Comedian Aida Rodriguez always keeps it real even if some might call her POV problematic and that’s the foundation of her new comedy special, Fighting Words, on HBO which premiered this month. Rodriguez, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, takes on major issues including woke culture, the complexity within Latinidad, colorism, and cancel culture with her unflinchingly honest humor and realness. But as much as it’s political and informed by real-life issues, Fighting Words is also the creative outlet for her to process her own upbringing and her identity evolution.
The 44-year-old grew up connected to her Puerto Rican roots on her mom’s side but it wasn’t until this year that she got in touch with her Dominican roots and met her father for the first time. This special provides viewers a peek into her trips to both homelands, directed by award-winning documentarian, Nadia Hallgren, and that first meeting with her dad. The comedy special/mini travel documentary brings to the forefront her Caribbean heritage and provides a true-life angle to the humorous stories she shares on stage. Considering there are a few Latinx comedians who’ve made a name for themselves and even less Latinas, her proudly embracing her roots is a powerful statement on such a major streaming platform for her first ever comedy special.
“I wanted the world to see how beautiful and full my people are, I wanted to document this moment of me reconnecting with my father and family and Puerto Rico, because many have had these experiences and I wanted to release them from shame and guilt, extend my hand out to them and let them know that it is ok, we are ok,” she tells HipLatina.
Some of the standout moments include when she called out people who identify as “woke” saying “woke people ain’t sh*t” adding, “Words hurt? So do uppercuts. Learn how to block!” She goes on to share a story about an elderly Chinese woman who fought back against her white supremacist attacker, sharing that she admires her for fighting back especially considering Rodriguez spent her youth not fighting back even when she was assaulted as a kid by a classmate.
“I chose these topics in Fighting Words because they came straight from my personal story. I have dealt with these issues and the pain that they’ve caused and I am sure that I am not alone. So many people in my community feel unseen and unheard for so long, I wanted to use my privilege to shine a light on them, they are worthy,” Rodriguez tells HipLatina.
She’s long been vocal about politics and shares how she called out someone who tweeted that instead of “homeless” she should’ve used “unhoused.” “B*tch, did you tweet that from the comfort of your own home?” she says, after sharing she was previously homeless. But, like most people who are vocal about majors issues on social media, she says she’s “retired” “because you people are exhausting.” Instead of “woke” she prefers calling herself a “revolutionary” and shares the story of the Asian-American woman saying she admires people who “fight for themselves.” She says her own father is now woke and that he’s now writing bachatas for the environment which she describes as “trash” – yet another example she uses against woke folk.
“Too many moments to count explaining why I feel that performative wokeness is toxic, so many people making money off of the struggles of people in pain with no actionable items on the agenda,” Rodriguez tells us. “I want to focus on healing, justice and equity and use my platform to illuminate those who are actually on the ground working for this daily and don’t get the recognition and support that they need and deserve.”
Tacking on to the failures of woke culture, she also speaks up again cancel culture and how it doesn’t actually fix anything. She was criticized and called a “rape apologist” for suggesting that Louis C.K., who was accused of sexual misconduct by five women, use his routine and privilege to educate other men in 2018. “If he uses the opportunity to address his shortcomings, maybe he can change a few minds among his fans and maybe he can save a couple of girls from unnecessary and unwanted incidents,” she previously told The Hollywood Reporter.
“Cancel culture isn’t real, I know first hand that many of the ‘cancelled’ have gone on to make lots of money and continued to work for the audiences that they resonate with,” she tells us. “Some people should go forever and belong in jail, not on Twitter. Though I do believe that social media is great for shedding light on people who are egregious and have caused harm, I think some use it to exercise their personal pain and it has become the playground of projection.”
A major focus of the special is also her childhood and roots, she proudly shows off both the Dominican flag and the Puerto Rican flag on the stage. Additionally, her white jumper was also an homage to her roots with all the embroidery of traditional Taíno symbols inspired by historical art work, according to couture designers, Celestino. Rodriguez was born in Boston, Massachusetts and taken to the Dominican Republic shortly afterward where she lived until she was three and then she and her mother moved to the U.S. and she spent a majority of life in Florida before moving to Los Angeles to make it in the comedy scene in the 2000s. Discovering that she was Dominican though, that was a major truth she learned later in life and in the special she shares how her family informed her and shed some light on the feuding between both countries.
“I didn’t know I was half Dominican until I got older,” she shares on stage. “They broke it to me like it was bad news,” she jokes. In exploring her identity she speaks openly about what it’s like being Black and Indigenous in the Latinx community. She calls her own family a “Benetton'” ad because of the diverse skin tones in her own family despite sharing the same heritage. She also talks about the colorism she dealt with when her family learned she was pregnant and the father was Black. True to form, she jokes about her religious family suddenly finding themselves okay with abortion. Yet as critical as she is, she also makes it a point to say that our community is “beautiful” and “f*cking phenomenal”.
“What I wanted to showcase in this piece about our community is that we are not a monolith, though this sounds cliche as we really try to drive the point home. Puerto Ricans are different and varied and so is every county in Latin America and the Caribbean, and we have to respect and acknowledge our differences if we really want to find change,” she tells us.
Rodriguez fully embraced the opportunity this special afforded her as a Latina following the success of her 2019 appearance as one of six comedians on the comedy series, Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready on Netflix. She’s also starring in and writing a half-hour comedy show based on her life, also in development at HBO Max and executive produced by Haddish.
“It is important to show up in this space as a Latina for many reasons. Our stories deserve to be told, all of our stories. Hollywood has been a place where many of us haven’t seen ourselves in a positive light or at all. Comedy is not exempt, I look forward to creating a way for more diverse Latinas — Black, Indigenous, Asian — to be able to step to the mic.”
Fighting Words is available now on HBO Max