Interview: Rob Corddry on ‘Childrens Hospital’: “The hardest job for me is the acting part because I don’t have any time to think about it”
Comic-Con: In the hi-larious Adult Swim show, Childrens Hospital, Rob Corddry play Dr. Blake Downs, a prominent member of the Clown race who uses the healing power of laughter to help his patients. Unfortunately, like most clowns, he takes himself pretty seriously so, that usually means it’s curtains for most of his patients.
Corddry, who turned in a great performance in the underrated Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Childrens Hospital writer/producer John Stern spent some time at Comic-Con talking about the upcoming guests on the show, how they came up with the idea and working with the cast.
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download it from iTunes
Can you tell us who your guest stars might be this season?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, I will preface this though by saying that we don’t really do guest stars. You know what I mean? Like, anymore so to speak. We’re just not even thinking about it because we have such a great cast, it’d be a shame not to… it would be a shame to waste them. That said, we have Jon Hamm is back, Philip Baker Hall, Dave Krumholtz, Eddie Mekka who is the Big Ragu from Laverne and Shirley. He may or may not kiss Henry Winkler. He may.
Who else am I missing? Dominic Monaghan, Frances Fisher…
John Stern: Phillip Baker Hall, did you say that one?
Rob Corddry: Yeah. Michaela Watkins.
John Stern: Did you say Nate Corddry?
Rob Corddry: Nate Corddry. The black cop from Die Hard, Reginald… Reginald… yes, Reginald. Reginald Veljohnson.
John Stern: Katherine Hahn.
Rob Corddry: Katherine Hahn, that’s a good one.
John Stern: David Wain is back.
Rob Corddry: Yeah, David Wain. Man, I’d watch this show.
How was it to work with them?
Rob Corddry: Those… the guest… the people themselves? Three of them were fucking dicks. Let me see, I’ll answer this really honestly.
John Stern: It’s a self-selecting group. Anyone that would choose to come on and waste their time doing this already has a pretty low standard.
How hard is it to stay in character with all the amazing funny people around you?
Rob Corddry: To stay in character? Well, I mean, character is a loose term. You know. It’s… I don’t know. We’re not the kind of actors and this is not the kind of show where it is imperative that we stay in character all the time. But I will say that for me, the hardest job… because I’m writing it and we’re producing it. The hardest job for me is the acting part because I don’t have any time to think about it. And so I don’t even look at my lines, I just trust that I wrote it. You know? And that I will be… I’ll know it. And it’s… so it’s really, that’s hard for me. Because I always think, “Ah, I’m not gonna worry about it.” And then I get in there and I’m like, “Shit. Someday I gotta worry about this.”
John Stern: In hindsight, it really paid off that you have all the clown makeup on, because it means you only have to act half as much.
Rob Corddry: I think you’re insulting me. But the clown makeup truly does all the heavy lifting.
Have you ever scared the crap out of a kid in the makeup?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, some kids don’t like it. I would… Apollonia, do you remember Apollonia? Prince’s protégé? Her sister was on set one day. Apollonia was there for some reason. And her sister was there some day and she has a gotta go lay down fear of clowns. And she was literally like terrified. They had to walk away. I thought it was… “Oh no, she’s really panicking right now.” But dogs don’t like me. And babies fucking hate me.
With or without the makeup?
Rob Corddry: Great question. Great question. I’d say all children kinda hate me except my own. They’re in deep with me. They can’t get enough.
You have everything packed in so tight and jokes are flying, how would that… and trying to write that and trying to act it out and to create this thing that’s gotta fly so quickly?
Rob Corddry: Well, I mean, by virtue of… that’s mostly an editing question. It’s an absurd show and so absurdity is joke based by nature. So it is really like a joke… shortest road to the quickest, funniest joke anyway. So absurd comedy is just conducive to that. So it’s really like… the real answer is editing and just keep your page count low. Like, don’t turn in a 20 page draft. You know?
But we do pack in a lot. But my theory is that 22 minute shows pack in too much… or no, don’t pack in enough. They’re spending too much time doing the same amount of material that we do.
John Stern: I’ve often noticed in our studying of one hour medical dramas, it truly is just 11 minutes of story. And the rest is filler. I mean, sometimes true like, “I just watched 3 minutes of a musical montage and nothing. Or 2 people driving in a car chatting about their childhood that has nothing to do with the story.”
It comes across like everyone involved in the show is using Childrens Hospital as an outlet from all of the other things they are doing.
Rob Corddry: I’m not sure what you mean outlet.
Like, you know, if you’re in a movie like What to Expect when You’re Expecting and you get to go to Childrens Hospital…
Rob Corddry: Now what is… what are you saying about What to Expect?
John Stern: It’s completely theoretical.
Theoretical. But then you get to come to Childrens Hospital…
Rob Corddry: Well I don’t know, I guess I would say that everybody as far as I know really enjoys doing the show and that’s why they were cast because I knew that they would and we’re all friends. So everybody looks forwards to it. But that’s not to say this is… it’s, you know, not… they don’t get paid a lot. They’ll never get paid as much as they deserve anywhere. But it’s… we unfortunately can’t be, and I never expect them to make us, a priority. Like, go do your thing. And we’ve lost people for a whole season. Lake was gone for a whole season. But we’ll use it, we’ll kill her and that’s why we have Momma now. And then we brought her back.
John Stern: It’s nothing crazier than any normal TV show would do to be honest.
Rob Corddry: Yeah.
But it luckily comes across that everyone’s making it a priority to do it.
Rob Corddry: As much as they can. Yeah.
Was directing more of kind of a necessity or did you always wanna do it?
Rob Corddry: I only directed the first season. Producing is something that I realized I wanna do since starting this. But directing I… after doing the first season I realized I have no interest in it whatsoever and I still don’t. Not… why? Because I like more of a overview and a development thing than a let’s really precisely nail down what was developed. It’s just the… that side of the coin is just something that… I really didn’t… everybody wants to be a director and I think it’s a lot of times just for the power of it. Because I think you really, to be a good director, have to be born with a certain talent. I don’t know what it is, I don’t have that skill.
John Stern: And a desire to be a director. I mean, it’s a pain in the ass of a job. Television more than movies. However, you directing the first season I think was vital to establish what the feel and the tone was.
Rob Corddry: Yeah but really, that’s nice of you to say but I was just like, “Hey Marco, what do I say now?” Marco Fargnoli, our DP, is as much a creator of this show as we are. You know? He’s created the look on the web and it looked better than anything on the web at the time and he really makes this show what it is.
Where did the idea come from to do it as a Childrens Hospital?
Rob Corddry: Oh, well this is actually very interesting. I’m glad you asked. If you Google “Rob Corddry Children’s Hospital, Dislocated Shoulder, Sad, Funny” it’ll be there in spades. I brought my daughter to a children’s hospital and it was not fun or funny.
Real children’s hospitals are crazier than…
Rob Corddry: Oh it was terrible. But I went to a children’s, my daughter had to get stitches. I went to Childrens Hospital in LA and they watched the show. Which is kind of mind blowing to me, and they… like, “We feel like you must have a…” What is it, they said something like, “Do you have spies here or something?” “Wait, what are you talking about? This is… this takes place in another universe. Get my daughter out of here.” But that was really nice that they were fans.