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The actor: Rob Huebel started performing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in New York alongside Paul Scheer, Rob Riggle, Rob Corddry, and Ed Helms. He’s still connected to those comedy pals, though his network has grown. Perhaps best known for his role on MTV’s Human Giant, the reliably hilarious Huebel has appeared in just about every funny TV and film project over the last few years, including The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Party Down. He was one of the leads on Corddry’s web series Childrens Hospital, currently being adapted for Adult Swim: The repurposed webisodes begin airing July 11, with a second season coming August 22.
Childrens Hospital (2008-2010)—“Dr. Owen Maestro”
Rob Huebel: I wasn’t involved with the initial conception of it. Rob Corddry and David Wain thought it up. I think it was during the strike that they were kicking around the idea. I was brought into it afterward, because they wanted someone on the show that any normal living female would want to have sex with, and I fit the part, so… [Laughs.]
The A.V. Club: Your part is sort of reminiscent of other parts you play—the kind of cocky-but-oblivious dude. Did they write the part with you in mind?
RH: That’s a great question, and I’m not sure I know the answer. Let me take a second. I have to shift into interview mode here, sorry; I was in lunch mode. I was just eating barbecue pork down here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
AVC: What are you filming?
RH: We’re shooting this movie down here called Flypaper. It’s Jeffrey Tambor, Tim Blake Nelson, and McDreamy, you know, Patrick Dempsey, and Ashley Judd. It’s this crazy bank-heist movie where basically two sets of bank robbers show up at the exact same moment to rob the same bank. And I’m like the asshole assistant manager of the bank, and I get taken hostage right away. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do you guys call him McDreamy on the set?
RH: I call him McDreamy, or Dream, or Dreamboat, or Dreams-A-Lot. He’s actually the nicest guy in the world. Let me get back to the Childrens Hospital thing. I think the whole idea behind doing that project was that they got some money from Warner Brothers, from the WB, to do this thing. And it was really “Let’s get all our friends together and just make this thing.” Because at the time, it was just for the Internet. It wasn’t for TV. It became this dream project. So many funny people, and great guest spots and stuff—Nick Offerman, all these super-fun people.
AVC: Does any particular memory or day of shooting stand out?
RH: Well, pretty much every day on set, you knew you were going to be making out with somebody. I think I’ve made out with all the women on the show; I think Ken Marino and I have made out. Maybe we didn’t even film that, we just made out for fun. [Laughs.] We did this one scene—it’s a really serious scene—and Megan Mullally is the chief of the hospital. So she calls all of the doctors into the emergency room and gives us this big speech, and she goes, “Now go out there and save some lives.” And then, one by one, she comes up to each of us, and just like, frenches us, full-on. It’s so unnatural. Like, normally when you kiss somebody, it’s a nice little intimate thing, and then to just immediately have them betray you and kiss the person next to you, and then the person next to them… [Laughs.] Malin Akerman and I had sex on top of the unconscious body of a young hermaphrodite girl. We were doing surgery on this girl to either make her a boy or a girl—I honestly can’t remember—and we get so turned on by operating on this child’s sex organs that we start making out, and then we have sex on top of this girl’s body. So it’s a really family-friendly show. The Parents’ Television Council is going to be super-happy about it.
AVC: I saw the first season online, and thought “Wow, they really go there.”
RH: Yeah, it’s literally hilarious, and it’s so inappropriate. It’s hilarious to me that that show is going to be on a children’s network. Like, it’s going to be cancelled right away. What Cartoon Network does is lure them in during the day with cartoons, and then at night, they just fucking zap their brains with insanity.
Party Down (2010)—“Mr. Dauntless”
RH: That is a huge loss of great television, in my book. But I think everyone might have seen that coming, because it seems that most people on that show had gone on to do other things. But really, that was Starz’ fuckup. Starz didn’t lock those people down, and they’re all so funny and so talented, and if you don’t lock them down…
AVC: How did they approach you for your episode?
RH: We were shooting Childrens Hospital around the same time. The comedy world is like a small pond; we all know each other. David Wain was directing that, so he called me and said “You should come in and do this thing, you know, where you and Kerri Kenney are trying to seduce Martin Starr and have sex with him.” The chance to have a three-way with Kerri Kenney and Martin Starr… I wouldn’t turn that down.
AVC: Because the community is so small, does the pendulum ever swing the other way? Is there competition?
RH: I don’t see it that way. I see it as a huge bonus. At least in L.A. I just moved to L.A. a few years ago. I was in New York for 10 years, but my experience there was the same thing. There seems to be this weird love-fest going on, where a lot of people in the comedy world are just super-supportive and help with each other’s projects and are doing each other’s shows. The chance to get to work with all these other people that really crack you up and make you laugh, it’s such a fucking fun time.
AVC: What do you think it is about comedy that makes people so supportive, and brings people together?
RH: Hmm. Cocaine? Guns? I would say the illegal fighting of dogs, and wagering on those fights. All of those elements combine to make an explosive environment. I don’t know whether it’s just that we see each other perform live.
AVC: It isn’t like there’s a lot of live, improvised drama, where dramatic actors can just swing by and hang out.
RH: I think dramatic actors might take themselves too seriously. [Laughs.] Comedians are generally drinking or doing other illegal things.
Human Giant (2007-2008)—Various characters
RH: Human Giant was a kind of lightning in a bottle. A rare opportunity for us to write and create our own sort of thing, with very few restrictions. During the first season of Human Giant, I remember the people at MTV were all over us. They hadn’t really done a live-action short-film comedy show, so they didn’t know what it was going to be, and they were worried. But after that, they let us do whatever we wanted. The beauty of that show is that we overshot; we shot so many sketches that we never used. Sometimes we would start to work on stuff and we would look at it and say, “This was really funny when we were talking about it in the room, but looking at it, this was a terrible idea, let’s never… Let’s bury this.”
AVC: Do any come to mind?
RH: There were so many that we killed. It’s almost too embarrassing. That’s like making someone look at something in the toilet and saying, “I just made that!” [Laughs.]
AVC: In other interviews, you’ve talked about the origin of “Shutterbugs,” how you had a stack of kids’ headshots. How did that come about?
RH: I don’t know what kind of question that’s supposed to be. I don’t know what you’re implying, that it’s weird or creepy that I have a bunch of children’s headshots at my house. Let me tell you something, man, I don’t go fuckin’ sneaking around, poking my head into your personal affairs. Get off my back. [Laughs.] A friend of mine in New York is a casting director, and I was in her office one day, and there was a stack of like 300 kids’ headshots, just these little kids, like 5 years old. I started looking at it, and I started laughing so hard. Because when you see the headshot of a child, they’re so filled with wonder and joy and optimism; they have no idea of the shame and humiliation that awaits them in life. And it just made me laugh so hard.
So I asked her if I could have the stack. I showed them one time to Aziz [Ansari], and we were like, “Oh my God, we gotta shoot this thing.” We did [“Shutterbugs”] live at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York, and the bit was that Aziz and I were headshot photographers. So that’s where the title “Shutterbugs” came from; that was the name of our business. We started writing that as a miniseries, and that was really the first thing we ever shot with Jason [Woliner]. Then Paul [Scheer] and Aziz went off with Jason and shot “Illusionators.” Again, this was before the TV show; we were just kind of messing around. MTV saw that stuff, and that’s how we got the show.
AVC: Did you find Bobb’e J. Thompson through those old headshots?
RH: Bobb’e J. is amazing. No, we found Bobb’e J because Jason and Aziz and Paul were obsessed with this show America’s Most Talented Kids; he was a judge on the show. He would improvise all these ridiculous lines. Like a little girl would perform a song, and it would just cut to Bobb’e J., and he would be like, “Sweetheart, let me tell you something, girl, you must have just fallen from heaven, because you smell like an angel to me.”
30 Rock (2008)—“MILF Island Host”
RH: MILF Island, yeah. That was one of my favorite things. I knew Tina a little from the New York comedy world, so she asked me if I wanted to do that. I was living in L.A. already, but I flew to New York because it was like, “Oh, I’m going to be the host of a fake reality show called MILF Island. Fuck yes.”
AVC: Was it just one day?
RH: Yeah, they had all these fake Survivor-type sets built. The crazy thing about MILF Island was that they had this ceremony where the women would get kicked off—my line was something like, “We no longer wanna hit that.” Then they would go over to this huge bonfire, and would take off their bikini tops and throw them into the fire in this symbolic gesture. I guess on the show, on MILF Island, they don’t even let them keep their swimming suits. But there were little kids there on the set. [Laughs.] There were a lot of, like, 10-year-old boys on MILF Island, watching the ceremony of these women taking off their bikini tops and burning them. I think they actually shot it in a way where the women’s nipples probably had Band-Aids on them or something. But I remember the boys—you know that’s the dream job for a 10-year-old actor, like, “What? I’m going to be on an island with these women, and I’m going to see boobies?” I remember there was this one little fat kid, who between takes was going over to the craft-services table, snacking on all the candy and drinking soda, and then they were shooting and he was looking at boobies. I remember him just taking in the whole scene and thinking, “This is my dream job.”
The Office (2009)—“A.J.”
RH: I always play Holly’s boyfriend A.J. That was one of the things where my natural tendency is to be an asshole. [Laughs.] And the director was like “No, you can’t be an asshole, because no one wants Holly to be dating an asshole. She’s smarter than that, and she deserves better than that.” So yeah, I got shot down on that one. I had to play it really straight and just sort of be normal, which was really hard for me. Amy Ryan and Steve Carell together? Both of them are so talented, but together, it’s so fun to watch them. Like, you don’t want me in the background fucking it up.
AVC: Why is your natural instinct to go the asshole route?
RH: Well, now we’re delving deep into my psychology. I don’t know why I like to play assholes so much, but I really do. I think it’s because in real life, I don’t think I’m an asshole. But when you meet someone that is really oblivious to the rest of the world, so selfish and arrogant, it makes me laugh so hard. I don’t know why. Those guys just really make me laugh. Eventually I’ll have to play things a different way. I won’t be able to be a douchebag. I’ll have to be just a really sweet, sincere guy. And then you’ll read like the next day on the Internet that I blew my head off.
Arrested Development (2005)—“Dave Williams”
RH: That’s like one of my all-time favorite shows. I’m looking at Jeffrey Tambor right now. I’m shooting a movie with him, and I’m watching him walk around set. [Laughs.] He’s the nicest guy in the world. I wish I could kill him and crawl inside of his body. I was on Arrested Development for—if you blink, you’ll miss it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2005)—“Dr. Mark”
RH: When you audition for Curb, you go in and you actually audition with Larry David. Like, he’s there! You do the scene with them, and it’s improvised. They give me a little piece of paper: “You’re a doctor. You live next door to Larry. He thinks you’re stealing his newspaper every day.” And that’s all it said. You don’t try to steal scenes from Larry David. He’s funny, and you just let him be Larry. And then eventually he’s gonna do something that’s embarrassing or inappropriate, and you’re gonna go “LARRY!” But that show—I know I sound like I’m just repeating myself, and I’m saying that everything is so fun and everyone is so great, but—
AVC: Everything was so fun and everyone was so great?
RH: Yeah, doing comedy shows, it’s hard to not have fun. Well, I’ve done my share of—I’ve eaten my share of shit. In fact, I host a live show in L.A. every month at Upright Citizens’ Brigade called “The Shit Show.” I get a group of actors to come out onstage, and they have to show a clip of the worst thing they’ve ever been in. I have done so many stupid commercials and terrible other little projects that never went anywhere and just ended up being terrible.
AVC: Once I was watching Human Giant, and during the commercial break, you were in an Olive Garden commercial.
RH: Well it’s funny you bring that up. First of all, the interview’s over, because you brought up the one thing I refuse to talk about. This interview is completely over. Yeah, that’s like the closest I’ve ever come to actually killing myself. What happened was… [Laughs.] That commercial… I was in New York, and when I auditioned, they told me they were going to go in a completely new direction. The commercials were going to be really funny, and they wanted improvisers. So when I shot it, all day long I was just improvising whatever I wanted, being really sarcastic and shitty. Like, the waitress would come over and go, “Hey, how’s it goin’?” And I would go “Excuse me, adults are talking here. Come back later.” You know? Weird crap. And at the very end of the day, they go, “Hey, do you mind doing one take where you just say this line and this line?” And I go “Okay, yeah, sure. No problem.” So I did it. And of course that’s the one that they use. It was really sincere. And really shitty.
So I forgot about it. It didn’t air for the longest time. And then right after Human Giant got picked up, it started airing. All my friends were e-mailing and calling me, like “What the fuck is this?” I had no idea. I didn’t even remember doing it, and then it was airing all the time. And thankfully, since it had been so long since they shot it, the contract was just about to expire—I think they could only air it for a month. So they aired the shit out of it for a month. Then when they went to renew my contract, I told my agent, “Tell them that I want a million dollars.” And he was like, “Well they’re going to cancel it.” “But I want you to tell them that I want a million dollars.” So they went back to them and told them that I wanted a million dollars. And then it got pulled off the air. About a month later, a different commercial popped on with the exact same dialogue with a guy that looked a lot like me.
Then about a month later, I started getting the checks for it and I got, like, a crazy amount of money. I thought about, for a while, keeping it running and taking all that money to build a statue in front of Olive Garden of me sitting on the toilet, eating Olive Garden.
AVC: So what else have you shown at The Shit Show?
The Love Guru (2008)—“Frat Guy”
RH: Man, this interview is becoming too painful. It started off so positive and fun, and now it’s becoming a bucket of shame. I feel like I need to take a shower. Let me see—The Love Guru came about—well, I got a phone call and they said, “Do you want to do this Mike Myers movie?” And I said “Yeah!” You know? When you hear that on the phone, it’s like “Yeah, I’ll do a scene in a Mike Myers movie.” They’re like “You’re gonna be starting a fight with Mike Myers in a bar. He’s gonna pick up a beer bottle and smash it over your head. And then this huge bar fight’s gonna break out. It’s gonna be hilarious.” I didn’t really read the script. I just went to Toronto and shot it. I didn’t really know what the movie was. But the scene was really fun. It was with, like, a hundred stuntmen. Then I went to the première of the movie, and about 30 seconds in, I was like “Oh no. Oh no. Oh, what’s happening? What’s happening?” So I waited around until my scene came on, I saw my scene, and then snuck out of the theater. At the première.
AVC: I’ve seen the movie. You didn’t really miss anything.
RH: Yeah, I’m really anxious to know how it turns out. Did he ever become a love guru?