From The Marin Independent Journal
January 9, 2008
By Paul Liberatore
The SF Sketchfest is full of very funny people you’ve never heard of. Rob Corddry isn’t one of them.
Corddry is a very funny person people all over the country recognize from his four years as a popular fake news correspondent on the “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.
The 36-year-old comedian, whose balding, pompously obnoxious character helped make “The Daily Show” a hip hit among the liberal intelligent-sia, left the show two years ago to star in his own short-lived sitcom on Fox.
“It’s so funny that people still think I’m on ‘The Daily Show,’ which is at once flattering and also confusing because I haven’t been on in almost two years,” he said from his home in Los Angeles.
“Stephen Colbert used to joke that, on ‘The Daily Show,’ we have a candy fame, a toy fame, which is just sort of a limited notoriety. But I love that people still think I’m on. It means I have more time to make it huge before people forget about me.”
Corddry hasn’t enjoyed the breakthrough success of a “Daily Show” alumnus like “40-Year-Old Virgin” Steve Carell. But he loved doing his sitcom, “The Winner,” playing a naive loser in what he calls a screwed-up take on “The Wonder Years.”
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything,” he says. “It was like doing theater, like doing a play a week. It was a blast. I’d love to do something like that again.”
But the fun didn’t last. “The Winner” was on for a mere six episodes before, as Corddry puts it, “dying a fiery death.”
“They canceled the s— out of it,” he says.
He’s consoled himself with parts in a number of movies, including “The Heartbreak Kid,” which Corddry says was “released to empty theaters everywhere.” He hopes to have better luck with the upcoming “What Happens in Vegas” with Cameron Diaz, “Semi-Pro” with Will Ferrell and “Lower Learning” with Eva Longoria.
“I had a blast doing those,” he says. “And I’ve got a little momentum going.”
That momentum will propel him to Marin on Jan. 12, when he’ll perform at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre with the New York improv group he co-founded, the Naked Babies. It’s their third consecutive year of sold-out shows at the Sketchfest.
Explaining the Naked Babies’ format, he says, “The first 10 minutes are taken up with self-indulgent banter with the audience. Then we take a suggestion from the audience and we’ll improvise, which includes 10 or so scenes which theoretically are supposed to connect at the end. That’s in a perfect world. At the San Francisco Sketchfest, we’re usually half drunk. It usually ends up like a potty mouth show.”
Corddry won’t have any trouble finding Marin. He’s spent time here hanging out with Naked Babies colleague Seth Morris, who used to live here.
“We spent a lot of time smoking weed and driving up Mount Tam and stuff,” he admits. “We met a guy on the mountain with a dog named Kerouac. That was amazing.”
When I jokingly told him that might have been me, he shot back, “Thanks for the weed.”
Like other fans of “The Daily Show,” I wanted to know what his experience was being such a major part of a show whose biting political satire made it a pop culture phenomenon. While it was a cool thing to do, he says without hesitation, he knew it was a means to an end, but not an end in itself.
“I admire people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who have found exactly what they should be doing in life,” he says. “I don’t think you can stay in one place too long if it’s not that one thing you should be doing. So it was harder for me. I’m not the news junkie that 90 percent of the people there are.”
The most uncomfortable part of doing the show for him was the hugely popular field reports, on-location feature segments in which correspondents like himself, Samantha Bee and Ed Helms basically go out and make fools of people.
“The field pieces were terrifying and mostly horrible,” he confesses. “Most of our job was to go out and be really mean. There’s a certain amount of having to hang your soul up at the door to be able to do that. And that coat got heavier. I started losing the stomach for it.”
After 4 1/2 years on the show, Corddry finally put his foot down, refusing to do a field segment that involved wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit and trying to hail a cab in New York.
“I said, ‘Oh, that’s funny’ Then I caught myself and said, ‘No, wait, I’m not gonna do that. That’s absolutely not funny.’ They prodded me a little bit, but I had made my bones there. I had one ‘no’ in me and that was it.
“Absolutely everyone there, including Jon, hates (field segments),” he went on. “But when they’re completed, they are the funniest and most satisfying things about the show. That’s one of the main things people love about the show. That’s why Jon just doesn’t kill them.”
Corddry, his wife, Sandra, and their first child, daughter Sloane, now 18 months old, moved from New York to Los Angeles’ Hancock Park neighborhood so that Corddry could begin work on “The Winner.”
“I had a baby, got my show and moved to L.A. in a one-month span,” he recalls. “It was ridiculous. I like fast food. I like to drive. So I enjoy L.A. But the second I can conduct the career I want to conduct from New York, I’ll be doing that. I’m a little obsessed with it.”
In the meantime, Corddry continues to search for his true calling.
“I’m just trying to find out what I should be doing,” he says without ruling out guest appearances on “The Daily Show.” “I’d definitely go back here and there. But I wouldn’t do a field piece.”
In 2001, the SF Sketchfest began in an 83-seat theater off Union Square.
“There weren’t many venues in town where we could do sketch comedy,” says co-founder Cole Stratton, a member of the comedy troupe Totally False People. “So we banded together with five other local groups and rented a theater.”
Seven years later, Sketchfest 2008 is an 18-day event that opens today and runs through Jan. 27 in 10 venues, including 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley.
“Every year it got bigger and crazier and the lineups kept getting more ridiculous,” Stratton says. “It’s just snowballed into this major thing.”
The Sketchfest takes emerging comics in improv, sketch and standup comedy and brings them together with established stars like Rob Corddry.
“We thought what better way to get a good showcase for emerging artists than to put them on the bill with a big headliner who will bring people out who wouldn’t normally see them,” Stratton explains. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
This year’s highlights include a rare performance by the legendary sketch troupe the Kids in the Hall, a reunion with the cast and creator of the cult TV hit “Freaks and Geeks” and a Marin performance by Corddry’s Naked Babies improv comedy group.