It’s an oft-repeated truism that comedy is tragedy plus time. Perhaps no show on television better illustrates that principle than Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, which is planning to end its improbable seven-season run with a final episode this Friday. Series creator and Rob Corddry has even referred to the eponymous setting as “the least funny place anywhere.” But, somehow, the show has consistently managed to wring laughs out of a decidedly anti-comedic atmosphere. On the eve of the show’s destruction, Wired’s Scott Porch has assembled an oral history of the star-studded series with plenty of quotes from the actors, writers, and producers who made it happen, including Corddry, David Wain, Nick Offerman, Henry Winkler, and more.
The philosophy that has guided Childrens Hospital since its days as a web series on TheWB.com back in 2008 seems to have been: “Why not?” Why not, for instance, do a sexed-up medical show in the Grey’s Anatomy tradition but transplant it to the children’s ward of a hospital? Once the makers of the show made that crucial leap, they were able to explore any number of creative avenues, not bound by common sense or good taste. It was perfect for comedy. The key behind-the-scenes players had nothing to lose, it seems. Corddry was still smarting from the cancellation of Fox’s The Winner, and executive producer David Wain had just had a flop with his film The Ten. Bizarre as it was, Childrens Hospital seemed like a perfectly sensible project for them at the time. From there, the show’s producers went about getting all of their funny friends involved. The key to the show’s success seems to have been the heedlessness of all involved. Just about everybody agreed to just about everything, so the show was allowed to be as ridiculous as it wanted to be. Change formats for an episode? Why not? Bring back Lake Bell from the dead? Why not? With the end of Childrens Hospital, something truly beautiful is dying.