Rob Corddry on ‘Childrens Hospital’

The creator and star of Adult Swim's hit series tells us what "the show isn't."

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Rob Corddry loves CraveOnline. We got to interview him by phone for the fourth season of “Childrens Hospital,” and at the end he gave a shout out to our comics channel.

Corddry originally created “Childrens Hospital” as a web series before it found a home at Adult Swim. The fourth season is currently airing and it began with an airborne contagious amnesia and Dr. Blake Downs as the king of Childrens Hospital and it just gets crazier from there. When we spoke to Corddry, he was more than happy to share his particular brand of insanity with us.

CraveOnline: By season four, is it harder to come up with stories for “Childrens Hospital”?
Rob Corddry: No, actually, if anything I guess I could say it was easier in quotes.
CraveOnline: How so?
Rob Corddry: I’m starting to figure out what the show isn’t which makes it a lot easier to write. Of course then, the next step is you start learning what the show is. I just thought a lot about absurd comedy in general lately and what it means. I found that we can do whatever we want. The best thing about absurd comedy is that you set your own rules.

So it kind of expanded my thinking about it. This was like halfway through writing season four so there are still some, what I guess we’d call normal, “Childrens Hospital” episodes but I don’t know. I can’t speak for season five. It’s probably going to be a lot more conceptual and cool and weird for the sake of absurdity though, not for the sake of being cool and weird which is I think a huge pitfall.
CraveOnline: What did you find that “Childrens Hospital” is not?
Rob Corddry: Well, first of all, it’s not a medical drama parody first and foremost. And it’s not even necessarily a parody of TV and movies, though when you’re doing absurd comedy, parody is a tool you can use. Like when you’re doing satire, you’re limited. You can only use certain tools but with absurd comedy, parody just becomes one tool in your toolbox. That’s I guess the longest, most drawn out answer I can give to the question.
CraveOnline: When did you decide that parody of medical shows and parody of TV was not the way to go?
Rob Corddry: Not that it’s not the way to go. Again, with our show, we’re not limited to doing a parody or a satire of something, but medical dramas themselves, it’s very, very limited to just place that rule on yourself. I think we’ve kind of done it, too. I don’t watch those shows really. There’s nothing exciting about them to me. “Grey’s” I think my wife loves it because it does get a little weird and “St. Elsewhere” got really weird but I think those shows get weird because they’re limited themselves.

Whenever I watch a medical show or a legal show or a very specific drama, I just see the writers butting their heads up against this impossible formula and then when they break out, they’ve jumped the shark and they’re ridiculous. Luckily I have no interest in doing that anymore.
CraveOnline: Did you go on strike for a huge salary raise this season like the cast of “Modern Family?” 
Rob Corddry: [Laughs] Oh, did they do that? I’m sorry, I’m so not plugged in. I’ve got to start reading Deadline or something. Well, listen. They probably should because that show makes a lot of ad dollars and the producers are getting very, very rich. A lot of those producers don’t even do a thing. They’re just names on the credits so I would love nothing more than the writers and the actors on a show that successful to get paid what they deserve, which I think is dictated by ad dollars and not by SAG limits.
CraveOnline: “House” ended its run after eight years. Was that really because they just couldn’t compete with “Childrens Hospital” anymore?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, I’d say that’s probably pretty accurate. They saw the writing on the wall. Hugh Laurie, probably a big fan of “Childrens” and he said, “Forget it, guys. They’re doin’ it.” They had a billboard last season and he was in clown makeup. That was obviously [Laurie] handing the mantle to us in a very conscious way, right? Right? I can definitely tell you that I have been in the same room with Hugh Laurie and he has no idea who I am and therefore no idea what “Childrens Hospital” is.
CraveOnline: Any other guest stars coming up this season?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of fun guest stars. Tim Busfield, Jennifer Westfeldt, Dave Krumholtz, Eddie Mekka is in an episode. Eddie Mekka played The Big Ragoo on “Laverne & Shirely.” He has a pretty interesting scene with Henry Winkler that’s going to be satisfying to people my age. I don’t want to give it away but he may or may not make out with him.
CraveOnline: Had you been wanting to get your brother, Nate on for a while?
Rob Corddry: Oh my God, Nate was the one guy who was impossible to cast. Of all these really famous, hugely successful people on the show, I could not nail down Nate Corddry. Thank God his show got cancelled and we could get him on an episode. He’s great in it too.
CraveOnline: When did you decide to make Blake Downs the king in the season premiere?
Rob Corddry: Boy, really just for story purposes because Blake was the only one I could easily justify being immune to airborne amnesia. So that’s primarily it, just because he’s a clown and in my thinking, in my personal obsessive mythology rubric, Blake might not even have the same biology as other humans. It’s a race unto itself.

So that’s it. It’s funny, I’m starting to sound a little defensive just because I was very uncomfortable with making myself the king. I don’t much like acting on that show in general. It’s very hard for me because I’m doing so many other things.

CraveOnline: Would it be an option to write Blake out of the show and just be the writer/creator/producer and maybe direct some?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, it would absolutely be possible. I don't know if it’d be smart. If anything, the clown itself has become just a really good [image.] I’m by far probably the least main character of the main group. I’m like a step above Chet the paramedic but it’s just such an arresting marketing image that people just can’t help getting in car crashes because they’re staring at the billboard at this weird looking evil clown.

I would be silly to get rid of it, but again, we can do anything. I will say that someone dies this season. A main character dies and it’s in a way that it would be very, very hard for us to bring that character back, even in a world of absurdity.
CraveOnline: So they can’t fake their death and come back as a ghost like Lola in season two?
Rob Corddry: It’s funny you mention that. That was season two and I think that was pretty bad storytelling on my part. I don’t think it’s bad idea. I think it’s a very funny idea to have people think she’s a ghost, but it was executed in a very season two way. I think we’d do it differently now if we were to do that.


CraveOnline: Had Lake Bell wanted to direct for a while?
Rob Corddry: I’m not sure. Lake is one of my favorite people in the world and she’s one of the smartest people I know and she’s always been that way, but just in the last two years or so, Lake has really come into her own if I could be so reductive. I really believe that she can do anything, so she just wrote and directed a movie that I’m in. That was a really great experience. I only hope that she’s available to direct more next season.
CraveOnline: Did you meet her on What Happens in Vegas or had you already known her then?
Rob Corddry: No, we met on What Happens in Vegas and we became fast friends because we had the same role. We were essentially counterparts so most of our scenes were together and we were always waiting in each other’s dressing rooms while we were not on because we had the same hours. We share a similar kind of tone. We like dick jokes.
CraveOnline: When do you feel you stopped being “Rob Corddry from The Daily Show?”
Rob Corddry: I don't know if I have to tell you the truth. I’ve been getting a lot of Google alerts because I’ve been doing a lot of press, and there’s a lot of press about “Childrens” right now. They almost always start off by saying, “Rob Corddry, best known from The Daily Show is expanding…” blah blah blah. It’s always kind of from the perspective that “we had no idea that he was doing this show Childrens Hospital.”

So it’s just great. I hope I never lose that sort of “Hey, even the bald guy in The Daily Show, check this out…” is only helpful to my master plan.
CraveOnline: Do you wish you could go back and cover Chick-Fil-A for “The Daily Show?”
Rob Corddry: That’s funny, man. I’m sure they probably have exhausted that story right now but actually, it’s funny you should ask because I am going back on “The Daily Show” but as a guest, at the desk of Jon which is super cool and I’m really giddy about it.
CraveOnline: That’s not the first time you’ve gone on, is it?
Rob Corddry: The first time that I’ve done it, yeah.
CraveOnline: Not for any of your movies or an earlier season of “Childrens?”
Rob Corddry: Oh, no, I don't think so. I think Jon did it because “Childrens” is obviously a real thing now and it’s not just some random movie I’m plugging. He knows I think that this means something to me. That’s why all his guests are usually not people plugging a movie. He likes to talk to people who are writing a book or doing something or thinking about stuff. I think that we were nominated for an Emmy probably made him go, “Oh, okay, this is something different than just some little thing he’s doing for less money than he made on The Daily Show.”
CraveOnline: One the movie side, what’s your role in Pain and Gain?
Rob Corddry: It’s actually a crime comedy drama. It’s a weird thing, man. It’s Michael Bay’s first indie dark comedy, starring Mark Wahlberg and The Rock which definitely made people cock their heads. And then I was the next one cast so it makes no sense to people. So everybody’s curious. To answer your question, I play the guy that runs the gym they all work out at and I help them with their crime. If anybody wants to know, the story of the movie is true.

It was the longest running court case in Miami-Dade County history and I believe the Miami New Times did a three part story on it. The story itself is more ridiculous than anything you can write.  It’s going to be wild. There’s no car crashes or robots but I’ve seen some of it and it’s very Michael Bay.
CraveOnline: Does it really feel like an indie movie?
Rob Corddry: Nooo. No, no, no, no. No, instead of car crashes there’s a lot of slow motion. I’m like flipping through a magazine in slow motion at one point. It’s absolutely bonkers.
CraveOnline: And do you have a big role in Warm Bodies?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, that’s the movie I’ve got in the can right now that I’m most excited about. I basically play the same role I play a lot, which is the best friend, and I’ve always said I will be happy to play shades of that character forever, but this is probably the darkest shade or weirdest or most unique shade of that character because he’s a zombie.

I’m basically the main zombie’s best friend. It’s a zombie movie told from the perspective of the zombies. I’ve seen it. It’s incredible. It was the most satisfying movie I think of my career so far. It was really wild.
CraveOnline: Is he a compassionate best friend, or the other thing you’ve done really well is, forgive the lack of a better word, the A-hole best friend?
Rob Corddry: Well, yeah. It was written in a way that I could interpret it in whatever way I wanted and I definitely had a couple ideas as to what to bring to that sort of blank character because they’re zombies. They don’t feel. They have no memories. All they know is that they like to eat people but they’re starting to get better.

They’re starting to transform and the best friend in this movie is more than just a plot device, which I was excited about. But yeah, he’s a little bit of a dick at some points but then also he starts to get it and he starts to recover. He helps move the thing along.
CraveOnline: Well, thank you. It’s great to talk to you.
Rob Corddry: Oh, thank you. By the way, I love your website. I’m a big comic book geek and I find my stuff there a lot.
CraveOnline: Oh, really? The comics channel?
Rob Corddry: Yeah, mostly it’s the comics. I’m not so into the TV stuff in general which is probably bad for my career, but I’m a big comic book nerd.
Thanks for the shout out.
Rob Corddry: Definitely, man. Any time you want to talk to me about comics, I’ve got tons to say.
CraveOnline: Boy, I shouldn’t have used up the interview on “Childrens Hospital.”
Rob Corddry: [Laughs] I know, right. We could be talking about the latest run of the Hulk.