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Craig Robinson fears his end will involve a global cockroach takeover

Photo: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images. Graphic: Jane Harrison
Photo: Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images. Graphic: Jane Harrison

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.

Chicago native Craig Robinson first made a name for himself as Darryl on the American version of The Office. Since then he’s become a popular fixture in ensemble comedies like This Is The End and the Hot Tub Time Machine series. On the small screen, he’s shown up everywhere from Eastbound & Down to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the sci-fi series Mr. Robot, as a deceptively friendly neighbor. His latest movie, out this summer, is a caper comedy called Austin Found with Linda Cardellini and Skeet Ulrich. Robinson took a few minutes between his many gigs to go through our 11 Questions, and we have to say, we don’t know anyone else who has given these questions so much thought, sometimes mulling them over for several minutes.

1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be and why?

Craig Robinson: American Dad!

The A.V. Club: Why that one?

CR: Because it’s the best thing on TV. And Roger… I would just hang out with Roger and trip out all day.

AVC: That show has been around for a long time, and you don’t see it get a lot of play.

CR: I know, right? I have no idea. It must be huge with college kids or something, but I rarely know people that—I’m starting to see people down here who know it, but really nobody ever really knows it.

AVC: Right.

CR: I would just crack jokes all day.

2. Do you have a favorite swear word or phrase? How often do you use it, and in what circumstances?

CR: I have a phrase I say: “What the damn?” It’s my favorite. It just came to me one day. It’s like a play on “What the hell?” or “What the F?” But I never heard anybody say, “What the damn?” so I like saying it.

AVC: Is it usually when you’re startled?

CR: Oh, it’ll be like I can’t figure something out. Something is puzzling me, what have you. “What the damn?” It goes with anything.

AVC: That’s a good one.

CR: What. The. Damn.

3. How did you spend your last birthday?

CR: Let me see, let me see… Oh! I had a surprise birthday dinner at Catch restaurant in Los Angeles. Damn, it must have been 20-some people who came to surprise me. It was very lovely.

AVC: Who threw this for you?

CR: A very lovely young lady. Extremely sweet, extremely caring young lady.

AVC: Were you surprised? Because that’s really hard to pull off.

CR: I was surprised, yeah. I had an inkling, because somebody called me and said, “Where are we meeting?” I didn’t know that magnitude of it when I got in there. So, it was a bunch of people, a bunch of close friends and some relatives. It was a beautiful thing.

AVC: There’s usually always one guy who is going to blow it at a surprise party.

CR: Always! And then, when we walked in, she and I—we saw a mutual acquaintance, so then I knew. I was like, “Okay.” But then it was like, “Wow, what am I in for?”

4. What is the worst professional advice you’ve ever received?

CR: Worst professional advice I’ve ever receiveee...

AVC: Yeah.

CR: [Elongating “received”] eeeived. That was a long wait for no laugh.

AVC: [Laughs.]

CR: I don’t know. I really—can we come back to that? I want see if I could jar some...

AVC: No worries. We’ll come back.

5. If you were a medical doctor, what kind of doctor would you be and why?

CR: I would be a heart surgeon.

AVC: How come?

CR: So I could make people feel beautiful and love.

AVC: That sounds like a high-pressure doctor situation.

CR: Yeah, that’s why it’s me. Boom!

6. What’s your perfect Sunday?

CR: Sleep until about 11. Get up. Go to the farmers market.

AVC: What do you like at the farmers market?

CR: That’s the thing. It’s a farmers market. You can get whatever—peaches, a sandwich. There might be a little band there. I’d sit in with the band. Yeah, that’s what I would do. Sit in with the band at the farmers market. Sing a couple of songs, eat a peach, and hug people.

7. What do you get snobby about?

CR: Comedy. Stand-up.

AVC: In what way are you snobby about it?

CR: About what’s funny, who’s funny. We have some debates with my sister, brother, why something is or is not funny to me.

AVC: Who do you really like right now for stand-up?

CR: Just Nesh.

8. What book have you read the most?

CR: The most?

AVC: Like reread.

CR: [Sings melody.] Shit.

AVC: The questions are getting harder.

CR: I know, right? It’s like, “I don’t know.” What’s the last book I read, too? Read a book for god’s sakes.

AVC: Or even your favorite book.

CR: Hold on a second. Okay, go to the next question. I’m going to think about it.

9. What are you afraid of?

CR: Roaches. A roach takeover.

AVC: What do you think is going to happen?

CR: Well, here’s the thing. If you see one roach, you know there’s 50,000 somewhere else.

AVC: [Laughs.] Yeah.

CR: What else do you need to be afraid of? Jeez.

AVC: Like in a nuclear war, we’ll all be wiped out, but cockroaches survive. That kind of thing?

CR: No, just like—

AVC: Just in general.

CR: Roaches—yeah, in general—like hanging out. You know, while you sleep. Crawling in your mouth. Not that my place is roach-infested.

10. Who are you a big fan of that we wouldn’t necessarily guess that you’re a big fan of?

CR: Maybe you would expect it, but I love sad, slow songs.

AVC: What are some of your favorites?

CR: “Hurt,” Johnny Cash. Or like [Sings.] “Everybody needs a little time away” by Chicago. You know, just something with some grit and pain and a haunting melody.

11. What advice would you give your younger self?

CR: Everything in moderation.

AVC: Were you an over-non-moderation person when you were younger?

CR: Well, let’s take working out, okay? So, you go to lose weight. You go super hard. You keep doing all this more, more, more. Then all of the sudden, you burn yourself out, and now you’re just not doing it.

AVC: Exactly.

CR: As opposed to, you know, boom, here’s a little bit here. Boom. Don’t, you know, don’t cut yourself off from everything. Have a little fun, but don’t go too much.

AVC: Right.

CR: A lot of times, I want to attack something so hardcore that I forget about the baby steps to get to it.

AVC: That’s good advice. Speaking of advice, let’s go back to the professional advice question.

CR: Well, my father tried to discourage me from going into comedy, mainly because he felt like it wasn’t promising. It was pie in the sky. That’s what he would call it: “You guys want that pie in the sky!” You know what I told him? I said, “Dad? This pie tastes delicious.”

AVC: So now he’s super proud of your success?

CR: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. My parents are overjoyed.

My father still has that way of digging at you. You know, like, “Dad, yeah, I’m in this movie. Woo woo woo!” “You got a lot of lines?” It’s like, I don’t even know what that means. What are you talking about? I’m there! I’m in it! “Do you have a lot of lines?” Like he’s going to go and see it if I don’t have a lot of… I always just go, “Nah.” It’s the weirdest question ever.

AVC: Very dad-like.

CR: And The Celestine Prophecy! That’s the book I’ve read the most. There you go. Celestine Prophecy.

12th question from Casey Wilson: What memory always makes you smile?

CR: My parents would take me over to my grandma’s house and she had this big piano. And I would just pound on it while she was cooking in the kitchen, and I’d run in there and go, “How was that, Grandma?” And she’d always say, “Beautiful, baby!” so then I would just go and pound on it some more.

AVC: Now you get to ask a question for the next person.

CR: [Thinks a long time.] What gives you balance?