Al Madrigal has paid his dues. He's waited a long time for this.
Sure, his career is going exceptionally well. He's been designated the Latino correspondent for "The Daily Show," doing several thought-provoking reports.
And on Friday night, his (very funny) Comedy Central stand-up special, "Why Is The Rabbit Crying?," will debut at 11 p.m. ET. It's the first full-length special on the network for Madrigal.
But what's really important to Madrigal is that the San Francisco 49ers are back among the NFL's elite. A season-ticket holder despite living in Los Angeles, Madrigal is part of a family of lifelong Niners fans.
Playbook spoke with Madrigal about the Bay Area's run of sports success, Brian Wilson's shtick and Vernon Davis selling smoothies.
The 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, the Giants won the World Series and the Warriors made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Do you think the rest of the country is getting sick of the Bay Area right about now?
I don't care. We had so many bad years Right when [49ers coach Steve] Mariucci got fired, in 2003, and you go through Dennis Erickson and all those coaching changes -- Mike Nolan, then Singletary. It was brutal. J.T. O'Sullivan was our quarterback at one point. Let's all remember that. And tell them to shut up. There was a long list of Niner QBs before Alex Smith.
So do you think the Colin Kaepernick era is the solution?
Kaepernick is incredible to watch, to run like that and not to get hit either. He's so smart. RG III is going to have to learn to run out of bounds like Kaepernick.
How bitter are you still about the Super Bowl?
We gave them that game and there were so many opportunities, we deserved to lose. It's really tough to go back and watch. But I rewatched and, yeah, it's hard. I love [Jim] Harbaugh so much and [general manager] Trent Baalke, the guys that are making all the calls. It's the same thing with Bill Walsh. ... In Baalke We Trust. It's just going to make these guys more hungry this season.
But now that you're so close, are you concerned about the obvious distractions caused by Vernon Davis opening two Jamba Juices?
What's up with that? An art gallery, some Jamba Juices and quite the scarf collection. I'm more concerned about Aldon Smith hanging out with a tough crowd in San Jose, where people are getting stabbed at his parties. You don't want anybody to be distracted. But Jamba Juices are better than a lot of other things we've seen in the news. So I guess I'll take smoothies over gang friends any day.
As a comedian and a Giants fan, what are your thoughts on Brian Wilson's shtick all these years?
Yeah, it's a little much? Did he come back for the ring ceremony?
No, he did not.
That irritates me. "Fear The Beard." ... They make this guy... Romo had the beard, everybody had the beard. They were all about him. The sign after each save. That organization was really behind him. I thought he was a funny guy. The speed skating tuxedo thing was a little much. But whatever. I like people that are bringing personality and not just doing the same "Bull Durham" answers to all these questions. He's a funny guy. But then for him not to come back, and then not to go out and prove himself. ... He's not playing anywhere. They offered him $1 million. It sort of negates that stuff. I'm quick to say, "You're dead to me." I feel like a lot of Giants fans say that, too. See you later. He should've come back for the ring. People would've been very excited. He was a huge part of the team, even though he got hurt. Him not coming back tarnishes my impression of him.
So you're pretty squarely in Sergio Romo's corner, I guess?
Yeah, I'm a big fan of Mexican guys. I'm from Salinas. So, yeah. I like Romo. I just don't want him to get in any trouble either. There's that "Wild Thing" image that these guys have. You don't want them to push it too far.
Why do you think closers generally adopt that image?
Yeah, the closer's supposed to be this bad-ass. I don't know. Romo legitimately seems like a funny guy. Have you seen the T-shirt that he was wearing during the parade? He had a T-shirt that said, "I just look illegal." He's a funny dude. Have you seen any of his photobombs? He's like a little gnome. He's a weird little dude ... behind Matt Cain with the bunny ears.
But what is it about a closer, that they have to be intimidating? So a batter is like, "He's craaaazy?" He's tiny, so he has to play the part of someone who's mentally insane.
A lot of people say the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium is so spacious that it cost them a home-field advantage. Do you have any concerns about the 49ers' new $1.2 billion stadium becoming too nice?
The Cowboys have a host of other problems. I think "meddling owner" is on the top of that list.
My dad has had season tickets since Kezar Stadium [which the 49ers left in 1971]. Between my cousins and my family, we have 16 tickets at the new stadium. I bought two so I could fly up with my son. Candlestick was so bad. I remember saying to my dad when I was 10 years old, "I'm gonna go get a burger. I'll see you in like 30 minutes." You had to walk all around the entire stadium to find a hamburger. The concessions were horrible. Rock bottom. Hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, beer. Nothing else. Which is fine.
But that's a pretty sophisticated market.
We don't want sushi. I just want to be able to have a cheeseburger or a burrito. Tacos would be nice. When you go to the Mets' stadium -- Shake Shack ... I had a fish sandwich that was delicious. I went to the Brooklyn Nets' place. it's unbelievable. So once you travel around to a variety of stadiums, and someone hands you a cold hot dog that's from a place called "Dogs and Stuff" or whatever those old concession stands are called, I want the Russian billionaire stuff. The Bay Area has such great food. All those people should be factors.
I think the NFL has a huge problem with scumbags. I had to escort my dad out of the Raiders-Niners preseason game like I was the Secret Service taking the president through "Predator 2." There were guys smashing a guy's head in the sink. I have a 10-year-old I want to take to the games and I don't want to see "The Longest Yard" out there, because it looks like prison inmates are in the stands. It really is brutal. So I'm all for seat licenses and a nice stadium.
Between your own stand-up special, "The Daily Show" and the run of Bay Area teams, things are going well for you this year.
I'm a happy man. It's a great time. The other main thing about this that you should know: I have a 10-year-old son in Los Angeles. The Warriors have to be doing well, the Niners have to be doing well, so that I can make sure my brainwashing is effective. It's so much easier to brainwash when the teams are doing well.
Now if we could all just work hard to make Steph Curry an All-Star next year, that'd be it.
Which would be a bigger deal for you? The 49ers winning a Super Bowl or you getting your own Comedy Central special?
Ohhh. This is a tough question, dude. I talk to my cousin Joe and my friend like on this little thread where we go back and forth constantly on any bit of Niner news. Like when we sign a kicker. We're all just back and forth, all year long. It's something that my wife has grown to know that I'm obsessed with and it's not going away. My son -- Kaepernick jersey, immediately. So, probably Niners. Because they can win that and I can work on doing something else later.
It's not about me. It's about the team.