After starting out in New York performing for years at the UCB Theater, both as an improviser and a member of the popular sketch group Naked Babies, Rob Corddry first made a name for himself in 2002 when he was brought on The Daily Show as a correspondent. He left the show in 2006 to do sitcoms and films and has been working steadily ever since, most recently playing former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone's W. Starting in December, Warner Brothers is launching Children's Hospital, a web series that he wrote, directed and stars in. Rob checked in to chat about the new series, doing The Daily Show in an election year and life in LA versus back here in New York.
How’s it going? Pretty well—how are you doing?
I’m all right. I don’t believe you.
Well, I’m generally pretty broken, but it’s my second interview of the day, so… Well, that’s too much work. That’s stupid.
I even had to set my alarm today. Yuck.
So how is life being in the Number Two movie at the box office right now? My life changes very little with fluctuations at the box office, especially being that my part is so miniscule.
A lot of people seem caught off guard to hear that you’re playing Ari Fleischer. Yeah, I don’t think that it had the effect my agents wanted it to. It totally had the effect I was expecting which was, ‘Huhhh?’ My agents were seriously expecting Scorsese and Coppola to be knocking down my door by now.
This is the legitimizing of Rob Corddry. This is it. They’ve done their jobs. I am officially an actor and they can work on something else.
I had to text a friend of mine who’s a journalist last night and double-check: ‘Is Ari Fleischer the dead one?’ True Gothamist spirit. He’s very much alive—and on television way too much.
He had the backlash against his former bosses, right? No, that’s Scott McClellan.
See, I can’t tell the three of them apart! What?! You’ve got two interviews today! No, Scott McClellan was the one who came after Ari Fleischer. Ari Fleischer is a company man through and through. Which is why he was a good press secretary because he actually believed the shit he was spouting day in and day out. Whereas McClellan didn’t and it literally killed Tony Snow.
He was the one in 2002, who fed us the most bullshit. Fed us very little really. He was insane in that he was defensive and then he was like, ‘Fuck you for even asking these questions.’ You have no right to this information.
Do you miss doing The Daily Show during an election year? I kind of feel bad saying no because it’s not like I didn’t have a great time there and still don’t appreciate that show. But it’s so much easier to watch it from where I’m sitting now--which is on my couch next to my daughter.
You mean it’s a lot of work? It’s a lot of work and no one on that show aspires to be journalists. And during an election season, you really live the life of the journalist. And a presidential campaign journalist, as far as I’m concerned, is a horrible job to be.
People become obsessed with politics during an election year. Was it fun to be part of the dialogue? Definitely fun to be part of it and yet I would not want to do it again. I’m glad to not be doing it this year. I’m probably gonna pop in and out. I’ll probably do The Daily Show in the next week or two and that will be a lot of fun--to be able to go in and have a blast and be able to leave without having to be up all night researching the next story.
You get to be a grandparent. Exactly! I get to go in, sit and play and then leave.
So tell me about Children’s Hospital. It’s sort of my main focus right now. It’s a web series that I wrote and directed and am producing with David Wain and Jon Stern who produced Wainy Days. It’s sort of my crack at the internet video thing. Because for one, I love that you can just have an idea and it can be on the internet in such a short period of time.
There’s no development. All of the development is just with me and my friends. Warner Brothers produces it and they have been so hands off and seemingly just giddy over the process themselves. I think that they sort of revel in that it’s the internet and they can kind of get away with what they can’t on television. The trailer’s up now. And we’re gonna launch ten episodes in December.
Put them up once a week? No, actually my goal is for all ten to come out at once. Because I really believe that people have less of an attention span than they do with television. Statistically, the first episode gets the most hits and the last episode gets the least hits. So I think people have the attention span for four or five episodes at once. They can watch the whole season in one or two sittings.
And the premise is it’s a children’s hospital with sexed up doctors working in it? It’s basically Grey’s Anatomy with all of its sexual inappropriateness, but set in a children’s hospital. So all of the innuendo, all that inappropriate sexual politics, but in front of ten year-old cancer patients. We found that the first three episodes set that premise nicely and then we were just completely like, ‘Who cares?’ Kids are notoriously hard to work with, so we’d be like, ‘Screw it, we’ll just do this one without the kids.’
It must be nice to be able to handpick the cast from people you know and wanna work with. All those people are in such demand right now that I got my first taste of being a producer and not being able to get what I want. But yeah, I’m friends with literally everybody who shows up onscreen and it’s so much fun to work that way. Naked Babies, my sketch group, all make an appearance in it.
Is Naked Babies still alive and kicking out in LA? We are definitely working on a script right now and a TV show that I’m hoping to pitch before the end of the year.
It’d be great to see you guys get the cache that the Stella guys have. The UCB now is sort of like The State at this point where it’s such a huge talent pool. Like Rob Huebel showing up in Children’s Hospital, it’s just so awesomely incestuous.
How do you like living in LA? I love it in a of ways and in the same breath, it’ll never be New York City.
How’s raising a kid out there? It’s so much easier. It’s so much easier to live out here in general. I’m back in New York to shoot this movie and I had forgotten how hard it is to do your laundry.
I only fluff and fold--drop-off only for me. Yeah, but even walking those four blocks with your bag is something you don’t have to do out here. I love everything about the subway, but I guess I just love driving that much more. The one thing I don’t love about LA is the weather. I guess I’m just more of a cold and rain and snow sort of guy.
Do you just stay with old friends when you’re back in town? I don’t like staying in a hotel in New York City cause it’s my home, ya know? So I usually get producers to put me up in an apartment. So right now I’m staying in this hole on the Upper West Side. It’s this total cave, not a ray of sun enters that apartment. And if one tried, this guy has three levels of blackout shades on all the windows leading to those air shafts. It’s a four flight walk-up and it kind of smells like my last shower. It’s just a classic New York railroad experience.
How do you like the general experience of staying at a Craigslist place? Well I’d be afraid that people would go through my stuff.
I'm assuming that you do. I’m actually surprised that I haven’t. I sit there and look around the apartment and am like ‘I’m surprised I haven’t gone through all this guy’s stuff.’
What are you shooting here? I’m working on a small indie called The Winning Season with Sam Rockwell and Emma Roberts. I’m like the fourth banana.
Anyone I’d know directing it? Yeah, James Strauss, who directed Grace is Gone, the Iraq war movie.
The one with John Cusack, right? Yeah, one of the few Iraq war movies to meet some acclaim. But I haven’t been able to watch it. I keep telling him that I can’t watch your movie because it’s all about a man who lost his wife and I just can’t watch it while I’m away from my wife for this long.
Were you spoiled by UCB in getting to be onstage with no real limits versus say, doing a sitcom? One of the biggest rules of improv is not to go blue because ultimately it’s too easy. Yet the funniest scene I ever saw at UCB was Adam McKay doing ‘Joe, the Raping Indian’ who would just go around the country raping people. Not exactly a sitcom pitch, ya know?