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Ken Marino on Childrens Hospital’s Party Down Episode, Wet Hot Reunions, and His Possibly Weak Lungs

Ken Marino.

In a better world, Ken Marino would still be starring as embattled catering team leader Ron Donald on Starz’s short-lived Party Down. (Also, there’d be a functional Congress and an Arrested Development movie. But we digress.) Instead, Marino will have to relive the canceled comedy’s glory days on his current project, Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital. The show, which isn’t too shabby itself, will play host to a Party Down reunion on tonight’s episode. We spoke with Marino about getting the gang together again, the recent Wet Hot American Summer reunion, and teaming up with Judd Apatow on Wanderlust.

There have been some off-screen Party Down reunions since the show was canceled, but what was it like getting the cast together again for an actual taping?
It was great. It was bittersweet because all of us who worked on Party Down know how special and wonderful that was, and we still are a little sad that it didn’t go any further. So it was kind of cool to see everybody back in their uniforms and doing their parts, but then it was sad because it’s a short little piece that we did on an eleven-minute show. When it ended, we were all like, “Goddamn it.” [Laughs.]

There have been some rumors about a movie. Is that going forward, realistically?
I think there is a realistic interest in the movie getting made and there is a legitimate deal that the producers are negotiating. Will it happen? I don’t know. Am I hopeful? Yes. Am I realistic that it might not happen? Sure.

I saw the videos of the Wet Hot American Summer reunion in New York a few weeks back. What was it like putting those jean shorts on again?
Well, I had to make some new ones. I had just gotten in that day, and David [Wain] and I were finishing up postproduction on the movie Wanderlust, so I didn’t have time to go out and get the costume that I wanted. I still had the wig from the actual movie. So somebody ran out and got me shorts. They cut them and they came down to my knee and I was like, “Oh no, no, no. We need to cut all of this off.” So I took some scissors to it and I think they came out pretty good.

There’s been some discussion of a Wet Hot sequel as well.
I think there’s progress on it. We’re talking about it, we’re working on it. But, again, everybody’s very busy. We all want it to happen, so that’s the big plus.

Maybe we should talk about some of your projects that are already happening. You mentioned Wanderlust, a film about a guy losing his job. It sounds perfect for the current economic climate. Was that on your minds as you and David were writing that script?
It was, actually. We thought it was an appropriate time to write about a character who’s going through that. We wrote it a while ago and part of us was like, Perhaps this movie won’t be relevant because things will get better at some point. And, uh, here we are. [Laughs.]

Was that the first time the two of you had worked with Judd Apatow [who produced it]?
I had met Judd in passing at a couple of parties. Very nice guy — but I’d never worked with him. This was the first time we all got together.

[Editor’s note: Marino’s phone dies during a question about what Apatow brought to the table. His publicist conferences us back in.]

Sorry, man, the battery on my phone died.

No problem. I was just asking what Judd Apatow brought to the table, because it seems like his style of comedy is less absurdist than what you and David have done over the years with The State, Role Models, etc.
Yeah, what he brings to it is [takes a deep breath] a lot of — sorry — I just ran up the steps to try to get to the phone. Ahhhh. His big thing, which is so helpful for us, is just making sure the characters are real and that there’s emotion there. David and I love writing absurd, ridiculous, funny things, and it’s always nice to have somebody there being like, “And also make sure they’re grounded and real.” It was a nice combination.

As someone who’s been on both sides of the camera, is there one part of the process that you like better, or do you like being involved in the whole thing?
I like being involved in the whole thing. I think that comes from being in The State. When we were kids and we were doing The State, all we did was think about the whole picture. We wrote it, acted in it, produced it, got the costumes for it, directed it, and sat in the editing room. So it’s part of my DNA at this point. I enjoy it all, ultimately, and I want to keep doing it all.

Well, thanks so much, Ken. Anything you want to add before I let you go?
Just that I’m still winded from running up one flight of stairs. Should I go see a doctor?

Ken Marino on Childrens Hospital’s Party Down Episode, Wet Hot Reunions, and His Possibly Weak Lungs