Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to spend two afternoons with Paul Rudd (star of Dinner for Schmucks, which opens tomorrow) — one trying to get an appointment with his optometrist and the other actually attending said appointment. It was, as Rudd might joke, eye-opening. Har-har. Here’s what we learned (besides the tidbit that Rudd suffers from eyelid dandruff, which you can read all about in the original article).
• Despite having appeared exclusively in comedies for the past, oh, ten years, that was never Rudd’s life plan. “I didn’t want to just do specifically comedy. I still don’t want to just specifically do comedy,” he said. “I never went to Second City. I didn’t do stand up. I studied classical theater. That was my thing.” That said, he’s currently growing a beard and having “a Kyle MacLachlan moment” on the set of My Idiot Brother, a comedy about an organic farmer and his neurotic New York family. (Also starring Adam Scott, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, Steve Coogan, and Rashida Jones). Then he’s doing Wanderlust, directed by good friend David Wain and starring Jennifer Aniston, with whom Rudd worked on Friends and 1998’sThe Object of My Affection. They play a couple who gets priced out of Manhattan and decides to join a commune.
• In yet another upcoming comedy, James Brooks’s Everything You’ve Got, out in December, Rudd plays Jack Nicholson’s son, which went exactly as one would expect. “We play a father and son who kiss each other hello and good-bye,” said Rudd. So the first time they met, “[Nicholson] just swept into the room, kissed me on the lips, laughed, and sat down. It was hilarious. He’s Jack Nicholson. Where do you go from there?”
• Rudd credits the cult summer-camp classic Wet Hot American Summer for helping him find his voice as a funnyman. (See him play spoiled camp counselor Andy here and here.) “It was the most fun ever,” he said. “We were all friends. We all stayed and lived on the camp. Up until that movie, I had never worked on any comedy that was really my own sense of humor. I mean, Clueless is smart, but Wet Hot American Summer was the first subversive thing I ever got to do. It was shot for a million dollars and I remember Zak Orth was saying, ‘ You know, I don’t even know if this thing would ever even come out. I just want to be able to have a videotape of it’ — this was pre-DVD. And that’s what we all thought.”
• He’s still very connected to his hometown of Kansas City, where his mom still lives and where this summer, he and fellow K.C. natives Rob Riggle and Jason Sudekis hosted a charity poker event for a local children’s hospital. The highlight of the trip was getting to throw out the first pitch at Royals Stadium. “They put us in uniforms, like full-on Royals uniforms, which was awesome,” said Rudd. “Rob has always had this kind of strapping, barrel-chested, fifties father physique. And Rob put his on and he looked like a third-base coach. He looked like a manager. We all just kept calling him Mr. Riggle. I did not look like I was on the team. I looked like a bat boy.”
• Rudd just moved to Tribeca after thirteen years near the High Line. “Back in 1995, I made the really, like, clever decision to rent,” he said. “No, I’ll never look back on that decision with a feeling of shortsightedness.”
• He hates the word “staycation.” (We are ashamed to admit we used it in conversation.) Rudd’s reaction: “Tell me that’s not a term! That’s horrible! I’ve never heard of it! I hate it, though! Staycation? Having a vacation, but not going anywhere? Ugh. That’s worse than bromance or Nolita or rom-com or Brangelina. Never say it again.”
• Rudd would be a terrible person to go to the Hamptons with; he does not know what he’s doing, and he doesn’t really know how to find the L.I.E. The weekend before our interview, he got off a plane from Los Angeles and straight onto the Jitney to surprise his wife, Julie, and his 5-year-old son, Jack, which he admitted, in retrospect, was a very sweet and very misguided idea. “I thought, This will be great! I could take the bus out there, I’ll get out there at night, I’ll be able to put Jack to sleep, I’ll wake up tomorrow, and then we can turn around and sit in traffic for five hours! Okay, it was only four and a half hours of traffic. We stopped for clam strips, but it didn’t help.”
• If you do, however, take said ill-fated trip to the Hamptons, you may be killed by the cuteness of the Rudd family car games. “We sing songs, and we make up different lyrics for songs,” Rudd said. That trip, the songs of choice were from the Avett Brothers and Donovan. “And it just turns into, ‘We’re going to sing this song but the lyrics are going to be weird foods or Star Wars characters.’ And then hopefully he falls asleep.”
• If you are ever so lucky as to attend an eye-doctor appointment with Rudd, as we did, you will discover two things (besides the aforementioned eyelid-dandruff issue). One: Rudd, 41, has already resigned himself to getting old and dying. Upon hearing from his eye doctor that his eyes just keep getting worse and worse, he just shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not surprised by anything because I really just feel as if I’m on a slow, steady course to, just, destruction in every facet of my body and mind. My body is like a sandcastle. It can only take some many waves.” And two, Rudd is a nonstop font of optometrist-related humor. Here are our favorite bon mots, all uttered when he found out the optometrist was going to take photos of his retina: “But what if I’m having a bad retina day?” “Be careful with those! I’m so tired of my retina photos getting leaked to the press.” “Now, when you do my retina photos, are you going to be able to print out wallet-size for me, or do I have to do that myself?”