Talking to Ken Marino about Childrens Hospital, Comic-Con, and the Movie We’re Making About a Baloney Sandwich

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Ken Marino’s been involved in so many cult classic comedies over the span of his twenty-year career that he’s kind of a demi-god for the comedy nerd community. Starting out as a member of the seminal sketch group The State, Marino’s gone on to build an impressive body of work that includes beloved comedies like Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, Party Down, and now, Childrens Hospital, the Adult Swim medical procedural parody. Childrens Hospital, on which Marino plays clueless doctor Glenn Richie, is currently in its third season, airing Thursday nights at midnight on Adult Swim.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Ken Marino earlier this week, and he was sickeningly apologetic about canceling an earlier interview that was scheduled for last Friday. We discussed the latest season of Childrens Hospital, the plotline to No Strings Attached, and his impending bowel movement.

Me: Hey Ken, how are you doing?

Ken Marino: Hello, Brad… if that’s really your name.

It is, I swear.

Yeah, I can’t tell.

You’re just gonna have to trust me.

I’m gonna trust you on this. Hey, listen, I’m sorry about … Friday when I fucked up.

It’s no big deal. Don’t worry about it.

I just feel terrible.

Don’t let it get to you. It’s not a big deal.

I can’t go on with this interview, I feel awful.

Let’s just try to go on, okay?

Alright, let’s push forward, but I’m not gonna promise anything.

Me neither. So, how was Comic-Con?

[Ken starts to fake cry] What if your interview was just me crying the rest of the time?

I don’t think my editor would like that.

[Laughs] Alright, fair point. What was your question?

How was the Childrens Hospital event at Comic-Con?

It was great! The panel was a lot of fun. [Rob] Huebel didn’t show up drunk, which is a rarity. [Rob] Corddry didn’t punch anybody out. I’m shocked by that. We were all pretty much involved in some sort of crazy, fucked-up San Diego orgy right afterward, which I thought was inappropriate and I didn’t know was part of Comic-Con.

I’ve heard that’s a big part of it.

I’ll say this about Comic-Con. I was like, “I’m so excited. I’m gonna walk around the floor to get gifts for my kids.” It’s all like adult-themed… clearly something you shouldn’t buy for your children. I thought there was a lot of kids stuff, but there’s not. Why didn’t you tell me that?

I don’t know, I hadn’t talked to you at that point.

Fair. That’s fair.

Yeah. Next year, I’ll try to remind you.

I would appreciate that, and I’ll hold you to that.

You can hold me to that. I’m a man of my word.

That’s what I hear.

So, tell me a little bit about how you got involved in Childrens Hospital. Did you know Rob Corddry beforehand?

I wrote a movie with David Wain called The Ten and we asked Rob to play a part. It was ten short stories loosely inspired by the Ten Commandments, and the one story that Rob was in was the story that I was in. It was, “Though shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” and we played two inmates who fell in love, even though I was being ass-raped by another inmate. I wound up breaking it off with the guy who’s been raping me so Rob could rape me. It’s a love story.

Sounds like it. A typical love story.

It’s straight out of No Strings Attached.

[Laughs] Exactly.

I think, actually, that is the storyline to No Strings Attached.

Yeah, I didn’t see the entire trailer, but that’s what it looked like.

That’s what I gleaned from the trailer.

[Laughs]

So, that’s how I met Rob. And then, he called me and asked if I wanted to do this thing, and I said… do you know what I said?

What?

I said, “Yeah. Sure. I’d love to.” And that’s how it all happened.

How was traveling to Brazil this year to film that short scene?

Let me tell you something about traveling to Brazil. It’s a long fucking flight, and I was there for two days, 48 hours. It was an 18-hour flight there with a layover in Panama City and an 18-hour flight on the way back with a layover in Panama City. I will say this: Thank God for Ambien. [Pause] Do you think that God invented Ambien? I mean, ultimately, God invented everything, right? Indirectly or directly.

Exactly.

Do you think God takes Ambien? Do you think he’s like, “God damn, there’s so much I’m worried about. There’s so much I have to think about. I cannot sleep, I’m stressed out. Let me pop a couple of these Ambien?” You think he does that?

[Laughs] Yeah, maybe. What are some ways that you feel Childrens Hospital has changed, besides the episodes growing longer, since it first began?

You need to ask me that question again, and you need to take the sandwich out of your mouth.

[Writer’s note: I swear I wasn’t eating during this interview. I mumbled maybe just the slightest amount, but at no point was there food in my mouth during my talk with Ken Marino. I just want to make that clear. I have the audio to prove it.]

Okay, I’m sorry. What are some ways that you feel Childrens Hospital has changed, besides the episodes growing longer, since it first began on the web?

We had a little more money, so it doesn’t look as dirty as it looked on the web. There’s more storylines. The episodes have enough time to breathe, so there’s at least an attempt at what feels like a story, even though we kind of fuck with the formula of storytelling. The web series, which was five minutes, seemed even more like a string of jokes, where the Adult Swim show is a string of jokes, but there’s a beginning, middle, and an end in each episode. There’s a little bit more structure.

Is there anything that you’ve done on Childrens Hospital that you’re most surprised about Adult Swim letting you guys get away with?

Me dressing up to try to impress Malin Akerman in the Season Two one where I wound up looking like Hitler. I was shocked by that. My wife and I wrote that one.

Do you guys both write for the show on a regular basis, or was it just that one episode?

We wrote that one and then she wrote one last season. I could not write one last season because I was busy working on Wanderlust and so I didn’t have time. And now, we’re writing a couple this [upcoming] season. She’s really good.

You’ve directed a lot of TV lately. Do you have any desire to someday tackle directing a feature film?

Without question, I would love to. You got something you want me to direct?

Yeah, I think I might.

What’s it called? What’s the title?

I don’t have a title yet. It’s based on that sandwich I was eating earlier.

Oh! Okay. How bout… I’m just throwing out some [titles]… Mouthful of BaloneyBaloney Mouth. How about, um…. um…. oh God… shit… Give me something. You gotta get ready to pitch. Right now, it’s just untitled, right?

We can figure out the title later.

What’s the name of the main character?

Brad.

Brad. So, it’s based on you?

Yeah, it’s kinda autobiographical.

Alright. Yeah, I’d love to. When do you think we should start production?

I don’t know. I’d probably have to get a script ready.

Oh, you haven’t written the script yet?

I just ate the sandwich just now. I was just inspired.

Okay. Alright. Well, listen. Get the script done and get it to me ASAP. And when I say ASAP, I mean like tomorrow if possible. And I don’t want any of this first draft shit. I want it tight, and I want it clean, and I want it funny, and I want a shooting script ready to go. Attach a line producer before you call me tomorrow and tell me how much this motherfucker is gonna cost. I’m not cheap, I will say that, but you’ll be happy with what you get. You get what you pay for. And then, I’d love to see just some shots of different sandwiches you have in mind. ‘Cause in my head, I’m thinking of something on like a whole wheat or like a multi-grain. But not a fucking baguette. Let’s not even get into that fucking world.

Yeah, don’t worry. I’m not gonna waste your time with another baguette script.

Ciabatta wouldn’t be bad.

That’s an interesting idea.

Maybe run with that, but give me just different shots of stuff, and anytime tomorrow, just get all the stuff to me.

Okay, no problem. I’ll have all that ready. First thing tomorrow.

Hey, pretty soon, I’m gonna go take a crap.

You’re gonna what?

Pretty soon. I’m gonna take a shit. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee and doing about two-and-a-half hours of interviews, and now I have to go to the bathroom.

One more question?

Brad. I can’t wait for this question. A lot is lying on this.

It’s a doozy, don’t worry. Is there anything you’d like to try on Childrens Hospital this next season that you haven’t done yet?

Um… [long pause] no.

Okay, perfect. I think that’s good.

[Laughs]

[Laughs] That’s a nice button on the interview. Thanks, Ken.

Brad, you listen to me. I don’t know if that’s your real name… What’s your real name?

It’s actually Bradford.

That’s what I fucking thought.

Image credit: Adult Swim

Childrens Hospital airs Thursday nights at midnight on Adult Swim

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.