Influence of Moliy’s roots in Ghana are obvious in her music, which she describes as “Afro- fusion pop,” but it doesn’t begin to fully describe her sound. Splitting time between Accra, the capital of Ghana on western Africa’s Atlantic coast, and Orlando, Florida, she was exposed to a wide range of music.
“Growing up with my mom and siblings you’ll always find the greats like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion on rotation,” she says. “Local TV also played us the biggest hits in Highlife [a Ghanaian genre that fuses African rhythms with western jazz influences and instrumentation] like Daddy Lumba.”
With that wide range of influence, Moliy was drawn to the then-developing sounds of Afrobeat as she began to make her own music. But finding support for where she wanted to take her sound wasn’t easy.
I love standup more than I hate the system, so they can’t get rid of me. I know I’m the thorn in some people’s side. A lot of people don’t like me because I speak truth to the powers that be. And I speak out about all of the stuff that some people are afraid to talk about because they don’t want to jeopardize their career. But what career can you have if you’re operating in fear?”
Aida Rodriguez is hitting her stride.
The comedian/writer/actor/director/producer/podcaster is busy. Really busy. She’s following up her 2021 HBO Max special Fighting Words by developing a half-hour series based on her life and has directed four upcoming specials featuring rising stand-ups for the streaming network. There’s also an animated series in development with ITV, in addition to a persistent slate of stand-up dates around the country.
Rodriguez’s road to this point has not been an easy one. She started standup later in life as an outlet for processing the emotions of her life’s experience – including being kidnapped twice as a child, the murder of her uncle in a hate crime, and periods of homelessness with her two children, among other challenges. Finding solace in laughing and making others laugh about those experiences wasn’t easy, either, as she faced the misogyny, racism, and ageism sadly inherent in the white male-dominated comedy industry.
“Instead of it becoming the chip on my shoulder, it just became the wind, you know, beneath my wings. And it fueled me to just work really hard,” she says. “I love standup more than I hate the system, so they can’t get rid of me. I know I’m the thorn in some people’s side. A lot of people don’t like me because I speak truth to the powers that be. And I speak out about all of the stuff that some people are afraid to talk about because they don’t want to jeopardize their career. But what career can you have if you’re operating in fear?”
Paying It Forward
“Kevin Hart gave me my first TV [appearance] and I had only been doing standup for maybe a year, and I bombed terribly,” Rodriguez remembers. “It was like my friends had to come scrape me up off the ground. It was bad.”
Despite feeling she had blown her chance, Rodriguez kept grinding. She was a finalist on season eight of NBC’s Last Comic Standing and appeared on HBO Max’s Entre Nos: Part 1 and Showtime’s Shaquille O’Neal Presents: All-Star Comedy Jam, and later she was a featured comic in Netflix’s anthology series Tiffany Haddish Presents: They Ready.
Now Rodriguez feels that it’s time for her to use her growing opportunities to help spotlight the talent of the next class of comedians on the rise.
“There was nothing more satisfying than to be able to provide a comedian with a taping experience, knowing exactly what it feels like to be on that side,” she says about the HBO Max comedy specials she’s directing for up-and-coming comedians Marcella Arguello, Ian Laura, Ralph Barboza, and Gwen La Roca.
“They’re all very funny and a broad spectrum of voices – from a Black Latin guy to a Mexican Chicana to a girl that grew up in Modesto, California, who’s white passing and is a brilliant mind,” Rodriguez gushes. “Knowing how hard these people work just to get a shot. And two women, you know, a queer woman and a straight woman, that would not ordinarily get an opportunity that was very fulfilling for me. I can’t wait for those specials to come out.”
Find out more about Aida Rodriguez on her website FunnyAida.com and follow her on Instagram and Twitter – @FunnyAida.