Interview Date: 05/04/2011
Run Date: 05/06/2011
Rob Riggle has carved himself a niche as a go-to guy for small but solid appearances in comedy films, appearing in “Talledega Nights,” “Stepbrothers,” “The Hangover,” and “The Other Guys,” so it should be no surprise that the folks from Axe would want to draft him for their latest ad campaign. Riggle serves as the color commentator for the Axe Dirtcathlon, described as “the insane game show where coed teams get dirty and then get clean,” but it’s not the only thing he’s got on his plate at the moment. In addition, he’s also got a buzzed-about pilot for CBS, along with upcoming films with Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, and a Dr. Seuss character notorious for speaking for the trees, which is why Bullz-Eye took advantage of the opportunity to chat with Riggle about all of these things…and more.
Bullz-Eye: You and I talked last year when you were busy promoting your episode of “Comedy Central Presents.”
Rob Riggle: Oh, really? (Laughs) Awesome!
BE: Yes, we talked about men’s restrooms in sports stadiums and such.
RR: (Laughs) Nice. Very nice.
BE: So how did you get hooked up with Axe to commentate on this Dirtcathlon thing?
RR: Um…I have a great agent. (Laughs) And they were kind enough to ask me, so I said “yes” in a heartbeat.
BE: In the press release, they use “Real World / Road Rules Challenge” and “Wipeout” as points of reference to describe the Dirtcathlon.
RR: Yes, I think that’s an absolutely fair way to put it.
BE: And you seem to have pulled the easy side of the gig, being in the studio doing the color commentary rather than being in the thick of things.
RR: You like that? You like how I negotiated that? (Laughs)
BE: Absolutely. Keep the suit clean when you can.
RR: Yes, I wanted to stay as clean as possible. (Pauses) While still getting as dirty as possible. Ba-boom. There, I just flipped the message and dropped a little extra joke on you.
BE: Awesome. So, then, do you get to have any interaction with the contestants at all?
RR: I didn’t, unfortunately, because it would’ve been fun, I think. Owen Benjamin, who is the field correspondent, my co-host in the field, I think he had a blast, actually, ‘cause he did get to interact with everybody, and he got to know them and…you know, they were these young, fun people who were out there to have a good time. And they obviously did have a good time. So I was a little jealous, actually.
BE: So how much of what you were doing was scripted and how much was ad-libbed?
RR: A lot of it was scripted. They definitely… (Hesitates) I think you can’t produce anything in this town unless you have a script that someone has signed off on. (Laughs) But then they also expect you, or I think one of the reasons they tend to hire you, is in the hopes that you can bring something to it as well. And I think that’s what we did here.
BE: How many outtakes are there on the cutting room floor?
RR: Probably a few. Probably quite a few, actually. I don’t know. It’s fine, though. There are good ones in there. I’m sure there are some turds, too, but I’m sure there are some good ones.
BE: And how much free Axe did you get out of this?
RR: I got three bottles of the shower gel. All three different aromas – there are three different types – and I’ve gotta say it’s nice, because every day I get to say, “Hmmm, which one is it gonna be today?”
BE: Obviously, you were already well familiar with the world of online productions like this one. How do you enjoy the experience of doing something for the web versus something for television or film? Or is there even any intrinsic difference when you’re doing it?
RR: There’s not a whole lot. I mean, I don’t know, if you’re making something for network television, there might be a little more production, but other than that, it’s pretty much the exact same thing, and the internet…I don’t know, but I feel freer, actually. I feel a little more freed up to improvise things. I think companies feel a little more at ease kind of pushing the envelope a little bit when they do internet-type stuff. I think when you do television stuff, you have to be just generally a little more generic, a little more safe. With the internet, I think you can be a little more experimentive, a little more risky. That’s what I’ve noticed. And I enjoy doing the internet commercials. I think they’re a blast. And this set we did with Axe, you know, it was really a great concept, and it was a lot of fun to do. It gets the information out, and they had a great contest. The winner actually got to go to Spain for the Tomato Festival, which is…well, you’ve probably seen or heard about that, where they just beat the hell out of each other with tomatoes. I mean, it was a great tie-in for their campaign, so I think it’s outstanding.
BE: So you’ve got a pilot in contention for CBS’s fall schedule: “Home Game.” According to Deadline.com, “There is solid early buzz for the comedy starring CBS brass’s favorite actor who doesn’t have a series on the network yet.”
RR: (Laughs) That’s awesome! I love that! I’ll take that any day!
BE: So have you already got your bags packed for the upfront, then?
RR: Uh, no. I know enough about this business of ours…the business of show…to know that it doesn’t mean anything. (Laughs) I mean, honestly, I don’t believe anything in this business until, really, it’s done. ‘Cause I’ve had too many deals go south. Quickly.
BE: So it would be safe to say that this is not your first pilot, then.
RR: No. It is not my first pilot. That is fair to say. (Laughs) And every pilot season, it’s that same thing where you think you’ve got a winner, you hope you do, you go out, and then…something happens. You bang out a great show, you’re, like, “This is phenomenal, we’re a lock,” and then, of course, it doesn’t get on. So I give up trying to guess what works and what doesn’t. I just do my job and then go about my business, and hopefully it’ll land where it should.
BE: Prior to this, did you have a favorite pilot that didn’t go and you still don’t understand why it didn’t?
RR: (Long pause) No, I pretty much understand why everything didn’t happen. (Laughs) Not to say that there might not have been some shows in there that, if they’d been given enough room to give, they would’ve lived. Thrived, even. But I understand how these things work. But I’m excited about this show, I’ll tell you what. I think “Home Game” is a good show, so I’m…cautiously optimistic about this one.
BE: Certainly, CBS enjoys you, as the piece said. You must’ve made a good impression when you were on “Gary Unmarried.”
RR: (Laughs) Well, I hope so! I always try to do a good job for people.
BE: Did you enjoy working on that show?
RR: I did, yeah. It was a lot of fun. It was nice to…well, you know, I was just a recurring character. I wasn’t in the cast or anything. But whenever I appeared on there, I had a good time, so, yeah.
BE: You and Jay (Mohr) had good chemistry together. Or it seemed like you did, anyway.
RR: Yeah, it was definitely a lot of fun. And they had great writers on that show, too. They really did. I was surprised when it ended.
BE: I’m curious about the film version of “21 Jump Street,” which I know you’re in, but IMDb only credits you as “Actor.”
RR: (Laughs) Yep. That’s me. An actor.
BE: So who do you play?
RR: I play Mr. Walters, the gym coach at the local high school, and…it’s a fun role. It’s definitely a fun role. And Jonah Hill and the director and everybody, they’re awesome, because they also like to find moments and improvise. So I feel very comfortable in that element, and...we’ve already shot a couple of weeks, and I’m totally enjoying it.
BE: By saying that, you’ve kind of answered my question about whether or not it’s just a one-off scene or if you’re actually in the film a fair amount.
RR: I think I’m in the film a fair amount. (Laughs)
BE: You’re also doing a voice in “The Lorax.”
RR: Yes, that’s very exciting. Which I will be doing more of, as a matter of fact, this week sometime, I think.
BE: Now, the character you’re playing – O’Hare – is a new villain they’ve added to the movie who wasn’t in the book.
BE: So what do you say to the Dr. Seuss purists who’ll undoubtedly be pissed off about that?
RR: Well, they can be pissed if they want. I would say come check it out and then decide. And if they’re pissed at me, I think they’re really missing the mark. (Laughs) ‘Cause I don’t write the script or produce it or direct it or do it all myself!
BE: How’d you enjoy working on “Larry Crowne”?
RR: “Larry Crowne” was awesome! I got to work with Tom Hanks! Tom was the director, co-writer, and star of the movie, so it was fantastic to be able to be in a scene with Tom Hanks and have him yell “action” and “cut” and also act in the scene. (Laughs) It was a blast. Very cool.
BE: You’ve been around the block a few times. Would you say he’s the nicest guy in Hollywood?
RR: Definitely. That’s a no-brainer! (Laughs) He is. He’s just a wonderful guy. He’s incredibly gracious, incredibly giving and supportive and…nice! And he makes you feel comfortable. I mean, I don’t know if he knows what it feels like to do…well, he doesn’t know what it’s like to do a scene with him! To be sitting there under the lights, looking across and seeing Tom Hanks…it’s a little bit surreal, and your pulse tends to go up a little bit. But I think maybe he knows that, because he’s very good about making everybody feel very comfortable and confident.
BE: Last time I talked to you, we were talking about the great ensemble in “Going the Distance.” This time, you’ve got another great one with “Everybody Loves Whales.”
RR: Oh, my gosh, yeah. That is a killer cast, isn’t it? It’s awesome! I mean, Drew Barrymore, John Krasisnki, Ted Danson, Dermot Mulroney, James LeGros, Kristen Bell…it’s phenomenal. It’s just a really great cast. So, yeah, I’m very fortunate to be a part of that as well. And it’s a fun movie. Ken Kwapis is directing it, he’s done a ton of episodes of “The Office,” and he’s such a great director. And it’s a great story. It’s definitely a feel-good movie. I’m looking forward to seeing that when it comes out.
BE: So are we ever going to see a buddy comedy with you and Rob Huebel?
RR: I hope so! (Laughs) I love Huebel! He’s my bro! We go way back. We started out together back in New York as a comedy duo. We wrote a sketch show and got into the Aspen Comedy Festival, and that’s kind of how we got some of our early breaks.
BE: Right before I got on the phone with you, I watched a clip of you guys in “Super High Me.”
RR: (Laughs) You know, what’s funny about that is that we showed up at the UCB Theater here in L.A., ‘cause it was a 4/20 show...which I guess is the big marijuana day or whatever…so we just showed up to do a sketch, and…I’m not even sure I knew I was being filmed! (Laughs) Maybe I did. I don’t know. But, literally, that’s Huebel and I. We met in the back, in the hallway behind the UCB, and we kind of just came up with beats. We were, like, “All right, let’s be cops, and we’ll act like we’re talking to a bunch of junior high kids, and we’ll do, like, a ‘Scared Straight’ thing. Cool?” But then we walked onstage and just had a general idea of what we were going to try and do, so that was all improvised.
BE: Well, it was great. I had no idea that the street value of marijuana was as high as it is. $2 million for a baggie.
RR: (Laughs) That’s the beauty of being an idiot.
BE: I know we’ve talked a little bit about your time on “Saturday Night Live,” but I was just curious about your favorite host during that period.
RR: Oh, man, we had good hosts that year. I mean, obviously, there are, like, icons that meant a lot to me. I got to do a scene with Robert DeNiro. That’s pretty cool. That meant a lot. That was one of those moments that’s, again, pretty surreal. It’s, like, “Hello, Robert DeNiro, I guess we’re doing a scene now.“ ‘Cause that happens to everybody. (Laughs) I actually liked Tom Brady as a host. I thought Tom Brady was a sweetheart of a guy, really funny, willing to do anything, had a great attitude, and…just a great guy. I thought he was fantastic. So there’s a bunch of great people.
BE: IMDb says that Donald Trump was a host during your time on the show, but I don’t think that’s accurate.
RR: Uh…let me think about that. (Brief pause) I don’t think he was.
BE: Yeah, I don’t think so, either. Mostly because it’s an episode that’s from, like, two years before you were part of the cast. (Laughs)
RR: I think I would’ve remembered hanging with the Donald. (Laughs) I would definitely remember that.
BE: You did get a lot of great musical guests, though. I mean, you got U2.
RR: Oh, man, that was an amazing night. They did their two songs on the show, and then after the show, after we did the good-nights and the credits and we’re all out onstage waving, they go, “Hey, who wants another one?” And everybody’s, like, “Nah, we’re leaving.” (Laughs) Uh, everybody went nuts. So we got another song out of ‘em, and it was like our own private concert. It was pretty cool.
BE: Well, I know we’re coming up on the end of our 15-minute window, but I wanted to revisit a question I asked you last time: your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved.
RR: Huh. Good one. I…I don’t know. I know what movies I’ve loved working on, but they pretty much did get the love they deserved. (Laughs)
BE: What would some of those be?
RR: Well, you know, “The Hangover.” “Stepbrothers.” Those were pure joy, and they did pretty well. “The Other Guys” was a blast. But there was a little improvised movie that a bunch of us from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater did, and it was purely…and I mean purely…improvised. There wasn’t a script, all we had were beats. So we would go into a scene, and we would say, “Okay, we’ve got to get this out, and we’ve got to get this out,” and then the rest was up to us. It was called “Blackballed,” and it starred Rob Corrdry and myself and Rob Huebel and…a bunch of really fun, funny people. We were all at the UCB at the time, none of us had really gotten any breaks yet, and so it’s neat. It’s a pretty good deal. (Hesitates) You know, I take that back. I think maybe Corrdry was on “The Daily Show” at that point. But, yeah, it’s called “Blackballed,” and…it’s out there. You can find it. It’s on DVD. And it’s a fun movie. And when you watch it, if you realize that every word that’s coming out of every actor’s mouth is improvised, it’s pretty fun.
BE: All right, Rob, I’ll let you go on to your next interview, but good talking to you again.
RR: Nice talking to you, too…and please don’t forget to mention the Axe Dirtcathlon! (Laughs)