LOS ANGELES — There’s the Al Madrigal who speaks in the crisp, skeptical tones of a ‘‘Daily Show’’ correspondent, whether grilling Arizona foes of Latino studies or questioning the sanity of Puerto Ricans who want statehood in a dysfunctional United States of Sequester.
Then there’s the comedian showcased in his first hourlong stand-up special, a tour guide through the life of a family man dealing with lippy kids, urban absurdity, and angst. Gone is the bravado of the faux TV reporter he plays for Jon Stewart, replaced by a bemused grin and an appealing touch of goofiness.
Although no swashbuckler takes the stage in ‘‘Al Madrigal: Why Is the Rabbit Crying?,’’ debuting 11 p.m. Friday on Comedy Central, don’t be fooled by his modest soft-shoe — a few hesitant steps toward the audience, a few steps back: Madrigal is relishing success after a determined march toward a place in show business.
And he’s done it on his terms, as a Mexican-Italian-American from San Francisco who crafts a wry storyteller’s take on the world for his comedy act and ‘‘Daily Show.’’
‘‘I’m proud that I’ve been able to go into any [nightclub] room and do the same material and not change it up for them,’’ said the bearded, bespectacled Madrigal, 41, who lives in Los Angeles and commutes to New York for Stewart’s program.
His universal family-guy humor makes translation unnecessary, a la Bill Cosby, one of his comedy influences (Franklin Ajaye and Patton Oswalt are others). There’s the bit, for instance, about his young son picking his own clothes for a party, then shrugging off his tattered look: They’re your friends, dad.
There are times that some background is required, including the bit that gives his special its name. ‘‘Why is the rabbit crying?’’ is the nervous question the family raises about the tattoo they spot on an LA ‘‘cholo,’’ a young Latino with a gang-member air about him.
Some background, but less than you might think, according to Madrigal: ‘‘I think there’s cholos everywhere. There’s cholos in all of us, and they don’t necessarily need to be Mexican.’’
The comedian and his material are more than ready for the spotlight, said Jonas Larsen, Comedy Central’s senior vice president for talent and specials. An extended CD-DVD combo of ‘‘Al Madrigal: Why Is the Rabbit Crying?’’ will be released April 30.
‘‘A one-hour special is, in a sense, showing that you've arrived as a comic. . . . It takes a lot of work to get there,’’ Larsen said, adding that Madrigal is an outstanding storyteller with a fresh take on family life and a ‘‘Latino point of view but not exclusively Latino, that reaches a broader audience.’’
Or, as Stewart put it in an e-mail, he brings a ‘‘laid-back, zen-like comedy ninja quality that we didn’t even know we were missing.’’Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.