Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hot Tub Time Machine’s Clark Duke on going up against Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo

Duke, center, with Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Duke, center, with Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson in Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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


Clark Duke is one of those actors that you know, but you might not really know. With roles in both Kick-Ass movies, both Hot Tub Time Machine movies, and spots on Greek, Two And A Half Men, and the final season of The Office, Duke has popped up in some beloved properties, but often without much fanfare. Still, Duke is a solid utility player, especially for parts requiring an actor to be nerdy but not that nerdy, awkward but not that awkward, and weird but, again, not that weird.

Duke’s latest project, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, is in theaters now.

1. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Clark Duke: I’ve never really done anything but this, thankfully, which is a pretty awesome thing. So I don’t really have any big complaints.

The A.V. Club: Have you ever had a bad audition?

CD: I’ve had about a hundred of those, yeah. The one that I recall that really made me think about leaving and doing something else was for a commercial, and it was between me and the guy who played Uncle Leo on Seinfeld. We were sitting in the waiting room for the same audition.

AVC: For the same part?

CD: I think so. A lot of times for commercials it was so broad. I don’t think I ever got a single callback for a single commercial. I was apparently really bad at it.


2. When did you first feel successful?

CD: It’s all relative. I don’t ever feel so much so that I’m not nervous. It’s weird. It’s a weird headspace, doing this for a living, because you’re constantly unemployed all the time, but at the same time, just being able to make a living doing it feels like a success.


AVC: You didn’t feel successful on The Office? Though I suppose you knew that was coming to an end when you got it.

CD: Yeah, I just closed the doors up over there.

AVC: And you had Greek, but that never felt like a real slam-dunk.

CD: [Laughs.] Yeah.

I would say the first time I really felt like a noticeable change was probably when the first Hot Tub and the first Kick-Ass came out within a month of each other. That felt like a noticeable change of life, I would say.

3. If you were a supervillain, what would be your master plan?

CD: Oh, wow. I think I might disable the Internet permanently. Just do away with it. That would be the most inconvenient thing you could do as a supervillain. I wouldn’t be so much about death and destruction, but more into inconvenience.


AVC: Why?

CD: It’s way funnier.

4. What were you like as a kid?

CD: I read a lot. My mom said I would always just ask people for stuff, like if I met people, I’d say “Can I have that?” And I always thought that was funny. Apparently I didn’t have a great sense of personal property.


AVC: Were you acting as a kid?

CD: I did, yeah, for a while—from like 6 to 10 or something like that. I was apparently very outgoing.


AVC: You’d probably have to be to get your parents to put you in classes.

CD: I think there’s a commonality to most actors about kind of wanting to please people. And I definitely was like that as a kid. I always wanted to make grown-ups happy.


5. Who was your celebrity crush when you were younger?

CD: Britney Spears around that first album was a pretty inescapable image. You know, in the schoolgirl outfit…


AVC: How old were you then?

CD: I think I would have been in junior high, maybe? That’s my sense of when it was. Maybe I’m off.


AVC: The whole thing happened in ’99.

CD: Okay, yeah. Then I would have been 14. That’d be about right.

6. If you had entrance music, what would it be?

CD: This is such a hard question, because this is actually something I think about a lot, because I love wrestling. Maybe… gosh, this is huge. This is the hardest question I’ve got of all the press stuff so far.


You should just write “four-minute pause” in italics after this one. [Four-minute pause.]

I might go the opposite tack as opposed to trying to get an aggressive or scary song and maybe just do something to weird everybody out, like “Steal Away” by Robbie Dupree or something.

AVC: Something very soothing?

CD: Just the least tough-sounding song.

AVC: But would you come out with bravado or slink out?

CD: No, there’d be showmanship. I always thought the best one ever was how CM Punk would come out to “Cult Of Personality” by Living Colour, which I always thought was pretty hard to top. I’ve never seen a better one than that.


AVC: We recently talked to the Lucas Brothers, who are into wrestling as well. Their 12th question was “What would your finishing move be?” Do you have one?

CD: I think mine would be an homage to Ric Flair. I would do the Figure-Four Leglock.

7. What have you done so far today?

CD: Today I have done a bunch of interviews and press stuff for the movie. And I ate a Cobb salad in the back of a car.


AVC: Was it someone else’s car or your car?

CD: It’s not my car, no. It’s a town car. But if that’s not making it, I don’t know what is.


8. What other celebrities have you been mistaken for?

CD: That doesn’t happen to me a whole lot. Thank goodness, I guess. I think I’m fairly specific. My brother looks a lot like me. Somebody thought he was me one day, which is pretty fun.


AVC: Do people know your name?

CD: Yeah. But they didn’t for a long time. It always goes in that order of like, “Hey, why do I know you?” And then it goes like, “Are you that guy?” And then it’s, “Are you that guy from X?” And then it’s finally your name.


AVC: When people say “How do I know you?” do you say, “Well, you might know me from…”

CD: No, I always go, “I don’t know.” Because that’s the truth. I don’t know.

AVC: They might just see you at the same coffee shop a lot.

CD: Exactly. It’s such a weird question. What you get a lot is like people think they recognize you, but they don’t know why, so you get, “Did you go to so-and-so High School?” I get that sort of stuff.

9. If you had to find another line of work, what skills would you put on your resume?

CD: Oh, man. I don’t know. I don’t feel like I have enough marketable skills, really.


Juggling? I’m a decent juggler.

AVC: Like how decent?

CD: Not enough to make a career.

AVC: But you could do like kids’ parties?

CD: You know what, I used to DJ a little, so I could do that. I could DJ.

AVC: Do you own your own gear?

CD: Yeah, I have turntables.

10. Do you collect anything? If so, what and why?

CD: Comic books. I’ve loved comics since I was able to read, pretty much. I’ve switched over to just buying trades in the last few years, just because I ran out of room, and I got tired of moving them, to be honest. But there’s so much awesome stuff right now. It’s kind of a golden age for comics as far as the quality of the writing and stuff.


AVC: What kind of stuff are you reading right now?

CD: The coolest thing I’ve read in a long time is this book from Image called They’re Not Like Us, which is like the Brit-pop X-Men, which is like a really awesome Venn diagram. There’s this book, also from Image, Sex Criminals, and also there’s a book called Sex, by Joe Casey, which is like my favorite thing in forever. It’s this weird story about Batman retiring—I mean, they don’t call him Batman, but it’s Batman—and he doesn’t have an outlet for his insane personality so he just turns into a weird, tortured billionaire, trying to deal with these fantasies and stuff. Satellite Sam, by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin is really incredible. Anything Ed Brubaker writes is always really, really amazing.


So much good stuff. I’m forgetting a ton of stuff off the top of my head, but…

AVC: Do you go buy stuff every Wednesday?

CD: No, I kind of don’t have time anymore, or room, so now I buy most stuff via trades, like from Amazon or whatever. I still try to go to Meltdown Comics here in L.A. when I can for single-issue stuff.

11. What would your last meal be?

CD: Probably this place in Burbank called Chili John’s, and they just have chili. It kind of makes you feel like you’re on death row after you eat it. So it would be fine.


AVC: Do they just have one kind of chili, or do they specialize in a bunch of different kinds?

CD: They have a bunch of different kinds. They have beef and chicken and I think they even have a vegetarian one, and you eat it over noodles or beans or rice or whatever you want. It’s one of the more specific meals I’ve ever had anywhere, and I love it.


It would either be that, or there’s this restaurant in New Orleans that we were all obsessed with when we were shooting the [Hot Tub Time Machine 2] movie called Butcher. Me and Adam Scott and the writer of the movie, Josh Heald, started going, and we would just order one of everything and then just all share it. But we were going like twice a day. Butcher is my favorite restaurant in the country I think. And I’m really upset, because I was in New Orleans 24 hours ago and I did not get to go.

I did run into a guy at a bar who went, “Hey, why do I know you, man?” And then he goes, “Oh yeah, you used to come to Butcher all the time!” He was the manager at Butcher. Had not seen any of the movies, he just knew that I used to come in there a lot.


Bonus question from Mark Duplass: How many sessions of therapy have you had?

CD: I have had none.

AVC: Zero?

CD: Yeah, zero.

AVC: What question would you like to ask the next person?

CD: I’m asking this question only because you’re the only person who hasn’t asked it so far out of all the press stuff we’ve had to do. Everyone always asks, “If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?” So I’m going to spitefully pass along that question.


AVC: Is that the bad question you guys get all the time?

CD: It’s not that it, by itself, is a bad question. It’s just when you hear it from a different person every seven minutes on a loop for three days, it just turns into the worst question on earth.


AVC: And they think it’s really funny?

CD: Everybody always sets it up like, “All right. I’m gonna drop this bombshell question on you that’s gonna knock you off your feet and that you haven’t heard yet.”


It would be so great if after this you interviewed Adam Scott or Rob Corddry. If you could get ahold of one of them and ask them that question, that would truly make my day.

AVC: Do you guys give the same answer every time or do you mix it up?

CD: No, the press junket in general just devolves into like chaos toward the end of the day. You just start giving the worst answers. I don’t think we ever actually gave a real answer to it.


AVC: Really? You didn’t say, “Oh, Prohibition. Bootlegging. The ’20s.” That’s what people always say.

CD: No, my stock answer is that I wouldn’t go anywhere.

AVC: You could go into the future and become a supervillain and take away everybody’s Internet.


CD: Yeah, but I would want to do that right now. I don’t want to save that for later. I would do that now. It would mean the most right now. And the Internet probably won’t even be around in the future. We’ll have something better.

AVC: That makes sense.

CD: The Internet will be like pagers.

AVC: You could go to the ’60s and buy Internet stock.

CD: So you would just use all your time traveling for personal gain?

AVC: Well, maybe not. Isn’t that the plot to Back To The Future Part II, though?


CD: That’s actually what we do in the first movie. The end of the first Hot Tub was just us realizing that all we needed to be happy all along was a fortune. It’s a horrible message.

AVC: So then you’re sticking to the straight and narrow by staying in the now?

CD: Yeah. I’m a hero.