Scott Adsit and John Lutz.
Photo: Getty Images
When Vulture asked 30 Rock’s John Lutz and Scott Adsit to have an unmoderated conversation to mark the end of 30 Rock, they gamely agreed. Here’s the full transcript of their twenty-minute conversation, which took place over the phone last night while Lutz was on a train back from Philadelphia (he’d just dropped off his 30 Rock co-star and wife, Sue Galloway, and their 6-week-old son, Daniel), and Adsit was … somewhere in New York. In it, you’ll find out their favorite moments from the show, where they think their characters J.D. Lutz and Pete Hornberger might go next, and the difference between a teeter-totter and a seesaw.
Scott Adsit: What would you like to talk about? Or I could ask you why you’re in Trenton.
John Lutz: Sue is with her parents, and Daniel is staying at their place for a little bit over the weekend, so I drove them down, and now I am taking the train back to New York.
SA: What’ve you got in New York?
JL: Just some writing and stuff I need to get done. So, now, let me ask you …
SA: So, hey! It’s the big one …
JL: What was the favorite thing you got to do on the show, Adsit?
SA: Well, John, since you’re asking, I’ll tell you: I think the funnest thing I had to do was that nonsense speak, like that reporter who had some kind of brain problem and I learned her gibberish verbatim and repeated it when Pete got overwhelmed. I think I spent two days learning that; it seemed completely insurmountable — I was pacing around my apartment listening to it over and over and over and over and over again. There’s some kind of online comparison on YouTube, side-by-side comparison, and I finished it a little bit before her, which is a disappointment, that’s all.
JL: Well, you blew it.
SA: I also enjoyed feeding you bits of hot dog and rubbing your feet in the one where we all wanted your car to get out of the apocalypse.
JL: Yes, I think Sue hated that because she hates mustard. I think you were dipping hot-dog pieces in mustard and putting them in my mouth.
SA: Then she had to kiss that mouth …
JL: Then she had to kiss that mouth later.
SA: What about you? What thing did you enjoy doing the most on the show?
JL: Well, there’s a couple of things, I mean, the one real thing that I loved, that’s such a small, little, tiny thing, was when everybody was playing pranks on Jack Donaghy where they were using the computer to mimic his voice and then Alec comes in mad and says, “You guys have all got to stop doing this,” and then I say, “I told them not to do it. Let’s get out of here, Jack.” And I stand up, like me and him are going to be best friends, and he doesn’t even acknowledge that I said anything and then I had to sit down.
SA: You and I’ve rarely had moments of triumph. I think all of our favorite moments have to do with our own humiliation. We are professionally humiliated on that show.
JL: Putting me in bras, dressing me up in bras and women’s bathing suits. What’s the worst thing they put you in? Had you wear?
SA: You know, I always loved getting some kind of getup because I felt like everybody else got to dress up like Smurfs or Janis Joplin or themselves when they were kids. I had, let’s see … my Olympics outfit with a big Afro and a big, thick, manly moustache when I was on the archery team in the 1980s Olympics, which I think would put Pete somewhere in his mid to late fifties. I think the math quite works out age-wise for Pete being in the 1980s Olympics —
JL: I think my character’s, like, 51 years old. I think I say something like that in the final episode; I think I say, “I am 51-year-old Lutz.”
SA: [Laughs.] I did not remember that.
JL: Yeah, I think it’s in my big speech at the end.
SA: And I was in Loverboy, and that was a good outfit as well. It was a very brief little flashback to me playing bass in Loverboy. I wanted to look younger and I had a 40-year-old gut on me, and so I put Spanx on to pull in my gut a little bit, and it took forever, like, to cut the … they cut it … and finally got it fitted to me, and my ego was satisfied. I looked okay, but it took forever and it slowed things down. And then they put this big double bass guitar on me, and you can’t see anything from my chin to my knees.
JL: That doesn’t matter. That was for you.
SA: Yeah, oh, I took it home.
JL: You wear it when you go on dates …
SA: I am wearing it now. You didn’t get any outfits did you?
JL: Well, a lot of it was having my shirt off — that’s an outfit, right?
SA: I thought that was a prosthetic, no?
JL: Yeah, it was a full prosthetic hairy chest. I think my favorite was when they had me dress up as Boba Fett for a Halloween costume. And, oh, it was an awesome Boba Fett costume. That shows how nerdy I am. I even walked up to the writers’ room to be like, “Check out how awesome this Boba Fett costume is.”
SA: And you’re wearing that now right?
JL: I am wearing that right now, in the train on the way back to New York.
SA: [Laughs.] With several transit authority watching you. John, let me ask you something.
JL: Yes, yes, what is it?
SA: Where do you imagine Lutz lands after the finale?
JL: I think that Lutz goes and writes for the TV show Malibu Country.
SA: What is Malibu Country?
JL: That’s that show with Reba McEntire where she’s moved to Malibu, so it’s country and Malibu.
SA: Oh, so it’s a play on words. That makes sense.
JL: I mean, he had that lined up once the show started; he wanted to go, but, you know, TGS kept him in this contract for that last year. What does your character do?
SA: I disappear for a year and find happiness as another person and then I end up going back to my family. And then I’d probably go on to produce some kind of reality show, very deep in cable, like, you know, Haunted Plastic Surgery Nightmares or something.
JL: Sure, that makes sense. And then you can get Jenna to come every once in a while after she gets more and more plastic surgery.
SA: Yeah, she’d be completely unrecognizable eventually, or she’d look like she did … like Jane did in Vacation.
JL: On the teeter-totter?
JL: Do you say seesaw or teeter-totter?
SA: I say seesaw, I am from the Midwest.
JL: Yeah, so am I: Why do I say teeter-totter? Well, this interview’s going great. Let me ask you another question —
SA: I hope there is something clickable about the history of teeter-totter and seesaw — I want to hit the blue link.
JL: I hope so, too; that’ll help me figure it out. Who’s your favorite character other than your own, Scott?
SA: I love Leo Spaceman. I wish he was in every episode; I don’t think he gets old; he is really, really funny; and it’s all down to [Chris] Parnell and the writing — I guess that’s everything.
JL: It’s perfectly written for Parnell to deliver every single joke, cause every line is a joke. I don’t think he ever has one non-joke sentence.
SA: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. You and I will have lines that are just setups.
JL: What do you mean? What kind of lines?
SA: Wait, you blew it.
JL: What did I do?
SA: Then I think I love Donaghy’s mother. What is her name?
SA: I love Pauline Donaghy.
JL: I really like Kathy Geiss.
SA: OMG! Yes! Holy bananas! She is so great. Oh my God, she’s never in that often, every time I see her, I just fall all over telling her how great she is. She is fantastic.
JL: She’s like another sniper comic like Parnell with that part, like every single thing she did would just be hilarious.
SA: Alright, I’ll ask you this: How do you think Lutz changed? And I’m talking about J.D. Lutz now …
JL: He didn’t change much at all over the course of the whole series, but I think in the last episode he totally changes
JL: He finally wins.
SA: He finds his power.
JL: He finds his power. He is in charge of picking the last meal and fights with writers, and he finally gets them to do what he wants and wins, even though he ends up falling through a ceiling and landing on cake and sushi. But they’re like, He did it. He deserves it. We are ordering.
SA: Once Lutz gets what he wants and is happy, the character dissolves. We don’t need him anymore.
JL: Oh yeah, he disappeared, he disappeared from existence … Yeah, because there’s no fun in having Lutz have power. So if there were to be a reunion, Lutz wouldn’t be there. What about your character?
SA: I think he changed because of Donaghy. I think he started out as Liz’s confidant and conscience and safe haven, and eventually Liz defected to Donaghy and found a better companion in Donaghy, so that left Pete adrift; I think that made Pete a little more unstable and he was just getting more and more unstable the more we found out about him.
JL: I just realized that my character in the first two seasons — I was mean and a jerk and wasn’t nice at all to anybody, and then I think on the MILF Island episode, that was the first episode where I was turned a little bit more into a loser.
JL: Man-child. And that went from there.
SA: Well, I think the longer a sitcom is on the air, by necessity, the dumber the characters have to get, otherwise they would be learning and growing and they won’t be funny, so they have to get more and more extremely whatever they are …
JL: Yeah, rather than being a jerk and trying to show Frank up, I am more into pumpkin patches at the end.
SA: Yeah, that’s the classic sitcom arc for a character, I think. Diane on Cheers started out as a brash intellectual, and by the end, she was … all about pumpkin patches.
JL: I know, she is the same as Lutz. Should we have a final question? How has being on 30 Rock changed your life?
SA: First and foremost, I live in New York now, which is the greatest gift ever, and now people are happy to meet me without me proving anything — that’s different. People smile at me without me proving I am a nice person yet.
JL: Which is interesting because you’re not.
SA: I am a terrible person, and when people learn that, the smile goes away immediately, and I feel — I want to be glib, and I can’t think of anything. I am less glib! Oh, there you go! Let me ask you the same question …
JL: Well, for one, being on that show really helped Sue and I hang out, and our relationship really grew during the course of that show; we got married, enjoyed working together, and just had a son! We named him 30 Rock. Also, I think it’s like another group of friends that we have, where, like in the Second City, you had a group of people, SNL was a group of people, and now it’s just another group of people who I hopefully will work with for the rest of my life.
SA: That’s true. Every time that you do a play or a show of any kind, really you have this family that you really build something with for a while and then we all dissipate, but you always have that connection, that eternal kind of intimacy, you’ll always have. The people I wrote shows with on the Second City have been my family forever.
JL: And that’s what happened at 30 Rock, actually, because you and Tina worked at Second City, and it kind of helped you get that part.
SA: Well, that was nepotism.
JL: Oh, yeah, well, sorry. The one other thing I’ll say is that now people call me Lutz. Strangers know my name and yell it at me.
SA: That’s fantastic. Yeah, people yell my name, my character’s name across a parking lot at me. For some people who watched the show, it became sort of a triumphant yell.
JL: Yeah, you yelled Hornberger, didn’t you?
SA: Yeah, I think Pete yelled it as a very meager triumph, but it meant the world to him. So people would yell Hornberger to me across the river or wherever I am …
JL: Across the river?
SA: Not the river, I have visual things going on in my head: I am on one side and the fan is at the other side of the bank. But let me say, I’ll say airport—
JL: It’s probably where it happens most.
SA: How about this?
JL: Yes, that’s a better visual. In a train.
SA: All right, train.
JL: All right, well, Scott, it was wonderful talking to you. I hope we never work together again.
SA: We still do a live show together called John and Scott at the UCB theater in New York.
JL: That is true, that is very true; we do an improv show there, occasionally, which is very fun, and it’s generally a lot funnier than the interviews we do. Well, we’ll see — this one might be pretty good.
SA: I was very unhappy with my response to how it changed your life …
JL: Oh, I threw you. Sorry.
SA: No, it’s not you. It’s me: I wasn’t good at answering that question. So, edit that with care … or a machete.