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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rob Corddry of Childrens Hospital Calls his Career a "Gradual Turtle-walk Up a Long Flight of Stairs"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge childrens_hospital_bloody_clown.jpg
Rob Corddry's Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital (no apostrophe; watch the show and you'll get it) is a furiously fast, gag-a-second mockery of one of television's old standbys: the medical drama.

A veteran of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe, The Daily Show, and movies that include Blackballed, Hot Tub Time Machine, and a role as Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone's W., Corddry serves as the creator of Childrens Hospital, as well as its primary writer and co-showrunner.

On Thursday, June 30, SF Sketchfest will present the cast of Childrens Hospital live on stage, along with the cast of National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle (NTSF: SD: SUV) -- a parody of police procedurals and action programs in the vein of 24. That show premieres next month on Adult Swim, and was created by Paul Scheer, formerly a partner of Corddry's at Upright Citizens Brigade, and it co-stars Rob Riggle, who worked with Corddry both at UCB and The Daily Show.

SF Weekly recently caught up with Corddry.

What was your training prior to joining the Upright Citizens Brigade?
I was a theater and English major in college, and literally the day after graduation, I moved to New York City. I hit the pavement pretty hard and was set on becoming the highest-paid crappy Shakespearean actor ever. I would audition for absolutely everything. I got a play where I met this woman who was in a sketch group, which I auditioned for and got. And I was like, "Do I really want to do this? I'm a very important Shakespearean actor."

But six months later, I was furiously writing sketches and learning how to do comedy. We were the worst sketch group in New York's history. Then I started another sketch group with some friends called Naked Babies, which still exists today. But then I found UCB.

How long were you at the UCB?
I was actively doing shows every night from about '97 to about 2001, 2002. Paul Scheer [Childrens Hospital guest star and creator of NTSF: SD: SUV], Rob Huebel [co-star of Childrens Hospital], and Rob Riggle [fellow The Daily Show alum and co-star of NTSF: SD: SUV] were in the class ahead of me. After I got on The Daily Show, I just didn't have the time. And from then on, I've only performed sporadically. But for a few years, it was five to seven shows a week.

Were you aware that The Daily Show was going to be a leap forward for you?
I was certainly aware of how special it was. It definitely seemed like a "right time, right place" scenario. We knew it was lightning in a bottle. I wasn't really thinking about how much it was going to help my career -- any more than I always do. [Laughs] My career has been a very slow, gradual turtle-walk up a long flight of stairs. But that's good because that means there's always an easy learning curve.

Has anyone in the press ever tried to pull a Daily Show-style interview on you?
I was in Austin for something, and some college kids interviewed me on the street. And they kept hitting me in the mouth with the microphone. I was like, "Really? You're pulling a Mo Rocca, circa the year 2000 on me?"

Did improvisation played any part in the development of Childrens Hospital?
The development process was very deliberate. But improv happens once we've got what we need in the script. It would be a shame to waste the talents of these brilliant improvisers - Rob Huebel is one of the best improvisers alive. So I can definitely point to a couple of lines in each episode that are improvised. But it is for the most part a tightly-scripted show.

Are you the primary writer?
I like to write about half of them. It's really fun to write this show. But the three of us [Corddry with co-showrunners Jonathan Stern and David Wain] edit every script written by someone else - just to control the voice of the show.

I understand you preferred the 15-minute format offered by Adult Swim, as opposed to the standard 30-minute format of most comedy shows.
I had no interest in bringing it to television at all [Childrens Hospital began as a web series] until I heard that there was such a thing as a 15-minute format. I don't think this relentless joke-after-joke kind of show would be interesting after 15 minutes. It's joke-based comedy, as opposed to character- or relationship-based comedy.

[NTSF: SD: SUV] began as a phony advertisement during the re-broadcast of the initial web version of Childrens Hospital on Adult Swim.
That's right. As much as I'd like to take credit, I had nothing to do with it. Jon Stern is the connection - he's executive producing it with my good friend Paul Scheer. Paul was nice enough to bail me out when I was about 45 seconds to a minute short for one episode. They had shot that fake commercial as sort of a pilot, so Jon suggested sticking that in there. I said, "Great! As long as there's a lot of punching."

Will the San Francisco show mark the first time the Childrens Hospital cast has performed live together?
Last season we did some screenings where we did some live bits. We've planned this show out a little more. [Each show's cast] will show an episode that hasn't been seen yet, and we'll do a Q&A together. And we'll do some bits. Actually, we're slowly plotting a live Childrens Hospital tour. We'd like to do it in the spring, before colleges let out. This would be a tightly-scripted show. There would be live music - actually, I believe it's going to be a musical.

The June 30 performance is presented by SF Sketchfest at the Marines' Memorial Theater. For information and tickets, go to the Sketchfest website or call 771-6900.

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Casey Burchby


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