Rob Corddry Interview
Members of Improv troops are known to have impeccable comedic timing, and Rob Corddry wears the stereotype well. In 2002, as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was riding a wave of popularity and praise from their Indecision 2000 coverage, Rob was asked to audition for and join the show. Within a year, he was one of their favorite and most recognizable correspondents, fitting right in with Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.
Corddry left The Daily Show in 2006, taking roles in films such as Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay and Semi-Pro. In 2010, Corddry was officially a lead in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.
In 2008, Corddry developed his own web series, Childrens Hospital. A hilarious skewering of medical dramas, Corddry was nominated for a Streamy Award—an award created by the International Academy of Web Television “to recognize excellence in the arts and science of web television”—for his writing on the show. In 2009, Rob was nominated for a Webbyaward for best individual performance, and won the Webby for Best Comedy: Long form or series.
This July, Childrens Hospital will debut on The Cartoon Network’s late night programming, Adult Swim.
Rooftop asked Nathan Timmel to discuss Childrens Hospital, as well as wax philosophic on the 1980s television drama St. Elsewhere, with Rob.
NT: Your web series, Childrens Hospital, is making the jump from the Internet to television, specifically Adult Swim on The Cartoon Network. Online, you made five-minute shorts; what will you be airing when it hits the TV screen?
RC: I believe they’re going to average around eleven minutes. They offered us the chance to do a full half-hour block, but I’m just not sure if this kind of comedy can sustain itself for that long. Literally, I believe it’s the comedy of eleven and a half minute blocks. Plus, this way we didn’t have to worry about commercials, which is a nice little luxury.
NT: When you first started making the web episodes, was turning it into a longer format part of your master plan, or did you stumble into this accidentally?
RC: Oh, completely accidentally. I even told people when the web series came out I would never take it to television. But, I wasn’t aware of the fifteen-minute format, the fifteen-minute time block, and when we got that option, it just seemed like a perfect fit.
NT: You corralled some name actors—Ed Helms, Megan Mullally—for the web episodes; now that it’s turning “professional,” is it getting more difficult to work around people’s schedules? Are they as enthused as when it was “just for fun” on the web?
RC: People are definitely enthused, but yeah, some people are harder to cast. Nick Offerman has been probably the most difficult to schedule, because he’s now… [Pauses] I consider him the heart and soul of Parks and Recreation. We’ve gotten really lucky this past season; Lake [Bell], with her show on HBO, was only able to do a portion of the season, but that allowed us to cast Malin Akerman as her de facto replacement. We just found out we’ve been picked up for season three, and season four, on Adult Swim, and Lake is able to both of those seasons. It’s nice, because we got creative with her storyline this season, and now we get to have her back full time. Actually, my brother [Nate Corddry] was the hardest to schedule out of anybody [Laughs], which is why he was only in a couple web episodes, and isn’t in the second season at all.
NT: I really liked him in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and wished they had gotten a second season.
RC: I think they just started finding their legs, too, when they were cancelled. The pilot was one of the best things I’d ever seen on TV.
NT: I would agree with that; it sucked you in so fast and developed the characters so strongly so quickly.
RC: It was so good.
NT: Back to you: It has been said parody is one of the most sincere forms of flattery. Do you, then, have any medical dramas you’d like to own up to watching? Do you get teary-eyed over Dr. McDreamy, or did you go into mourning when ER was cancelled?
RC: [Laughs] No, I don’t really watch those shows. I am going to watch a season of Grey’s Anatomy during our hiatus, for inspiration, but no, I don’t watch any of those shows regularly. That said, St. Elsewhere is probably my favorite show of all time.
NT: [Enters nerd-mode] That is absolutely one of my favorite shows of all time; I used to watch it and Hill Street Blues religiously. I bought the first season on VHS back in the day, but it didn’t sell well enough for them to release any other seasons, and I’m waiting for it to come out on DVD.
RC: It’s out. I got season one about a year ago, and it’s weird, I had never seen season one, apparently, because I don’t remember any of it. I must have come in a little late, but now I kind of get it. [Laughs] Now I know the whole story behind the hospital and the “birth” of these doctors. Such a great, weird show.
NT: And it launched so many careers, Denzel Washington probably being the most famous, and then David Morse, Howie Mandell… I could go on and on.
RC: Actually Ed. Begley Jr. [another St. Elsewhere alum] makes an appearance in Childrens Hospital, season two.
NT: Nice. Now, I’m not sure how far Adult Swim is broadcast, but Childrens Hospital made its debut on the web, which is worldwide. Did you ever get any international feedback from people who didn’t get that it was a parody? Who maybe thought it was a serious look at American hospitals and how Americans act?
RC: [Laughs] Unfortunately, no, because it was on WB.com it was only national. They couldn’t even see it in Canada. But they’re clamoring for it, man, those dirty foreigners are clamoring for it. [Laughs]
NT: Well, I’ve seen some French art films and Bollywood productions; American entertainment is where it’s at.
RC: I believe some version of Adult Swim is on Canadian cable, but I really don’t know.
NT: So your world domination will take place, just slowly.
RC: [Laughs] I can’t imagine that anyone would mistake the show for anything but retarded, though.
NT: Well, the reason I thought of that question was because of The Simpsons. When that went global, even though it was a cartoon, I read numerous reports where people in other countries believed it was an accurate representation of the American nuclear family.
RC: Oh that’s great. [Laughs] We make a joke this season where we do a sort of behind-the-scenes of the making of Childrens Hospital, the TV series, because it’s been on for fifteen years, and like St. Elsewhere launched a ton of careers. We say that in the 1980s Childrens Hospital was so popular that it spawned foreign language versions in Canada, Hawaii, and Los Angeles.
NT: [Laughs] That’s hilarious. New question: I really enjoyed Hot Tub Time Machine, but was turned off by the promotion of the film: “It’s this year’s The Hangover!” I really thought, after seeing it, the movie could have stood on its own merits. So when it comes to Childrens Hospital, are you able to promote it the way you want to, or once the machine gets a hold of it, is it just out of your hands?
RC: You know, everyone has their job to do, and while I am definitely proactive when it comes to how Childrens Hospital is promoted, there are a lot of really great people who work eight hours a day pushing it. I feel like we’re in really good hands, and I’m lucky enough, too, that they let us have some say, which has been cool. But the answer to your question is yeah, ultimately it’s kinda out of your hands, and not everything comes through us first.
NT: Well, it’s nice to hear you have some control, and that we probably won’t be seeing a promo that says, “Childrens Hospital: It’s a live action Ren and Stimpy!” Or something else that wouldn’t make any sense, but someone in marketing thinks is a good idea.
RC: [Laughs] I remember when I was doing improv in the late nineties in the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater in New York; they had a show on Comedy Central. If you’ve ever seen those promos, they said, “The Upright Citizen’s Brigade: Dangerous sketch comedy!” [Laughs] Which is just the silliest, worst, promotion one could imagine, because it’s trying to be edgy, but takes the teeth out of it entirely. I was also in a sketch group in the 1990s called Third Rail Comedy. It’s like [Laughs], we’re not exactly the most dangerous comedy in New York City. It comes off as the proverbial, “Methinks they doth protest too much.”
NT: [Laughs] Speaking of protesting: Megan Fox was recently fired from Transformers 3 for making disparaging remarks about director Michael Bay. Would you like to take this opportunity to trash John Cusack, and be fired from Hot Tub Time Machine 2?
RC: No, because I had a wonderful experience with John. I guess I felt that he made so many passes at me that I felt wanted all the time.
NT: [Laughs] Ok, real question: how often have you run into problems with show censors, or “standards and practices?”
RC: Never. They’ve been completely hands off, and I guess they trust us. Bringing the web series to TV, we’ve had to bleep some things, but we haven’t had to cut anything. The only thing in the web series that they kind of raised a red flag about was the 9/11 joke. But that just took me about five minutes of explaining the joke to them in a very plain way, that they bought it and were fine with it. Because it’s not a joke that makes fun of the event at all, it’s actually the complete opposite of it.
NT: Was that the locker room scene, where one person was insisting the event was on September 12th?
RC: Exactly. It’s the joke of a petty argument in the face of the most tragic event in our memory.
NT: So do you act as your own moral compass when writing jokes or finding the “line of good taste” when it comes to so called “edgy” humor?
RC: [Pauses] Well, the only thing I shy away from is… it’s a show called Childrens Hospital, but pound for pound there are very few children in it. You don’t have to see too many kids for the main premise to operate, because the funny thing about it is the setting, that it takes place in a children’s hospital. I just kind of balked at any sort of joke that would be at the expense of a child; that’s just not funny to me. But other than that, I can’t think of an example where somebody pitched something or wrote something that I felt was distasteful. [Pauses] I guess it takes a lot to offend me.
NT: [Laughs] There’s nothing wrong with that. Two more questions. This Week In God was one of my favorite segments on The Daily Show, but the sketch hasn’t been seen for a while. Do you think if they were trying to do a This Week in God now, it would be different, given what South Park just went through, and how no one is supposed to make any jokes at all about Islam, and that overall we seem to be in a more religiously-sensitive time period?
RC: I don’t think so. I watched The Daily Show about two weeks ago, right after the South Park incident, and they spent the entire first act playing a “best of” This Week in God. I guess Jon’s point was: they’re an equal opportunity offender. Knowing Jon, I know he would never shy away from poking fun at any of these people. But he would also never take it to a degree with disrespect to somebody’s religion. Like he would never do to Islam, something he wouldn’t do to Judaism. [Pauses] Which, granted, is a lot [Laughs], but there’s a line, and I believe it’s subjective on Jon’s part.
NT: Ok, in closing, I’m going to give you a chance to piss off an entire coast. Your hometown, or where you currently live: Celtics or Lakers?
Get up close and personal with Rob Corddry for a live presentation of Childrens Hospital – at the Chicago Just for Laughs Festival presented by TBS on June 17th. The show will feature exclusive screenings, a Q&A sessionwith the cast and more! Check it out… do it for the children. Visit the TBS Just for Laughs Chicago site.