Three Great Things: Rob Schneider

The comedy star and family man, whose new film Daddy Daughter Trip hits DVD and digital today, shows a different side to himself.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the release on DVD and digital of the new family comedy Daddy Daughter Trip, directed by and starring Rob Schneider alongside his real-life family members Miranda Scarlett Schneider and Patricia Maya Schneider, the comedy star shared some of the things that mean most to him in life. — N.D.

Chinese Tea Ceremonies
A Chinese tea ceremony is really beautiful. The cups are tiny and you have to wait for the tea. There’s no “fast” tea ceremony. It’s not about that.

In America or England, when people make tea, they just boil the water and put the tea in there. That’s why everybody has to add milk, lemon or sugar, because otherwise it tastes awful. But with Japanese or Chinese tea, they pick the leaves, and they don’t burn the tea, they don’t cook it, they toast it. And then they might add ginseng or something else. Tea from one part of a mountain can taste one way and tea from the other side will have a different flavor. A spring tea is very delicate, because you don’t boil it; you heat the water to 180 degrees at most. What they do first is rinse the tea, so that the bitterness goes away. Then they shake the tea leaves, which are now starting to open. They open the leaves up so they cool, because you don’t want to cook the tea. You want to heat it up and taste the leaf as it’s supposed to be. Finally, they pour it out in a little tiny cup. The tea is very warm, but not scalding hot, and you taste these leaves, which you can use as many as eight times. And each time it’s going to taste a little bit different. It is a very delicate thing, because you start having conversations, because it’s about taking this moment. It’s really a metaphor for how to look at life, as little moments strung together.

I have tea every day now. It’s about aiming for perfection and making something really special. We have these moments in life and everybody thinks about time, but the universe is not about time. It’s just all happening at one time. It’s happening and it’s moving and it’s changing and it’s flowing, and we’re going with that flow. But during that time, which is the blink of an eye, we can recognize the passing of the universe and really connect with somebody else.

Zen Buddhism
A tea ceremony reminds me of my second favorite thing, which is Zen Buddhism. It’s not a religion, it’s not a philosophy, and anyone who says so is a phony and a liar and a fraud. It’s not those things, but perhaps it’s a way of making tea perfect …

I’ll give you an example. There’s an old story about a Zen Buddhist master and a Japanese tea ceremony. He was being served by a geisha girl who made him the most perfect cup of tea he’d ever had, and he thought to himself, “Certainly she must be Zen. She’s perfection.” So, in an effort to find out, he said, “Thank you for this beautiful tea ceremony. I have a gift for you.” He took a pair of tongs, reached into the fire, picked up a hot coal and gave it to her with the tongs. She was quite surprised by this, but she put the hot coal in her sleeve, took it outside and threw it into the snow. Then she came back and said, “I have a gift for you,” and presented the coal to the Zen master. The Zen master said, “Thank you,” took out a cigarette and lit it with the coal. Isn’t that beautiful?

Zen is about how life presents itself to you and how you interpret it. It’s your interpretation that makes it either a horrible or a wonderful thing. If you think your life is great, it’s great. If you think it’s horrible, it’s horrible. Zen teaches you that your eyes point out, not in. So if you think inwardly, you will find unhappiness, you will find disappointment. But if you look out, you will see what the intention of the universe is.

I think Zen is also the universe’s way of finally evolving to the point of consciousness where it could look out at itself with wonder and reach a higher state of consciousness. And there’s consciousness in everything. Alan Watts talks about how there’s consciousness in rocks; it’s very low consciousness, but it’s there. The idea of Zen, which is so beautiful, is that it helps dissolve the idea of our Western indoctrination. In Zen, you try to get back to a childlike way of looking at the world and realizing the idea that you are separate from the universe is illusory. You are part of the whole thing. When you enjoy a cup of tea, you and the tea are together. There’s a union. If we look at things that way, you come to more of a peaceful way of engaging with the world. Your feet don’t work without the floor. Your floor doesn’t work without your feet. The idea that you have nothing to do with the world, or the idea that you have everything to do with it, they are one and the same. When you have that interpretation of an integrated universal system, they call it an organizational plane of existence. When you can get there, it’s relaxing and meditative.

I just turned 60 and seeing my young daughter and my 11-year-old growing up is amazing. I get joy from other people’s joy. At this point, I see how incredibly special childhood is, how fast it flies by and how precious it is. I try to not focus on the speed, but rather on just being there in the moment with my children. The idea of time is a human invention; if we didn’t have it, we would just have these moments. Not separately, but all of them. As the universe looks at it, life is just happening. There’s no demarcation. Time serves no purpose in the universe. So I try to just be there and experience things anew through my children.

Freud coined the term “oceanic feeling,” which described how a baby doesn’t know the difference between themselves and their surroundings. It also goes back to Zen, as there’s a Chinese form of Buddhism in which they teach that a child has to learn there’s a difference between themselves, their mother, a stream and a mountain. And through further training, they’re taught that there isn’t a difference between themselves, their mother, the stream and the mountain. And then through further study, that there is a difference between them, their mother, the stream and the mountain. And then through further study, again, they realize it’s a universal organizational plane of existence. We’re all part of it. And that also feeds into getting back to the moment, whether people recognize it or not as Zen. You don’t have to put a name on it, because it doesn’t need a name. It’s whenever you have that beautiful feeling of perfection: when a child smiles, when you make a child laugh, when you’re laughing with your child. What was so beautiful about making my movie Daddy Daughter Trip at this time in my life was to try to have my own family laughing and sharing something very personal for other people’s families, so that they can see it too. And then those other families can laugh and have their own experience of this feeling.

It’s a lugubrious time, a time of melancholy, but people do gain enjoyment from watching movies together. And I do, too. It’s just great to see my kids laughing and to experience something profound with them. And that’s the goal.

Rob Schneider’s latest movie, Daddy Daughter Trip, which he directed and stars in with his real-life family, is out now on DVD and digital. After starting out a stand-up comedian, Schneider rose to prominence as a cast member and writer on Saturday Night Live, from 1988 to 1994. Following his departure from SNL, he went on to a career in feature films, including starring roles in the comedy films Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) and its 2005 sequel, The Animal (2001), The Hot Chick (2002), The Benchwarmers (2006) and Big Stan (2007). Between 2015 and 2017, he starred in three season’s of the autobiographical sitcom Real Rob and in 2019 launched the podcast See What Happens.