January 11, 2006
By Daniel Robert Epstein
Rob Corddry is best known as one of the clueless correspondents on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. But like many of people involved with that comedy institution Corddry started out in improv and sketch comedy with roots in the famed Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. Corddry is a founding member of the sketch group Naked Babies that also includes John Ross Bowie, Brian Huskey and Seth Morris. The Naked Babies will be reuniting, again, at The San Francisco Sketch Comedy Festival which runs from January 12 to the 29.
Daniel Robert Epstein: I heard you just got back from Budapest. Were you there for work?
Rob Corddry: No, my wife’s sister lives there with her family, so we’ve been there a couple times. We were just there for a week playing with our nieces and napping.
DRE: It’s a pleasure to talk to you. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I saw the Naked Babies open up for Tenacious D a long time ago.
Corddry: Get out of here, that’s crazy.
DRE: That’s how I make myself cool to you.
Corddry: You have so much indie cred right now. If SuicideGirls isn’t enough, you just bought yourself so much more street cred.
DRE: As long as we’re talking about that, how did you guys get to open for Tenacious D back in the day?
Corddry: Every time Tenacious D plays, they have one of their friends introduce them. The guy that did it for that show was director Phil Morrison who just did a film called Junebug. He was friends with Brian Huskey who’s in Naked Babies and Tenacious D was looking for an opening act in New York. Phil said “I know just the gluttons for punishment”.
DRE: That’s good because the time I saw Tenacious D before that, the opening band was so awful they got booed off the stage.
Corddry: Apparently it’s the hardest gig in the world and we were told this about three days before we were about to do it. Any comedian opening up for anything is hard. I once saw a standup comedian open up for Chicago so you could imagine how he was received. We were completely terrified because Tenacious D fans are rabid but we tailored our sketches for that, fully expecting to get bottles throw at us, which would have been totally punk-rock.
DRE: I didn’t realize that there was going to be a Naked Babies reunion at Sketchfest.
Corddry: We reunite like twice a year. This is probably our sixth reunion I think. It’s important as a sketch group that no longer performs together to have consistent reunions. This being our sixth reunion; we have officially worn out all of our old material so we’re just going to do improv.
DRE: Was Naked Babies originally an improv group?
Corddry: We were originally a sketch group but when we met Seth he was the missing link. I met Seth at my Level 1 class, which Armando Diaz taught, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. I’m very fond of saying that when Seth wasn’t in the class, I was the funniest one there. He missed some classes because broke his ankle and those were some of the best classes of my life.
DRE: How did you get involved with Sketchfest?
Corddry: Seth is from the Bay Area so he’s been trying to get us to do that festival for years and it just never worked out. It just so happens that this year I am doing a show in Alaska the day after so I was sort of going that way anyway. It really just worked out.
DRE: Do you do standup?
Corddry: No, I do college shows. There’s some hacky standup in it but really it’s just exploiting young people’s college tuitions.
DRE: For their love of The Daily Show.
Corddry: Yeah, who cares, whatever. Whatever they got, I’ll exploit it.
DRE: Do the Naked Babies still wear the dress shirts when you perform?
Corddry: No, when every sketch group stars out they have lofty ambitions as to what their uniforms are and how they’re going to be known and perceived. No we just dress improv casual, which usually consists of New Balance sneakers and an ironic t-shirt.
DRE: Why did you guys break up? Was it because John [Ross Bowie] moved to LA?
Corddry: We really didn’t break up. John moved to LA. I got The Daily Show pretty soon after that and my schedule’s so erratic here that I was never able to commit to anything. The three of us, Seth, Brian, and I would perform improv whenever possible and I do ASSSSCAT whenever I could at the UCB theatre. But that was the end of our sketch career. We have a friend out in Telluride named Jeb Berrier who produces the Telluride Comedy Festival and it’s really small and grassroots. We do that together and we get to ski for free all week and put together some semblance of a sketch show. It’s fun.
DRE: Did you get on The Daily Show after someone saw the Naked Babies perform?
Corddry: Yeah, I guess that’s sort of the way it happened. There was this huge cattle call audition about 3 ½-4 years ago and that’s when I got it. I had been coming up on the comedy scene as we all were and I was friendly with some people at Comedy Central so I guess that’s how I got in, I really don’t know. It really was just a standard audition, not much of a story unfortunately. I’ll make up a good one if you want. Yeah, it all started with my heroin addiction.
DRE: [laughs] Did they help you develop your character you do on The Daily Show or did you just know to be an ignorant person?
Corddry: I always got that we’re just idiots in suits. We’re jackasses that command some small amount of authority and you just apply that to whoever you’re interviewing or to whatever situation you’re in. The character came later and I became this overgrown, fratty boar. Then the writers just start writing to that.
DRE: I noticed since The Daily Show got its new set you guys do a lot less field pieces.
Corddry: The field pieces are sort of going into a metamorphosis right now. I mean, they’re incredibly hard to do. Harder than Fitzcarraldo I would say. That was my one pretentious reference. Thank you for indulging me. They’re incredibly difficult so we’ve been going through this very slow transformation and I think there’s been less and less of them because of that. The goal would be to have one every night. So we’re changing things around and we have a lot more correspondents now so hopefully in the future there’ll be more of them.
DRE: I just assumed that since Comedy Central spent all this money on a new set they just wanted you all to use it a lot.
Corddry: Exactly. They got all that money from selling the couch, so let’s just build a huge set and we’ll never have to leave. It’s a really warm womb-like atmosphere where no one ever wants to leave.
DRE: How was it when you took over “This Week in God” from Stephen Colbert, was it like when Seth broke his ankle?
Corddry: [laughs] Yeah, finally Colbert was out of the picture so I didn’t have to murder him. But I think the only reason that I hadn’t done “This Week in God” before is that I’m black.
DRE: You’ve been doing it for about three months now; do you feel like you’ve made it your own?
Corddry: Yeah and it’s a blast to do. I didn’t realize how much of a franchise that was for Stephen until I took it over. The internet crazies stamped their feet and said no way but luckily I really was naïve and I just did it. I said the words and paused for laughs where appropriate because I don’t write any of that stuff. It’s really fun to do.
DRE: You just said that you don’t write a lot of the stuff that you say, probably when it’s on the cue cards or teleprompter. But when you’re doing field pieces you obviously have to come up with stuff on the spot. Is that one of the things that makes it so difficult?
Corddry: It’s one of the things. It’s also there’s so many cooks that going into baking those pieces. Actually they’re a little bit more satisfying than the studio pieces because we are allowed more free reign to contribute. But mostly it is the travel, the frustration in sometimes doing a piece that you just know doesn’t work and struggling the whole time because we have to have a couple pieces on a week. Sometimes the quality of the pieces suffers but like I said that’s something we’re trying to fix.
DRE: Do you ever feel bad about when you’re making fun of these people right to their faces?
Corddry: I guess it gets easier in that I don’t dread it anymore. Sometimes I even look forward to it if that person has it coming to them but if they don’t, I just have to make sure that I look like just as much of a jackass as they do. Then I can sleep at night.
DRE: I’m sure the producers of the show never came right out and asked you what your politics are. Is it just assumed you are a liberal?
Corddry: No, it’s never mentioned. There have conservatives that work on the show so it’s never really an issue. People will argue, like all people do. After my audition somebody called me up and said they needed a guy who knows nothing about politics but is really into boob jokes so I was hired. I am definitely liberal but I don’t like to discuss my politics so much because people are bound to be disappointed. Apparently all these shiftless well-meaning people are getting their news from us which I take no responsibility for.
DRE: Watching The Daily Show really needs to be backed up with at least one newspaper.
Corddry: Yeah exactly. I don’t really believe that people get their news from us. They just get a certain context.
DRE: I’ve been reading about Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story for years. What’s going on with it?
Corddry: You tell me. Do you want to buy it?
DRE: So it has never been bought for distribution?
Corddry: I’ll tell you the truth. I think it’s been sold for a DVD release. But the problem is that the producers have held out way too long for a better deal. They have to come to terms with the fact that no one’s going to make any money from this movie but I think it’s funny enough that people will get a kick out of it so I’d like to put it in front of as many eyeballs as possible.
DRE: What is it about?
Corddry: It’s about the terrorist kidnappings in Munich, 1972. Politics, racism, infinity. No, it’s about a paintball player that is disgraced and travels the world for ten years and returns to his hometown to win back his paintball title. It is really heady stuff, an important film. Actually about 11 people died while making the film and that hasn’t got a lot of press.
DRE: I got to speak to Doug Benson a while ago. He was on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm as a guy who fights with Larry David of course. You are one of the few guest stars on that show that didn’t have curse at, yell and treat Larry badly. It’s funny because you’re also a child molester but that’s the joke obviously.
Corddry: Let’s be clear here, it was never specified what my actual crime was. I was merely a sex offender. That’s the beauty of the role.
DRE: Oh so you could have just been a masturbator.
Corddry: I could have just been peeing in a playground while drunk. I’m going to leave that up to the readers.
DRE: I heard that on Curb they just give you a sheet of paper telling you what the scene is about.
Corddry: Yeah, five minutes before you go on you either get a little piece of paper saying what the scene is about or the director comes up to you and describes what the scene is about. Then they start to roll.
DRE: You’ve improvised with some great people but mostly of your generation. How was it working with people like Jeff Garlin and Larry David who have been doing this stuff for 20 years?
Corddry: It was amazing. During my audition Jeff Garlin said “Don’t try and be funny”, but people tell you that a lot so you never take the advice. Then Jeff says “Look, I know that’s an easy thing to say in my position but really don’t try and be funny. Just play the scene and react to Larry.” For the first time in my life that’s exactly what I did and it took a lot of the pressure off.
DRE: That was a great episode but were you at all surprised how good it came out?
Corddry: I asked Larry halfway through shooting it, “I’m a big fan of the show and I watched all of the episodes. This seems like a pretty good one. Is it?” He just had this big smile on his face, nodded really fast and walked away.
DRE: Do you want to write and direct?
Corddry: Sure, what do you got? Let’s do it. I want to do a SuicideGirls movie. Is anybody doing that yet?
DRE: I think they kind of are.
Corddry: Oh man, well where’s my part? What about the kid? It’s because I’m black. You guys are fucking racists.
DRE: Does Jon Stewart like SuicideGirls?
Corddry: Even if I knew I probably couldn’t tell you but from what I know about Jon, he is dangerously perverted.
DRE: What’s next besides The Daily Show?
Corddry: I have a couple of very small parts coming out in some movies. What else? I’m having a baby.
Corddry: Yeah, I’m producing and directing a baby. It takes up a lot of my time but I think it’s going to be a smash.
DRE: Do you rewrite scripts or anything like that?
Corddry: I haven’t really broken into that world yet so right now in the process of reading tons of scripts just to figure out how they’re written. It’s a complete mathematical mystery to me. So the more I read the more I want to do that. I’ve got a bunch of ideas but not a letter’s been written yet. But there are definitely some things in the works. I want to pitch a children’s version of SuicideGirls, sort of like the next Wiggles.
DRE: The Dirty Wiggles.
Corddry: Whatever. You guys can call it whatever you want but I’ll definitely have a package ready for you at some point in the near future. You know what it’s going to involve? Boobies.