At SXSW 2012, I was lucky enough to spend about ten minutes with Rob Riggle who you may know from such roles in The Hangover, Step Brothers, 21 Jump Street, and the upcoming Nature Calls. We talked everything from quitting flight school for comedy to his fans to his comedy inspirations. Honestly, I was very nervous and starstruck to do this interview with Rob in person, which you may be able to tell from my voice in the interview. R0b was such a nice guy and seemed like he actually wanted to be there. He took a picture with me as well after the interview.
Check out the YoutTube clip below to listen to the interview.
Me: Why comedy?
Rob: Cuz I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time. To laugh everyday, to hang out with funny people, that’s just everyday full of joy. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Me: When you quit flight school, did you get made fun of? (meaning get made fun of for choosing comedy)
Rob:No, I didn’t get made fun of, some people questioned it. People were like, “What are you doing? They’re paying us money to fly planes. We’re Top Gun, this is cool stuff. What are you doing?” And you know, I totally respected that because that was there passion. My passion was comedy and acting.
Me: Do you ever get tired of people coming up to you and quoting your memorable lines from movies?
Rob: You know, it’s always flattering, it really is. It’s a complement, so that’s always how I try to take it. If they scream it at me when I’m not expecting it, then it gets a little annoying.
Me: What was it like working with Patrice O’Neal, Nature Calls being his last movie before he passed away?
Rob: It was an honor. He was such a great standup comedian and a talented actor and I’m glad I got to spend some time with him. I’m glad I didn’t miss that opportunity. And I consider myself lucky for having that opportunity.
Me: What was it like working with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill on 21 Jump Street?
Rob: Awesome! Jonah is a genius, like a for real genius. He’s so funny, so talented, such a great writer and producer. It would be an honor to work with him anytime. That was a really cool experience. Channing, I hadn’t met until this film. I kinda knew Jonah before but I hadn’t met Channing until this; I couldn’t have been happier. He’s a really good dude. He’s very funny, he knows comedy, he knows his way around a bit. He’s a great actor. I hope he does more comedies cuz he’s a really funny dude.
Me: There’s a scene at the end of 21 Jump Street where you do something kind of outrageous. Was that actually in the script or something you came up with on the spot?
Rob: It was not in the script. And we came up with it on the spot. We were shooting, it was a night shoot, and we were doing stuff and improvising. And when you improvise you keep heightening and heightening the situation and it went to a funny place.
Me: How much of that film was improv?
Rob: It’s hard to put it in terms like that because you do what’s scripted cuz that’s what the studio paid for, you have to do that, but once you do one or two or three takes, you start to get comfortable and you loosen up and play within that context. Within the scenes, yeah there would be improvising. We would try different things, little things here and there. But we stayed to the script for a big part of it but there are definitely parts of the movie that are not on the page that you’ll see in the movie.
Me: What was it like playing the bad guy?
Rob: Ummm, well spoiler alert. My character was fun. He’s the track couch and the gym teacher and the high school that Jonah and Channing infiltrate. I’ve had many football coaches and drill instructors and alpha males in my life that I kind of pulled from to create this guy. It was fun.
Me: Are we ever going to see you in a leading role?
Rob: That is the goal. I would love an opportunity to lead. It’s not always up to me though. I hope to find opportunities and if I get an opportunity I will definitely try to make the best of it.
Me: Who do you like to improv with?
Rob: The guys I came up with doing improv with at the UCB Theatre in New York, Rob Heubel, Paul Scheer, Owen Birch, Seth Morris. I still perform with those guys in LA and the UCB in LA. Anybody who has an improv back ground and knows the general rules of improv and knows how to play a bit. I love playing with folks like that.
Me: Is there a process you go through in order to figure out exactly how you will say a certain line such as your memorable ones from previous films?
Rob: Nah, I mean, I wouldn’t say I go that deep into thinking the actual tonality of how I’m going to deliver my lines. I just take my character and I think about the situation he’s in and how he would react. I just try and do that and then maybe heighten it a bit for emphasis.
Me: Who are some of your comedy inspirations?
Rob: My first comedy album was George Carlin and once I committed that to memory I remember Bill Murray. I loved all his movies in the 1980s, Caddyshack, Stripes, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, I just loved all that. I remember the first time I saw Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. I thought that was a watershed moment for me. I thought I had seen something really special and I did cuz it was special but that was one of those moments where I was like, “That’s awesome!” That’s great storytelling, the way he tells stories is funny and I just liked his approach to standup. Those were prolly the early things that made me think that comedy was pretty darn cool.
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