The Kroll Show, which premiered two weeks ago on Comedy Central and was just renewed for a second season, was a long time coming for Nick Kroll. He has been doing stand-up and sketch, starring on The League, guest-starring on shows like Community and Parks and Recreation, and being a generally hilarious person for more than a decade now. And along the way, he's developed an arsenal of characters, some of which — like the dickish Bobby Bottleservice or the Mexican radio D.J. El Chupacabra — have become fixtures of Funny or Die and podcasts like "Comedy Bang! Bang!," and they all get regular spotlight time on Kroll Show. To gain perspective on his career path, Vulture thought it was best to have him interviewed by a fellow comedian who has known him along the way, Jenny Slate (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Saturday Night Live), who guested in a recent "PubLIZity" sketch in which she and Kroll play obnoxious publicists both named Liz. Here, Slate and Kroll discuss coming up together, making Kroll Show different from other sketch shows, and dog wieners.
Jenny Slate: Okay, Nick, you have your own television show now. Correct?
Nick Kroll: What!?
[Laughs.] Congratulations! I didn’t want to scare you but it’s on tonight.
I want to know, when you imagine people watching your television show, is there a special fantasy person? It doesn’t have to be like George Washington but … obviously that’s my fantasy person. Don’t take mine. Mine’s George Washington. But do you have a fantasy person?
That’s your fantasy person? Your fantasy person watching your TV show is George Washington?
Yeah, because he’s like really honorable and …
He can’t tell a lie.
Is there a fantasy person for you?
It’s George Jefferson. Jefferson is who I imagine watching my show.
Because if I can make George Jefferson laugh, a middle-aged black Republican from the seventies, then I feel like I’ve really hit all the demos.
Yeah, actually I get that a lot. My grandfather was a lot like a white Jewish George Jefferson, and he did not enjoy my work very much. If it means anything to you, one of my grandmothers, Nana Rochelle, is a fan of Kroll Show.
She loves it. She laughed so hard, and that’s saying a lot, because she had been hit by another man’s motorized wheelchair in her nursing home that day. She was in a horrible mood and she watched it and she wanted me to ask you what did you do that poor dog [in our sketch, who was dressed in a bikini]. That’s the question from my Nana.
I love it. By the way, your grandmother pulled no punches. I guess when you face death in the face, as she has with that motorized wheelchair, then you got to ask the tough questions. And the truth is, we killed that dog dead.
Yeah, we did, but we saved the bikini because we’re not fucking wasteful.
Ugh, the worst part about that when you watch it again …
Is how the dog’s dick is hanging out?
Yeah. It’s peeking out from the bikini. By the way, you know that dog is Uggie, right?
From The Artist.
Yeah. Uggie from The Artist. His little dog wiener.
The closest any of us will come to an Oscar is that we had a dog in our video.
Yeah, and his penis as well. [Both laugh.]
Hanging out like a kid not ready for bed.
It’s too bad we didn’t have the genius thought to make Liz and Liz both get super hungry for that tiny dog dick.
[As Liz.] I’m starving for a little pig and a blanket.
[As the other Liz.] I don’t know what’s wrong with me because I don’t normally eat food, but I am literally hungry right now for, like, a tiny wiener. Like a wet one.
[As Liz.] I want to dunk my face in that little dog dick. [Both laugh.]
What’s your attitude in the office as the star/boss of the show? Are you a cool boss?
I’m a pretty chill boss. I brought this in today … It’s a little keychain that’s a … where’d it go? Here it is. It’s a pocket of disgusting sounds. It’s broken now.
Is it only from the mouth or from the butt? I mean fart noises.
It’s fart noises. It’s puke noises. It’s burp noises. It’s snorting noises. It covers all the basics of disgusting sounds, and so I will go from room to room and just bother the writers. Like, Gabe Liedman, who is a very dear friend of yours, is writing on the show.
Yes, he is.
And a very, very funny man. I will go in there, and he’ll try to pitch me something and I’ll just make fart noises. So what kind of boss am I? Right now, it’s really fun because we’ll sit together and we’ll pitch ideas. People will go off and write stuff, and I’ll go in and hop around. I’ll go into a room and pitch myself for sketches. I always heard about Saturday Night Live that people try to get writers to write for them, and so I was going room to room pretending as if they had other people they were allowed to write for, and I'd try to charm them to see if they’ll write pieces for me.
Do you let your family watch the show?
I don’t mind. You know, my parents are good in that they'll be like, "We’re not the demographic for that." They’ve always been good about watching and giving me their honest feedback while still being supportive.
That’s really. Do they have a favorite character?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. Bobby [Bottleservice] really loves his mother, so my mom probably likes that. They like "PubLIZity" a lot.
Do your parents marvel at all the working parts of it, or are they sort of used to you being a performer at this point?
They’ve enjoyed it. Ever since I started booking commercials that their friends saw — [Fart noise.] It’s working again!
Is that a fart?
Now it’s broken again. Fuck. I hope in the Vulture interview it’s like, “As Kroll transitions from fart noises to his parents’ approval of his career … ”
Especially as I've built this little business, they get even more of a kick out of it. Also, they like that we have this strong community where we collaborate but we’re also friends. Like you and me, Jenny.
Actually, at the premiere of your show, as I often do, I had a really emotional moment. I remember meeting you, like, eight years ago at Rififi [a now-closed New York comedy club]. And I remember you saying one night that Rififi smelled like a bag of Doritos had thrown up. [Both laugh.] And it always smelled like Dorito barf in there. In that particular moment I was like, This guy is the funniest at making observations that I’ve ever seen. So, at the premiere, we were all there from New York: Chelsea [Peretti] and Jon Daly and Gabe and everybody. And we were watching your TV show, and you’re still exactly the same as when we were starting. It’s a huge achievement. It’s really, really beautiful. That’s really sappy, and I'm a human tampon, but it is the truth.
If I can come up with things like "a bag of Doritos threw up," then they’re only matched and bettered by you saying things like "I'm a human tampon."
We should start a company.
It's both surreal and also exactly as I thought it should be. All of the people that I thought were funny are all really funny and working constantly and collaborating on this. They're doing my show or doing another one of our friends’ shows, or people couldn't be at the premiere because they’re all on network shows or in some other city shooting a movie. It’s a pretty cool. I am very nostalgic for that time when we were just doing shows and fucking around, but I equally enjoy this time, where we’re basically doing the exact same things that we were doing but we’re all getting paid.
So, "PubLIZity," the sketch that we do together. How many people did you audition for my role before you decided to just come and knock on my door?
Oh, we did an American Idol open call.
That’s what I thought.
And we loved a bunch of people, and they all passed.
And then we asked your managers and agents if they had anybody, and they suggested, like, six or seven girls.
And then they passed.
And then my managers and agents dropped me.
The truth is, it was originally a thing that I was doing with my girlfriend at the time, and then she couldn’t do the show, and you were literally the first person that I thought of and everybody agreed. I knew you did that voice.
The different segments on the show each have really unique looks. Is that something that you cared about while making the show
Jon Krisel directed it and directs Portlandia, and had directed a lot of Tim and Eric before that. In addition to being a very funny writer, he just knows exactly how to make things look like how they’re supposed to look, sound and feel like they’re supposed to sound and feel. That’s from everything, from the graphics, to the editing style, to the cameras we shoot on, to cut points, to music. Like, our George and Gil sketch [about two Upper West Side divorcees], we wanted it to feel and look like a Woody Allen Movie. And those characters' prank show looks like Manhattan cable access.
When you were a kid, what did you think was funny? Not just on TV, but, like, what kind of people made you laugh? For example, ladies in temple with big hair always made me laugh.
I watched Mel Brooks’s The Producers a lot. And I watched Slap Shot and Top Secret! and Wayne’s World a lot. I watched Wayne’s World so many times. I think there was a year I watched it every day with my friend Andrew Goldberg, who’s now a writer on Family Guy. I loved the way Andrew's dad said “What?” So, we'd do that all the time. Um, I mean farts have always made me laugh.
Is there anything you wanted me to ask you?
Will you ask me if I would like you to continue doing the show?
Nicholas, would you like me to continue to perform as a character actor on your television show, Kroll Show, on Comedy Central?
I don’t know.
I mean, it’s not a “No.” Can I give you a soft yes?
You know, I don’t like the tension, because this is not our dynamic.
No, it isn’t our dynamic.
Our dynamic is to be overly, profusely complimentary to one another.