Talking to Craig Rowin About ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell’
Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, which premiered last night at midnight on Adult Swim, is the first live-action offering from Dave Willis and Chris “Casper” Kelly, the minds behind cult hits like Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies. Based on a pilot the duo originally created back in 2010, Your Pretty Face is an sharp comedy that’s equal parts Alighieri and Gary Larson, a glimpse into the lives of office workers who just happen to have the worst boss ever — Satan.
You’ve probably heard of Cerberus, the hound who guards the entrance to the underworld, but what about the masturbating spider who lives in Satan’s office? Sure, getting into the afterlife is as easy as crossing a river, but what about getting a prestigious internship with a demon-in-training? Your Pretty Face follows mid-level incubus Gary (Henry Zebrowski) and his intern Claude (Craig Rowin) as they placate tortured souls and deal with their boss, the devil (Matt Servitto). The quarter-hour comedy blends The Office‘s trademark celebration of the mundane with the trippy visuals of Tim & Eric and the absurdity of, well, Willis and Kelly’s other projects, and the result is a practical guide to the afterlife that puts Ovid’s Metamorphisis to shame.
Actor, improviser, podcaster and TV expert Craig Rowin — who plays ambitious intern Claude — tells us why Adult Swim’s latest show is more than just a pitch-perfect, and perfectly absurd, parody.
Would you describe Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell as a sort of “typical workplace comedy” that just happens to take place somewhere terrible?
It’s definitely not your average office comedy. If somebody gets in trouble at this office, their legs get crushed in a bunch of gears, or they’re put on a human spit. There are elements of, “oh, this is just another office job,” but the adventures that Gary goes on, and that I get to go on, are so beyond that, and the visuals are so exciting and crazy that I don’t really think there’s something that you can quite relate it to. There are moments where it could feel like just another boring office — but then there’s a masturbating spider.
How did you get involved with the show?
I went through the audition process; I was sent the sides for the character that I ended up playing, Claude, and when I read it, then read the whole script and realized it was by the guys who had worked on Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies, I was like, this is amazing. The script was hilarious. It was probably the most time I’ve ever put into preparing an audition. And then I ended up getting a callback and auditioning in front of Dave and Casper, who created and directed the show, and it was awesome — I did a scene from the first episode where my head’s in a toilet, and I started gagging and Dave was like, “oh my god’ this is terrible, this is real now.” Him being grossed out and regretting having put it on paper made me realize it was going pretty well.
Tell us a little about your character, Claude.
Claude is a go-getter. He starts as an intern in Hell, as Gary’s intern, and he quickly acclimates himself to Hell and realizes that Gary is completely inept, and the best way to get ahead is to kiss up to Satan as much as possible (which he’s very good at). He’s the guy every office you’ve worked in that gets ahead because he kisses up and he’s really driven. Basically, I’m a foil for Henry’s character, which is very fun — to just get annoyed at him and tell him to shut up a lot. Henry’s character is so sweet, so it’s very fun to try to shove him down.
With so many post-production set elements (flames! rivers of lava!), what was it like filming day to day?
Well, the cool thing was that a lot of the effects were practical. Basically two guys — Shane Morton and Chris Brown, who are makeup and effects geniuses — designed the things that you could actually see and interact with. They made the horns, they did a lot of the visual stuff for the show, and then the backgrounds were green-screened. The cool thing is that, when you’re in Hell, you’re kind of unaffected by the fire and lava around you, so it wasn’t that hard to pretend it was there. But now when I see episodes and clips of it I’m so blown away by how they turned us standing in an almost empty space into this insanity.
Was there much room for improvising on set?
Dave and Chris wrote everything, but they definitely let us go and improvise a lot, which was very fun because Henry and Matt Servitto, who plays Satan, were really up for whatever, they’re real pros. There was one scene that I remember was maybe like two lines in the script — something like, “Put these birds in alphabetical order” — and Henry just went off and turned this quarter of a page into five minutes. I’m sure not much got in there, but they were all down for us to have fun with the script.
I saw that Eddie Pepitone is playing himself in an episode — can we expect lots more amazing guests?
Eddie is a recurring tortured soul, and believe it or not, Eddie Pepitone gets very frustrated in hell and has a lot of reasons to yell, which is amazing. They casted Eddie Pepitone as Eddie Pepitone perfectly — he’s hilarious and also great to be around. Matt Besser’s in an episode, he spends a lot of time with Henry’s character, which is really fun. Dana Snyder, who’s the voice of master shake from Aqua Teen, is Gary’s roommate on earth and he’s hilarious. Dan Ahdoot, who’s a standup, is in it too. There a lot of great people involved, a lot who have been involved with Adult Swim before, and hopefully we’ll get even more cameos. I mean, really the possibility of people who could end up in Hell is limitless.
You watch a lot of TV for your podcast, It’s That Episode with Craig Rowin; was it hard to get out of that analytical mindset while you were filming?
That’s a good question; I don’t know if I overanalyze things, but as I was going through this I definitely learned a lot. I’m a huge fan of The Sopranos, so when you’re in a scene with Matt Servitto [who played Agent Dwight Harris on the HBO show] and you see somebody who’s been on TV for so many years and is such a total pro, you definitely learn a lot. I watch a lot of TV but I also improvise a lot, so that’s where my background is, and definitely over the course of this show I feel like I learned a lot. And I feel like — though I hope it doesn’t show too much — I got better as time went on. Being a fan of TV it’s just awesome being on a set, and knowing you’re involved with a channel you really enjoy watching? That was where the fandom came in.
Do you have a dream project you’d like to work on?
I fear saying it out loud, but I might as well because why the hell not — I want to do “The Time Travelers Guide to Time Travel.” It would be some probably slightly incompetent person giving you a tour throgh time, showing you the Caligula orgies if you’re into that, or the 1980s party scene, that kind of thing. Basically any excuse to do anything involving time travel. Robert Zemeckis, if you ever read this interview — call me.
Would you consider doing a Your Pretty Face-themed episode of It’s That Episode?
I would, though unfortunately the Adult Swim guys are in Atlanta. I thought about getting everyone together to watch it, sort of like a commentary that would probably devolve into bits and stuff. I would like to at some point — I try not to choose the episodes we watch on the podcast but once in a while I have to, I’ve started to compile some stuff for people who are too busy. Who knows, maybe someone else who I wouldn’t expect will pick it, and then I’ll have to awkwardly talk about how I look in every show.
If you did choose an episode, what would it be?
It would be the final episode of Quantum Leap. It’s just it’s one of those shows that I loved as a kid, and I’m not going to say I remember every episode or anything but it definitely influenced me and stuck with me. The final episode, I remember as a kid being like, “I don’t know what just happened,” it was very strange and I didn’t quite grasp it. I’d love to watch it now and see how it holds up, and I’d love to have an excuse to watch it with someone else.
Hopefully you’ll have a whole new crew of listeners once the show premieres; what can they look forward to in the next few weeks?
I’m excited because I’m doing a full episode of Quantum Leap — not the finale — with Josh Patten, who’s a writer for Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update. That’s the show I would have chosen if I was a guest on my podcast, so I’m excited for that one. Then I have Jon Daly, who recently worked on Kroll Show — we did a special episode where I curated a couple of commercials that I thought were tailored towards him. I hoping to do many more, to see more good and bad TV.
Are you the kind of guy who loves bad TV as much as you love good TV?
It depends. I’d say its easier to watch terrible things with someone else, because when youre watching it by yourself, something feels unfortunately a little sadder about it. But I very much enjoy terrible things. I love the Found Footage Festival — those guys, I didn’t know them beforehand, but they were some of my first guests on It’s That Episode, because I love that festival. They compile amazing old VHS tapes, professional and homemade, into the most insane, incredible montages. To me that’s the perfect form of bad stuff, when somebody who appreciates it even more than you sort of weeds out the worst of the worst and puts it together. It’s nice when you have somebody of bring you into that world.
Who do you think is going to be really into the world of Your Pretty Face?
I think probably the best demographic is grandparents. (Just kidding.) If you’re into what Adult Swim does, I feel like this the purest form of it; it’s totally a live action cartoon. The writing is great and the effects and the visuals are beyond anything I’ve seen on TV, it’s very bizarre. If you like heavy meal album covers, and if you’re a teenager who likes writing “666” on the margins of your notebooks, you’ll like it. And if you like sort of absurdist comedy and stuff like that, you’ll definitely dig this show. I’m not going to say it’s going to have the audience of The Big Bang Theory — what’s the catchphrase of that show? Bazinga. This is like bazinga times ten.
Does Claude have a catchphrase?