Rob Corddry’s Peaceful Breakup with ‘Childrens Hospital’
Not long after talking to David Wain about the seemingly endless possibilities for Childrens Hospital, the news broke that this season would be its last. As nobody saw this coming except one of the co-creators, Rob Corddry, I got the chance to talk to Corddry over the phone about his decision to end the show, how everybody was taking it, and the beauty of working with friends.
I feel like I’m approaching a conversation about a breakup you just went through.
It’s funny you’d say that, because I’m cleaning my home office today and taking it slowly apart, putting it back together. It’s a nightmare right now, a dusting nightmare, and I realized as I was doing it, this is exactly like when women or, I don’t know, just people with hair, I don’t know if it’s specific to women, get a haircut after a breakup.
You’re trying on a bold, new look.
We’re doing a lot of renovations in our house right now, so everything’s chaos, and I’m the kind of person that needs my surroundings to be somewhat ordered for my brain to work, and this is a period of my life where I require some orderly thinking, so I’m cleaning, I’m dusting, I’m moving things around.
You’re moving on. You’re looking toward new horizons. But it was a peaceful breakup, I assume?
Oh, yeah. I mean, I know the second I got off the phone with everybody in the cast the emergency red phones were ringing off the hook, that whole phone-tree… I’m not sure exactly how they feel, in a way they wouldn’t feel comfortable telling me, but we’re all very good friends, and I trust that there’re all good feelings. I can’t think of an example where there wouldn’t be. Except for [Rob] Huebel, because he’s just a dick!!!
A Corddry-Huebel conflict? I’ll certainly make a note that–
And I’d like three exclamation points after that, please. I want it to be noted that I asked for those exclamation points.
Well apart from Huebel, I’m glad it was peaceful. I suppose it’s a pretty stellar cast of people, though, so nobody is really out on the street.
That’s the thing. That’s what I realized, that a lot of showrunners are afraid that they’re going to leave hundreds of people in the lurch, but that’s not the case with this show. Their careers have grown along with it, to the point where they’re almost impossible to schedule, so I’m not worried about that part of it.
Was this something that hit you all at once, or was this something you’ve been thinking about for a while?
I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I don’t know whether my process of decision-making or even thinking is just slow or whether this is the way it usually works, but it’s more like I just feel a certain way about something I can’t put my finger on, and then just slowly kind of just parse it out as I go about life. I think my feelings are easier made into thoughts when I’m… It’s via life experiences, doing Ballers and being away from my family and everything for four months was pretty earth-shaking… It vibrates through your life in a way that shakes things up, so that was like the catalyst that sort of shook these things loose over the course of the last couple months.
Right, and you’re going out on a high point. Your show has found its voice so it didn’t feel like it was struggling, really, I’ll say.
Yeah, exactly. Like, when I say “We did it,” that’s exactly what I mean. “We did it! What’s next?” This is exactly what this show should be, and we’ve done it at this level I think for quite some time. It’s been great.
I just spoke with David Wain a few months ago about the show, and one of the things I was talking to him about was how, because of the show’s internal logic, pretty much anything that happens can be explained in some other way. You can get away with everything.
Yeah, it’s like animation, basically.
Yeah, so there isn’t… It’s one of those shows where there never really had to be an end.
No, and there still isn’t, right? We’ll do specials when the mood slash ideas hit us, and I’m definitely not opposed to like talking about… Like, these characters are so fun. There are a million different spin-off ideas. I just don’t want to be as in control for whatever comes next as I was on Childrens, because that was what was so all-encompassing for me.
Yeah, and this was sort of the first time you were really front-and-center on, as far as production is concerned.
Yeah, it’s the first thing… I mean, my partners Jon [Stern] and David [Wain] were definitely as important to this show in terms of running it and the creative side of it and evolving, but yeah, if I had a business card it would say, “Showrunner, Childrens Hospital.”
See, I’m smart because I know I’m dumb, and I surround myself with people who are smarter than me, so I’m never worried that I’m not going to be able to do it. I don’t feel that kind of pressure about it.
I noticed that the other show you’re on now, Ballers, is billed as a dramedy. What does that mean to you, exactly? Do you think it leans more one way than another?
I don’t know. We talk about that all the time. I just think it’s… I don’t know, man, but I love just going in somewhere and acting. I don’t know if anybody could tell you exactly what it is, because what the fuck is a “dramedy” anyway? It’s a half-hour show, so if you’re doing a litmus test, that’s a comedy, but there’s probably drama than there is comedy. I have no idea, man.
What half-hour show is going to be one hundred percent comedy all the time? Even comedies have serious points; otherwise you would throw up after half an hour.
Yeah. If the show’s not going to have serious points, then you’ve got to make it 15 minutes.
Childrens Hospital is part and parcel of that whole do-it-yourself online-to-TV production model. Does that still appeal to you, or now that you’ve worked with a network, do you see yourself more going directly to that from here on out?
I don’t think that online-to-TV model was ever a real “model” and nor has it become one. I just think that’s what happened to us. It was eight years ago, and it might as well be decades when we’re talking about how technology is advancing. I think that what online entertainment was back then has become just hundreds and hundreds of great channels to let creators do their thing, and now that online stuff… I don’t know. I suspect that most people doing online stuff don’t have aspirations to do it for TV, because they could have. There’s just so much room for creators now. I think the web is, in itself, a network too. It’s a viable place to do things, without any further aspirations.
So what’s next?
Well, we’ve got a pilot at Adult Swim that we’ve been developing for a while, and we’re getting ready to shoot it, and we’ve got a—
Oh, Jon Stern, Becca Kinskey, who was a producer on Childrens for a while, and this writer from New York, Josh Perilo, who I did improv with years and years ago. There are also a couple other things that are in more developmental stages. I’m writing a screenplay, or at least I’m preparing to write a screenplay. I want to do it right, and it’s… Just like Childrens did, it involves me learning exactly how I write a screenplay, or what that’s all about, and that’s fun. So I got a lot of notes and outlines and Dan Harmon story circles and all that stuff.
Now I feel like I did just like right before Childrens, I’m coming up with more ideas than anything. It’s great. This is what I was missing before. This was what I felt too full to be hungry for, just ideas, so I’m making connections again, and have a lot of ideas, which is great. That’s what I love.
Was it a part of feeling comfortable with Childrens, writing-wise? It really does seem like the show had figured out a voice for itself and a style for episodes, and you could take it kind of take it in whatever direction, and so I assume there was a comfort in that.
Right, I see what you mean. I don’t think so. I think that’s the goal. I’ve been comfortable in that way for a couple seasons, but it’s always, always, always, no matter how, no matter how easy it is, or how much you know how an episode should go, it’s still very complicated. So it’s not like “comfortable” in the actual sense of physically sitting your ass down and writing or take notes on other people’s writing, and blah blah blah…
Sure, just slightly less scary, perhaps.
Slightly less scary. With more confidence, I would say.
I know a lot of comedians talk about this feeling that when they write a new joke or something, they have a fear that that’s it, “I did it. What if that’s the last one I’m able to produce.” Do you ever suffer from that feeling?
No, but maybe I’m just stupid, because a lot of people have said that to me, like “Statistically, we only get one ‘big one,’ one personal triumph in this business, in terms of creating. They’re not a dime a dozen.” and I’m like… I’m not going to commit to anything that I don’t love, that I don’t think I’ll love as much as Childrens, and if you put it together the right way, just set the stage for it to be great. I never really understood that, which is why I’m sort of stammering over an explanation.
Maybe I’m just cocky, you know? It’s sort of like that the laws of attraction thing. “If I want to get another one I’ll just do it.” That’s arrogance, and whatever, man; I don’t think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m God’s gift to this business, but that’s not a feeling I’m going to feel bad about, that level of confidence.
I think it’s just sort of a neurosis for some reason a lot of people have, they feel like their brain is just going to somehow be like “Well, that’s it. That’s all the ideas.”
Yeah, but there’s also that other thing that… Do you think it’s related? When people say, “Oh, last season was so good, now I feel so much pressure to make this season good.” That’s another thing I’ve never felt, and I don’t know if it’s related or not. I haven’t really unpacked this, but it’s the same kind of confusion for me.
Do you think you’re just better at kind of “staying in the present?”
I don’t know about that. I guess I’m just like… I feel like I’m a balance of arrogant, cocky asshole and totally neurotic, insecure whatever. You know what I mean? Just kind of like, they have both so far seemed to level each other out, those two voices.
Sure, and that sort of neutralizes the worst elements of those traits. I guess my last question… is there anything in particular over the seven seasons that you’ll look back on most fondly?
Well, today, just today, as I was cleaning my office slash brain, I was thinking like, “Wow, man, I’m really going to miss sitting in the makeup chair just midway through shooting Childrens. Sitting in Heather’s makeup chair, and we’d have our little therapy sessions together, and then have a great day of shooting, like the shooting process was so wonderful. But then immediately I was like, “Ugh, yeah, but then, oh my God, you got to write the whole thing, and prepare to write the whole thing. You got to get all those people together, and then afterwards you got to cut the thing, you got to put sound on it,” and I was like, “Oh, God, what else?”
Maybe you can just go wherever Heather is and sit down in her chair, without actually doing Childrens Hospital?
That would be great. Heather’s one of my dearest friends in the world, and she’s one of the only members — there’s like three or four members — of the “seven season club,” not counting the cast, people who’ve been there all seven seasons. She’s very special to me. I mention her a lot, because she’s kind of like the perfect example of how I feel about that part of Childrens Hospital, just the love and camaraderie and the experience of being with all those people.
It was basically a group of friends working together.
Yeah, that was exactly what it was, not even “basically,” like “specifically.” That’s what I set out to do.
And that produces great material.
That’s what I mean. As long as you just cast people you love, or at least people who aren’t dicks, in every aspect of the job, from PA on up, let’s all just have fun here.
So that’s what I’ll look back on in this relationship metaphor. But now I’m going to go out, because we just broke up, so I’m going to go out and fuck, right?
Corddry on the prowl.
Oh, I’m going to get drunk and fuck.
Childrens Hospital airs Fridays at 11pm on Adult Swim.