After seven seasons, Childrens Hospital’s creator and star, Rob Corddry, has decided it was time to hang up his stethoscope and bag holding his clown makeup. Last week, Corddry spoke exclusively with Vulture about making the difficult decision and the likelihood of the show coming back. We also reached out to Corddry’s co-creators/co-conspirators Jonathan Stern and David Wain for their reactions. Wain said, “Childrens Hospital has been a true joy from beginning to end. Seven years of screwing around in this comedic playground, experimenting, laughing, and also taking the occasional bathroom break.” Stern added, “No TV show lasts forever, except for Law & Order: SVU, but the fun of making Childrens Hospital will stay with us for years to come. It will always live on in the Childrens Hospital of our minds … and on Pirate Bay.” Now, here’s Corddry.
Can you walk me through the decision to end Childrens Hospital?
I considered lying to you and saying this was the plan going into season seven, because that would paint me as a very confident, organized creative person. But the truth is I’m just a creative person who’s honest with himself. Over the last couple of months, I had a feeling larva that transformed into a thought caterpillar, and, to continue the metaphor, then became a decision butterfly.
Talking with random people who understood the business and weren’t directly associated with Childrens really helped me get my thoughts together. Then, as so often happens, the final decision was just a magical moment of like, Oh yeah. That’s what I should do. It’s time. We did it.
What were the factors you considered?
One thing that made the decision a little easier was how strong this season was. If I had been disappointed by this season, I would not have been able to stop doing it. This show, season after season, has been an exercise in perfecting this world. We just finished editing this season a couple of weeks ago, and it really is the ultimate season of Childrens Hospital. That wasn’t the decision-maker but it certainly was a strong factor. It’s uncomfortable for us to think this way as American creators because that’s not the way it happens here: You don’t decide to end your show, a corporation decides via algorithms. So I realized, in retrospect, this was the only way it could have happened.
Have you considered it before?
Yes, I considered it after season five. Personally, I don’t think it’s our strongest season. We were way behind in writing and I was feeling more stressed than I had ever felt about the show, so much so that on the last day of shooting I had like a 104-degree temperature. I just ran myself into the ground and I swore that I would never do this again. But with some time to let that cool a little bit, I realized, No, it’s not that the show is over; it’s that you don’t have a process for doing this show.
We revamped the whole process from writing to scheduling, down to how we make the sets and where we shoot it. That was the most exciting season, next to maybe season one. And I thought, We got it, we figured it out, we’re back! I’m going to do this show forever. With season seven, I felt the same exhilaration, I felt the same love for it, and I was having as much fun, but yet there was just something intangible missing. I believe it was this sort of hunger that I had up through season six. To keep going without that would ruin the show.
You were saying that the show in many ways is an exercise in figuring out a specific tone. Does part of your willingness to move on stem from the feeling that you got it?
I was thinking about how the longest running shows that sustain their comedy are animated shows like The Simpsons or South Park. I only compare myself to those in that we are like a live-action cartoon. We can get away with anything. Really the only thing ending the show is us, because it’s not gonna be the ideas, it’s not gonna be stories. There’s an infinite amount of those. So, it’s harder to know when you’ve got it. It’s no accident that we just wrapped up post-production and I was able to look at it as a whole and go, “Wow, wow.” I truly believe we could not have written a better series finale if we had intended to.
What is it about a finale that makes sense for a show that has no rules?
It’s hard to tell you without giving it away but I’ve always wanted to do something, since season four. I’ve been writing things that tried to explain what’s off about this world. Like, what scientific formulas could people in our world use to describe what’s wrong with the physics in the Childrens Hospital world? I’d even written a “Previously On” where it’s like, “Oh, well, you know, this hospital is built on a tear in the time whatever.”
This season I came up with this idea that uses both our Childrens Hospital world and our behind-the-scenes world and is really just a more plausible exploration of this whole reality. The very final moment was one of my favorite moments anyway, but now it really puts a bow on the show.
To be clear about the timetable: You shot that episode not thinking that it’d be the end?
Oh no, I just made this decision less than a week ago. It was about a week and a half after post-production ended.
Oh, wow. What was it like telling David Wain and Jonathan Stern, your co-conspirators on this for so long?
It was hard. It’s really hard to put myself in their shoes, because the decision is really, really coming out of nowhere as far as they’re concerned. I hadn’t called them to discuss what I was feeling a month ago because I didn’t know what to think. As a lot of decisions happen with me, it fell into place very quickly. It just so happened that I had John right down the hall at the time.
Once you explained your thought process, they understood?
Oh, yeah. Everybody. I called the entire cast, and I called Adult Swim, Warner Brothers, and I called some of the key crew, including my dear Heather Mary Ford, who’s done the clown makeup every single episode we’ve done and has become one of my best friends in the whole world. It was a lot of people and I just had the most wonderful conversations. They all expressed some version of “I’m really bummed but I totally get it.”
The good thing, which was also one of the elements of the decision, is that I don’t have that classic showrunner’s problem where I have to worry about leaving so many people out of a job. These guys are such superstars, from crew on up, that not only are they gonna be fine but they were hard for us to schedule each season.
As you said, you just decided a week ago, but now looking back at the season, were there specific things that you were excited about being able to do?
We always like to frame the behind-the-scenes characters in a way that would make sense. They first popped up on “Newsreaders” because if this is supposedly the real world, then whose perspective is it that is recording them? “The Show You Watch” was the best incarnation of that context. We have another behind-the-scenes episode coming up that was even a bigger swing for us because while there are few rules in the Childrens Hospital world, there is strict continuity and physics in the behind-the-scenes character roles and we broke it this season. There’s an episode where we allowed ourselves to just shoot a story and not worry about who’s shooting it and why we’re watching it. It was just a night in the life of these characters. I’m really glad we did that, because why the fuck not?
What has Childrens represented to you as a creator? Do you think it will ultimately be the purest manifestation of your voice?
No, no. It’s just a version of my voice. I’m smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter than me. If I keep that up, I have faith that it will continue to be a formula for a good creation.
How likely do you think you are to bring the show back in some capacity?
I’d say very likely. Adult Swim has been a great place to do this. [Adult Swim’s founder and day-to-day boss] Mike Lazzo has always felt like one of our collaborators. He gave us the freedom to do the show and was a big fan. He was really bummed out when I told him, but he also said, “Look, Rob, I hope you know that if you ever want to do it again as a special — like a half-hour special here and there — there’s an open invitation.” I can definitely see that but that’ll be the result of a passion for an idea and not like, “Well, we gotta do something.”
Let’s say in a few years you felt the urge to look back at the show. What episode do you think you would rewatch?
“The ‘70s Episode” is one of my favorites. “Fan Fiction,” I love. “The Show You Watched.” The series finale. Every once in a while, I go back and watch the first season. I had a bad taste in my mouth about it during the early seasons, just because you can see it’s really just a seed but doesn’t know what flower it is. I rewatch that every once in a while and I love it. I’ll probably go back and watch season five. I don’t have good feelings about it, but it’s not based on the content of the show. I would really like to revisit that. Also, it doesn’t take too long to watch. I know Childrens Hospital is notoriously hard to find online without paying for it and that is the result of corporate politics and everything, but I have no problem telling everyone to go watch it on YouTube. It’s all up there. I don’t need to see a check from it. Steal my show.
The series finale of Childrens Hospital airs on April 22.
This interview has been edited and condensed.