Depending on what city you live in, you could have seen the fantastically sinister ads in subway stations or on buses, featuring the slightly depraved glare of a clown that’s part Heath Ledger’s Joker, part John Wayne Gacy. Look a little closer, and you might recognize that it’s actually the painted face of Rob Corddry, former Daily Show correspondent (and one of the most popular in the show’s history), star of Hot Tub Time Machine, and all around funny guy. The ads are for Childrens Hospital, the comedy Corddry created and stars in, which is now in its third season on Adult Swim.
The show, which uses absurd humor to parody medical dramas, features an ensemble cast of Corddry’s friends, including familiar faces like Malin Akerman, Lake Bell, Megan Mullally, and Henry Winkler. We recently got Corddry on the phone to talk about those ads, his comedic process, and what separates his show from the rest of the pack.
Have you seen the huge painted mural of your face in Williamsburg? It’s pretty freaky. Yeah, my friend who lives in Williamsburg tweeted it. It’s pretty cool, man. I’m pretty tickled by this whole thing. I’m getting a lot of emails and a lot of texts from all over the country. I’m really glad my creepy face has infiltrated…
Was the intention of that image to be scary? Well, yes. It’s definitely engaging, depending on your attitude toward clowns. We kind of realized after the first couple of seasons that we have a pretty strong marketing image here, and Adult Swim has really picked up the ball and ran with it.
What is the biggest difference since the show has been on TV, as opposed to just the web? To be totally honest with you, there’s no difference at all. We cannot say “cunt,” but that’s about it.
Do you keep up with other medical dramas to get ideas for storylines on your show? I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy a while ago. This season I was really inspired by House. It’s not really a medical show, it’s a detective show set in a hospital. It’s based on Sherlock Holmes. So now I feel like I need a new one to get my juices flowing, and I don’t know what to watch. I might have to go back and watch old ERs or something. But I think we kinda got it now anyway. We’re more into spoofing TV drama in general.
Speaking of which, I read you bought Breaking Bad a few weeks ago. How far are into it are you? Zero minutes. I’m still in the middle of season 2 of Mad Men, so I barely can find time to watch even that. Breaking Bad is next in line, but now my wife got me addicted to So You Think You Can Dance? And that’s on twice a week, so what am I supposed to do?
Your show is known for having a lot of guest stars. Who would you like to get for future seasons? To tell you the truth, we are searching for a way to somehow get Michael Cera’s face on the show, rather than just his voice. We want to do that in a cool way. I sort of feel like I should cut down on the amount of guest stars, because I have this great cast and I would like to use them rather than someone else.
How did you get Lake Bell in there? I feel like she’s a largely undiscovered comedic talent. Meaning she gives you a boner? She is just a good friend of mine. Everybody in the show I’ve worked with before, and gotten along with well, and that’s how I cast it. who do I want to work with every day and hang out with. To work with friends is the best.
Do you consider the show to be an undiscovered thing, or are you surprised it has found the audience that it has? A little of both. I am consistently surprised by our numbers, because they are very good, but then again, I am always surprised when a journalist calls it “the best show you’re not watching.” I say, “But tons of people watch our show!” But not really. Really, it’s .000001% of the population that watches the show, so it’s a bit of a mind fuck.
Are you critical of your own work? I’m very happy with it. This season is very good. I was more critical last season, and I still am. A lot of stuff that makes me cringe. But this season I think we really figured a lot of stuff out.
A lot of comedy shows hit their stride after a season or two. Yes, definitely. The first season was on the web so we were barely thinking about it. The second season we perhaps thought a little too much about it. We felt the burden of writing the show bible—this is how the show works. And this season it was easier. I feel like some things were cemented, and we knew what we were doing.
When you want to make something funny, is there ever a sure thing? Well the answer to that is dicks and farts, but not really. I guess I know that if we say anything ridiculous with a straight face, it’s going to be funny.
How do you know when something works and something doesn’t? Well you definitely know when something doesn’t work—that’s easy. You just feel it. And then when something really works, you know it as well, sort of on the same instinctual, gut level. But most things you’re just kind of hopeful about. You just do what makes you laugh, and hopefully it makes everyone else laugh too.
And you can never really know, because you’re not watching this show with an audience of hundreds of people. Exactly, it’s very insular at times. Well, shit. There’s just four of us in the room editing the show. What do we know?
Can you gauge audience reaction on the web? Not really. I get a lot of comments on Twitter, and I get a general feel for how people like the show. There’s this point in editing when things are pretty tight, and we’re almost done. And that’s when I go in with a new eye. It’s impossible to put myself in the mind of a viewer, but I watch it and if I get a bad feeling about the smallest thing, I say stop, and talk about it. What is it about this moment that made me say stop? That’s what I really love — dealing with the minutiae.
Is it nice to be only doing shorter episodes? Do you think you could pull off a regular half-hour show? We could pull it off production-wise, I just don’t think it would be funny. I think this kind of relentless joke-after-joke comedy isn’t sustainable for 30 minutes.
30 Rock does it. Well, they also have way more story and character than we do. And some heart. We don’t have heart. We have enough story and character to be an engine for the jokes. We are joke-based show and they are a character-based show. Totally different.
Do you still watch The Daily Show? Yes, here and there. It’s on way too late for me, and it’s kind of like sports. I don’t like to watch current shows on DVR. But when I watch it, I Hulu it. And also I still have a lot of friends on the show, so if I know there’s going to be a good episode coming up, I’ll watch that. I would love to be able to watch it regularly, but I don’t.
Do you think the show has become more popular since your departure? I’d say yes. It definitely hasn’t slowed down. It’s by virtue of Jon’s passion for this kind of stuff.
Do you think the rise of Fox News has had anything to do with the show’s increasing popularity? Well, no, actually. I wouldn’t say Fox News. I’d say it’s as much Fox as it is MSNBC and CNN. Just because those guys have a liberal view, doesn’t mean they are not retarded.
You’re currently shooting the Steve Carrel film Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Tell me about that. The movie is basically about what you would do if you knew the end of the world is coming in two weeks. The movie follows Steve Carrel wandering in and out of these people’s lives, dealing with it in different ways. And I am just one of the first people he comes to, and I am dealing with it probably the way many people would, just by giving up, getting drunk, and having sex a lot.
How many days are you doing that? Just two.
Do you like doing that? Playing a character part and coming on set for five days, doing your thing, and moving on to the next? Well, yes and no. I would much rather be in a movie where I’m shooting every day. Because you get comfortable, and you get more creative and have more fun. It’s stressful always being the new guy. First days are always hard, and I have a lot of first days.
Are you going to be doing any larger feature work in the future? Yea, what you got? I’ll do it.