"I wanted to become a bookie," said Diaz, who was raised on 88th Street in North Bergen and graduated from North Bergen High School in 1982.
Diaz soon realized that becoming a bookmaker wasn't exactly the best way to make an honest living, so he headed off to the University of Colorado to study economics.
"I didn't make it there," Diaz said.
He soon got a job in Denver selling roofing. Diaz was making a decent living, but he wasn't happy.
"I kinda sorta always wanted to be a comedian," Diaz said. "Ever since I was little, I loved Richard Pryor. I heard his stuff on my friend's record player and knew I wanted to be a comedian, but never knew how to go about it. I always thought I was funny. I would crack jokes on the bus going home from school. I felt I was funny."
Added Diaz, "I was perhaps the first Cuban in my neighborhood. I head to learn how to do two things: fight and be funny."
One day in 1991, after seeing the movie "Punchline," starring Tom Hanks and Sally Field, Diaz was reading the Rocky Mountain Post when he noticed an advertisement about a class teaching students about stand-up comedy.
"After just seeing that movie, I figured that was the inspiration I needed to try doing stand-up," Diaz said. "I saw that ad in the paper and it was 37 bucks for the class. I figured that was perfect for me."
It was the break that Diaz needed. He soon competed in a stand-up comedy contest in Denver, winning the Beck's Amateur Comedy Competition.
From there, Diaz moved on to another comedy contest in Seattle, where he finished sixth among 40 national comedians.
"I was told that dirty comics don't do well in competitions," said Diaz, whose raunchy style of stand-up rivals his friend, Andrew "Dice" Clay, with whom he has worked several times. "But I guess I proved them wrong."
A talent scout from CBS Television saw Diaz perform at the competition in Seattle and offered him a contract to work on a TV pilot.
"The scout told me that I had a role on a pilot called 'Bronx County,' where I was going to play a bartender," Diaz said. "It all happened so fast. I couldn't believe it. This guy was telling me that I had to get on a plane the next day and go to Los Angeles for the shoot. I told him, 'Hey, I'm a kid from North Bergen. I've heard that crap before.' But the guy had plane tickets in his hand, so I was going to L.A."
It was 1998. Diaz would never return to Colorado or Seattle.
Soon after shooting the pilot, which never aired, Diaz was offered a role in the movie "Baseketball," which was directed by the Zucker brothers, who made "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series.
"I was auditioning for a role on NYPD Blue when someone said, 'Are you here to audition for the movie?' " Diaz said. "I said, 'Sure.' I read the lines and got the job."
Diaz played a basketball referee in the movie.
The break in "Baseketball" led to other roles in movies and TV. The 38-year-old Diaz got spots on "MAD-TV," "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" and "Arli$$."
He was also featured in a movie, "American Gun," which starred the late James Coburn.
"James Coburn was also in the episode of 'Arli$$' that I was in," Diaz said. "The man was a legend. He told me stories about being with Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner. When we made the movie, we knew he was dying. I cried a lot then."
Diaz was also featured in the movie, "Analyze That," the sequel of "Analyze This" featuring Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal. Parts of it were filmed in Hudson County.
"That was big for me, able to come home to film," Diaz said.
Through all the jobs, Diaz found time to perform in stand-up comedy clubs as well.
"That's where it all began for me."
Three years ago, Diaz was cast in an independent movie, entitled "You Got Nothin'," which filmed its exterior scenes in Hoboken, but shot the interior scenes in a studio in Los Angeles.
Diaz plays a crazy hit man/bill collector named Charlie, in what Diaz calls a "pseudo mob baseball movie."
The movie features Pepe Cerna, who starred in "Scarface," and Joe Cortese, who was in the "Rat Pack" movie.
"It's a comedy that is so good," Diaz said. "I'm the type of guy that if it stinks, I would tell you, but this is a good movie."
"You Got Nothin'" will be featured as part of the Hoboken Film Festival. It will be shown in the mile-square city on April 25 at 9:30 p.m.
Diaz said that he was looking forward to coming home to view the film with the other attendees of the festival, but he has to shoot episodes of "The Best Damn Sports Show Period" for Fox Sports and "The Man Show" for Comedy Central.
He is also featured in two upcoming pilots, "Luis" for Fox Television, featuring comedian Luis Guzman, and "NYPD 2069," a futuristic cop show by the same people who produced "NYPD Blue."
"Never in a million years could I ever have dreamed this could happen," said Diaz, who still lives in Los Angeles, but still calls North Bergen his home. "My biggest fans are in North Bergen. Whenever I go home, everyone is so excited about my career and what's been going on. Everyone in North Bergen follows what I do."
Diaz said that he keeps in touch with some of the people who were influential in his life, like North Bergen High School teacher and head basketball coach John Barone and North Bergen High teacher Fred Terranova.
"John Barone was my grammar school teacher at McKinley," Diaz said. "He was one of the funniest guys I ever knew. To this day, I still use some of his lines. John's my man. We keep in touch. I never forget the people I know from North Bergen. They helped me get where I am."