Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show” Hangs Out With The Naked Babies

From The Oakland Tribune
Preview Cover Story 

January 13, 2006
By Chad Jones

So what’s a serious newsman like Rob Corddry of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” doing in a sketch comedy festival?

“That’s a good question,” Corddry says from his office in New York. “As a serious newsman, I’m a functional alcoholic, and sketch comedy festivals are as good a place as any to indulge that vice.”

The 34-year-old Corddry has become a favorite correspondent on “The Daily Show,” and he’s kidding. He’s not really a serious newsman. He just plays one on TV.

But he is coming to the SF Sketchfest, the fifth annual comedy roundup currently under way in San Francisco. On Jan. 20, Corddry performs with the comedy quarter Naked Babies, which also includes John Ross Bowie, Brian Huskey and Seth Morris.

Naked Babies, which traffics in sketch and improv comedy, was originally formed in 1995 then self-destructed, with only Corddry and Huskey hanging on.

“I had met a cross-eyed guy named Jeb on a national tour of Shakespeare, and we each thought the other was hilarious. So we decided to get some other funny people together and form a group. Brian was cool, but some of the other people were dicks. Later on we found Seth and John, who are also dicks, but they jelled with our dickhood.”

And thus a comedy giant was born — a comedy giant that performs, as Corddry puts it, “next to never.”

When the Babies were heading to their first gig at a Massachusetts women’s college, they took their name seriously and intended to perform clad only in diapers.

But then the organizer got wind of some of their sketch material and canceled the appearance on account of their being “too dirty.” It just so happened that the organizer of the event was Corddry’s sister.

>From there, the Babies decided to perform in short-sleeved shirts and skinny ties — like NASA guys — but that lasted for about two shows.

So what defines the Naked Babies? “Barely contained rage: at each other, at things, at the world,” Corddry explains.

In improv — and Naked Babies does a lot of improv because who has time to rehearse? — the usual rule is to accept whatever you’re given by your fellow performers. That’s called a “yes and.” The Naked Babies prefer “no but.”

“A typical performance is us bantering onstage for about 20 minutes then doing about five minutes of actual improv,” Corddry says.

On “The Daily Show,” Corddry is probably best known for his belligerent stupidity (all an act, of course) and his affection for all things Boston (his hometown).

Corddry was even a journalism major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst — for about a day and a half.

“I had signed up for journalism, and then when I actually got to school, I had to ask myself, ‘What’s journalism?’ I dropped it and went for drama,” he says. “I’m so glad I did. Having been around journalists now, I realize how hard the job is. I don’t like to work. I like free time.”

Before heading toward a form of comedy dubbed “fake journalism,” Corddry knocked around New York as an actor and performed almost exclusively in Shakespeare.

“I fancied myself quite the actor,” he says. “But I tended to play all the Shakespearean jackasses — the mechanicals and clowns — and not very well if I remember correctly.”

There is an actual journalist in the Corddry family, Rob’s great-uncle Charles, who wrote for the Baltimore Sun and appeared often on “Washington Week in Review.”

Young Rob looked up to his great-uncle. “Luckily he died before I could tarnish his good name,” Corddry says.

There’s another Corddry on “The Daily Show” these days: Rob’s younger brother Nate, who famously appeared on the show in a G-string.

“That is something I will never, ever un-see,” says Rob.

When asked how Nate got the job, Rob says: “The kid’s got power,” But didn’t older brother pull a string or two? “Nope. Don’t really care for him. Don’t know him that well.”

With his “Daily Show” celebrity and upcoming film appearances (in “Failure to Launch” with Sarah Jessica Parker and “The Pleasure of Your Company” written and directed by Michael Ian Black), Corddry doesn’t need the Naked Babies.

But he keeps coming back, he says, for one reason: “The money. The cash. Naked Babies is a total sell-out for me. No, really, I love performing with these guys. They’re very handsome.”

The only reason Corddry is able to make the San Francisco gig is that it’s sort of on his way to another gig in Alaska.

How do his bosses at “The Daily Show” feel about so many extracurricular activities?

“It’s a lot easier for me,” Corddry says, “if they don’t know about this other stuff. So you might want to keep it kind of quiet.”

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