in a sex dungeon — by accident. That was definitely fun But also when I realized I better end up in a country where I speak the language...

Shit gets even more wild in the US - I got out the subway in New York to a guy using geopolitical catcalls. Only in New York! He says”, you gotta be muslim looking like that.”

I have no problem being Muslim I’m just not.

I probably should have let him slide, but he picked the wrong woman to harass that day. he thought he could just say that line, just cruz on by. He had no idea what he had gotten himself into. Cuz you see, we’re not even a category on the census, and to change that you gotta raise awareness.

So I decided to raise his awareness that day.

I schooled that man in a 2000 year history of indigienous minorities in the middle east. And to this day it warms my heart that I did my civil duty, and sent that man home to practice the “New Woke” and politically correct sexual harassment.

SHAKA: WILD will return after this commercial break

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

__________ MID ROLL BREAK _____________

SHAKA: Now back to the show

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

[SEG D: BACK TO INTERVIEW]

LUSHIK: At this point in the interview, the idea of what Aida does with her comedy really started to click. She makes it OK for people to let go of trauma. And I got to watch her and Erick do that for each other in real time.

ERICK: You know, I grew up in the hood too, like when I see somebody walking up to me, I'm like, is this someone that I owe something to, that's going to be bad, you know, like the, the footsteps coming in and I'm like, oh fuck. I hope this isn't somebody that I, that I double crossed or something, you know, like these, these traumatic things, they just stick with us.

AIDA: Yeah, it's PTSD. It's actually PTSD and it's real.

ERICK: but, but, but because of that, like I developed, I think my sense of humor around my traumas, like I learned to laugh like at people who pointed guns at me, you know, like I learned to laugh at violence at terrible situations. And like, I'm wondering if, if you, if, if that was like similar to your upbringing, if it was just like, yo, this shit is wild. I can't, I can't deal. I'm just going to laugh at it.

AIDA: Well, yeah. I mean, it's a, it's a natural response for us, right. We either kind of laugh or we're going to cry and where we come from it is, it's become part of the culture to be able to laugh at it because that's how we work through it. And we do things like we play the dozens or, you know, because it is, we snap on each other because it is a coping mechanism.

ERICK: Is that, is that what like prompted you to pursue comedy? What made that change in you?

AIDA: I always wanted to do stand up. Um, the, my journey there was very different you know, I went away to school, I started modeling. I, um, I got married, you know, cause I got pregnant and all this other stuff happened and everything around me was driving me away from comedy.

You know, the machismo of the, of a Latina family saying, no man is going to want to marry a goofy, funny girl or whatever to, you know, just not being able to do it.

So finally, when I broke free I got up and I moved across the country with my daughter and my son to another state where I didn't know anybody. But I never realized what a big deal that is to, to like move across the country, from Miami to Los Angeles. And I was young. I was really young and, you know, with two little kids, people, my age were, you know, out partying, popping bottles. And I was trying to figure out how I was going to live.

And then, um, one day I was, I was at a brunch and my girlfriend was like, I want to roast and can you roast me? Cause she was like, you always, you can roast really well. And I roasted her and then Chris Spencer, who created real husbands of Hollywood with Kevin Hart. He's a comedian and he's been around comedians. He's worked with, you know, Jamie Fox and Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, He was like, hey, I think you're a standup you know, he was like, I think you should try it because I think you're naturally a standup. And he gave me a list of open mikes and I just started going secretly. Um, And I was homeless at the time. People didn't know I was homeless. I had a full-time job cause I wasn't homeless and, and, and lazy as some people like to say, I had a job and, um, I would go at night because I needed, something to release. And then I just started doing both and I did both and was a full-time parent until comedy started paying off so that I could quit my job. But... It was something that came to me later.

ERICK: What did the kids think? Did they know you were doing standup at night?

AIDA: Yeah, they were coo … they’ve always been... we are dream supporters. Uh, we are trifecta and we are support each other's dreams. And, you know, they both were like, you know, do it. And when when I thought about quitting sometimes because I thought it was, it was too hard for them and they were like, if you quit, you know, you better not quit. They've always been very supportive. They're there for all the tapings. That's who I salute when people ask me, like, who are you saluting from the stages I'm saluting my daughter and my son. dream keepers. Our family is that's what you want to do. All right, let's go do it.

NETFLIX AIDA ON THEY READY:

So my life changed because my Cuban stepfather came into my life and he was very racist and he didn’t like me because I was the dark one. And one day he was taking me and brother to school and it was raining, and this motherfucking man splashes them on the bus stop and the light turned red. The light turned red because god is good. yes, yes. That dude had an umbrella in one hand and with the other hand he beat my stepfather’s ass. My stepfather wobbled up to the car and he had all these bruises and welts and my brother was crying because that’s his real father

ERICK: One of the things that makes me cringe sometimes is like the idea that my, uh, parents and family are listening to all these very personal stories that I tell.

AIDA: Oh Yeah.

ERICK: I just want, how do you, how does that, does that something you go through too?

AIDA: Oh, absolutely. You know, my, I made up the story of my stepfather getting beat up that's my brother's real father, you know, and it's something I had to clear with him because it's a story that you know, when he, when, when that special came out, people were texting him saying that that was your bitch ass in the car crying, wasn't it. And so, uh, he sends me the screenshots, you know, it's the comedy that I do that is that involves my family doesn't go to the public until it is cleared by them. I talked to my brother about it. He came to a show in Miami. He saw the joke. Um, it was really funny. It was very well received and he was like, cool. Um, it also helps that my stepfather doesn't speak English. So I don't know if he's watching it on Netflix, um, being, uh, you know, dubbed, but he doesn't speak English. So that helps a little bit.

ERICK: I just want to ask if you were going to give advice to anyone, um, that's stuck, that feels like they're in a situation where they feel trapped, what would you, what would you tell them?

AIDA: I always think about things from the, the perspective of... I'll think about some of the lowest moments in my life and where I am now and how in those moments, I felt that I was not going to come out on the other side and I've had many of those moments. And I think to where I am now, and I'm like, you see how that you see how that works. So I have to give myself that same space in the future.

Somebody just told me. They do this thing called 10, 10, 10. Where is it going to matter in 10 minutes? Is it going to matter in 10 months? Is it going to matter in 10 years? And so I know that it's easier said than done. Um, I just like to tell people to give themselves grace, because if you are in a, an uncomfortable or bad situation, a lot of times you know, when you're homeless, it's by design. We are, we're in a country that the government is ran by corporations and everything is driven by money. A lot of homeless people are not homeless by choice they're homeless by design and it keeps this capitalistic system going that's very toxic and harmful for people who are disenfranchised and marginalized. So I think that you, when you are in a moment where you feel like stuck, think about the fact that, you know, first of all, no matter how much they try to tell you that some people are worth more than others. Steve jobs made all the money in the world and still died of cancer.

You know, like prince, you know, Michael Jackson, DMX, you know, like when you think about the fact that the planet is don't matter, what they try to tell you about people. Um, all of us are just these beings that are here for a particular reason in this point in time, there's definitely something bigger than us because we can't possibly be the smartest things on the planet with all the harm that we do to it.

So just give yourself space and know that you are a six feet away from an opportunity that can change your life, and it has everything to do with how you think.

And so in those moments where you're feeling dark, remember to surround yourselves with things that inspire you and bring you light because your subconscious mind is a recorder. And if you feel it with the things that feed you and your spirit, you will see the fruits of that. And if you feed it with the negative and dark stuff, you will see the fruits of that. So just it's a moment and just remember all the moments that you have already, um, that you've already surpassed and and conquered and just know that this is just another one of those

ERICK: That's, that's so beautiful. that's So dope,thank you Aidda. I really appreciate you taking the time today to talk to us.

AIDA: No, thank you for having me. I'm honored and I appreciate it. And listen, I believe my mantra is the universe agrees with a made up mind. So make a decision and watch the universe work, but don't forget to work with it.

Maple (Instrumental) by Pastek

[SEG E: LUSHIK OUTRO]: LUSHIK: I push the “stop recording” on Zoom. I thank Aida as well. I close my laptop. An interview I had prepared two weeks for is over. And she may not even remember my name. But I remember this, it’s a moment I will not forget. You know what’s wild, I drove from Vermont to Connecticut to meet my lawyers. I got off the highway onto asylum avenue. And I don’t know which asylum they named it after. Asylum.

Even though my asylum was granted I carry the shame of having resorted to asylum in the first place. And even that is a privilege. I was in this country for 5 years before seeking asylum. And in the interview they ask why I waited. The reason is that some ways of migrating are more respected than others. Not only for where you end up but also for where you came from. I had gone to a US college, I was supposed to graduate and get a work visa, then a green card, then permanent residency. Where I come from that’s the definition of success;. staying in the country because the powers that be want you here.

Asylum is being vulnerable. You stay in the country because you have no where else to go to be safe. Nowhere wants you. So joking about it is a way to take back control of traumas that made me feel helpless. Joking is taking back my story. Joking is agency.

SHAKA: Ladies and gentleman. Let’s make a lot of noise for the next comedian to come to the stage. Lushik!

I Got Everything (Instrumental) by Mz.007

[SEGMENT F: HIGHLIGHTS]

Megan Tan: Highlights I went and saw one of my best friends who is the type of person no matter what state you are in just brings out the best in you and makes you laugh that really deep laugh that you only hear when you are around people who know your soul

Marina P: I have a parrot so I spent time with him. He learned a new word, he says te quiero

Shan: I’ve been able to discover so much more about this city that I overlooked or I didn’t see and that just opened my eyes up more to the history of this city. To the brilliance of this city and to the circumstance that all of us live under so it’s been an on-going reinvention of my creative process.

Erick: That’s Shan Wallace, a photographer who built herself a curated life in the bubble and she is not ready to say goodbye to all that yet.

[CREDITS]

Read this week by Taylor Coffman

This episode of Wild was written, produced and sound designed by Lushik Wahba. Joke tracking and delivery supported by Shaka Mali. It was edited by Erick Galindo and Megan Tan, who also contributed to the sound design.

It was engineered by Eduardo Perez.

Our Producers are Victoria Alejandro and Lushik Wahba. Marina Peña is our associate producer and fact checker. Shaka Mali is an associate producer at large and our announcer. Megan Tan is our Senior Producer. Erick Galindo is our host and editor. Jessica Pilot is our Talent Producer. Our Executive Producers are Antonia Cereijido and Leo (Ley-Oh) G.

Aida’s Set from They Ready is courtesy of Netflix and Aida Rodriguez.……..

Shoutout to Marisa Klug (Clue-ggg)-Moratya (More-Ah-Tah-Yah) for shooting our album art and Steve Rosa for the assist.

The theme song is I Got Everything by Mz.007

Our website, LAistStudios.com, is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital team, and by our marketing team, who also created our branding.

WILD is a production of LAist Studios.

Special Thanks to the team over there, including: Me — Taylor Coffman, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, and Leo (Ley-Oh) G.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

I Got Everything (Instrumental) by Mz.007

[GOODBYE]

WOO! I nailed it. I think...I’m Erick G — I’ll catch you next time