Nick Kroll stars as the very funny Rodney Ruxin on FX’s The League and has his own show on comedy central, Kroll Show, a sketch comedy program that premiered earlier this year on Comedy Central. We had a chance to chat with him before his upcoming SOLD OUT show at L’Astral for the Just for Laughs festival.
Kroll Show has taken an unconventional approach to content distribution by posting sketches on YouTube; were you involved in the decision to go this route and do you feel this structure benefits your show?
I was involved insofar as I was trying to get Comedy Central to share the content on YouTube rather than ComedyCentral.com because I felt people absorb content differently when in different places. It’s a lot easier for people to find sketches, share them with friends, and really just get people to watch the show. I feel, with our show, it’s much better for you watch it as a whole than just catching it in one-off sketches.
Was it always your intention to integrate characters from your previous comedy work, such as Bobby Bottleservice, into Kroll Show?
The intention really was to create characters that would recur and grow over the course of the show, and have them interact wherever it felt natural. I showed the show to Edgar Wright, whose work I really like and have always respected, and a very nice compliment he gave the show was that it’s always mutating, that the genre of the sketches keeps changing. We took it to heart as we built the show out that. Bobby doesn’t just have to exist in one kind of sketch, he can be in a self-produced web video or a really sick reality show, or anywhere that feels natural to place him. What remains consistent is the characters, but the world they inhabit can continue to change and mutate. We don’t ever want to be limited in our choices.
Tell us about your upcoming show in Montreal.
I’ll be doing some of my new stand-up with a few friends, I’m not sure who yet. Also, we’re bringing some clips from season two of the show, which will include some more Wheels Ontario in honour of Canada.
Do you think there could ever be a Canadian syndication of The League that would use fantasy hockey, rather than fantasy football, as its backdrop?
That’s a very good question! I think the creators, Jeff and Jackie Schaffer, would be much better suited to answer that; but I think, given the rise in popularity of fantasy sports worldwide, it’s a possibility.
Who do you feel, among those you’ve worked with in the industry, have really influenced you, and perhaps helped you spearhead Kroll Show?
The Kroll Show, to me, is obviously a product of the work I’ve done, but also the collaborations I’ve been a part of over the years. John Daly and I work together often, like on Ed Hardy Boys and Wheels Ontario. People like John Mulaney, Jenny Slate, Chelsea Peretti, and the list goes on. I met John Levenstein when he was a producer on The Life and Times of Tim, an HBO show I did a while back. There’s Jonathan Krisel, who directed the original Rich Dicks and Ed Hardy Boys online. The show’s existence is largely due to past collaborations with these guys. They’ve all been a part of shows I’ve enjoyed in the past, like Arrested Development and Tim and Eric. The goal, in our case, is to create something completely new, but to say it wasn’t influenced by those shows would be ludicrous.
Has your perception of the comedy world changed since you’ve become a player within it?
It’s not really changed, it’s just continued with what I love about the comedy world, which is the amount of collaboration that goes on. It’s such a joy, such a cool thing to me that you can at one point be watching people like Bruce McCulloch on Kids in the Hall then later get to work with him on your own show. Comedy Central’s been really cool in letting us make the show we want to make, and that’s really helped us to be in a position creatively to get people we want to work with on the show.
Regarding your stand-up career, do you remember your first bit that really “landed” with your audience? One that made you go: “Okay, I can do this”.
It’s been such a slow, gradual process, so it’s hard to remember exactly, but I had one bit in my first hour about drunk packing that went over well. I told a true story about me pooping my pants once that people thought was pretty funny. It resonated with them, I guess.
At one point or another, yeah.
Conversely, do you remember the first time you bombed?
Yeah, the first time I did stand-up back in college, I bombed. I didn’t go back to it until years later in New York, and then I bombed there too. But if you really love it, you’ll stick with it, and that’s what I did. It takes many different forms, but overall, I just loved doing comedy; you take some bruises along the way but it’s worth it. Everyone who’s going to be at this festival shares a love for comedy. And as miserable it is when you bomb, it just makes it all the more gratifying when it’s working. Also, there’s just nothing else I think I can do.
Does being a part of this festival feel like a validation or sorts?
In a sense, yeah, I mean coming to Montreal for Just for Laughs kinda feels like a birthday, it’s a marker for where you are in your life as a comedian. You get to go “Okay where was I, career-wise, the last time I was here?” At this point, I’m just happy to be a part of it, and I’m happy I get to do a show with my friends that somebody pays for [laughs]. It’s pretty awesome, I feel very lucky that this is what I get to do.