chat room

Rob Corddry on Childrens Hospital Rewrites, Marrying Lake Bell, and Time Travel Logic

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty

The fifth season of Childrens Hospital finds Rob Corddry once again swabbing clown paint onto his face to portray Dr. Blake Downs. Actually, technically, he’s portraying an actor named Rory Spindell, who is a clone of Cutter Spindell, the slain thespian who’d previously played Downs. But the point is, Corddry is still banging out Childrens Hospitals for Adult Swim when not appearing in almost every movie ever (up next: CH costar Lake Bell’s theatrical directing debut, In a World…, out tomorrow); the third episode of season five airs at midnight tonight. During a recent conversation with Vulture, Corddry chatted freely about furious re-writes on the Childrens Hospital set, being an ordained Internet minister, and how they’re going to explain John Cusack’s absence from Hot Tub Time Machine II.

How is your take on Rory Spindell’s take on Dr. Blake Downs specifically different from your take on Cutter Spindell’s take on Dr. Blake Downs?
That’s a great question, and one I thought that I would have to wait until going on the Inside the Actors Studio to answer. You know, as a very careful viewer, you’ve noticed the subtle differences in how the character is being played this time around. Mostly in that Rory is right-handed and Cutter is left-handed — which changes everything! Cutter is also more of a thinker, and Rory, when he walks, he leads with his dick.

To get your head around the concept, did you spend your off-season studying cloning?
If by “studying” you mean “watching Moon again,” then, yes.

Was the process of putting together season five different than in previous years?
The problem this year is we’re getting cocky. Every year, we throw out an episode at the last minute. And then we have to scramble and re-write while we’re re-writing other ones. But this year, we were so cocky we threw away three or four of them, and just totally found ourselves in the weeds while shooting the thing. I’m barely in this season because I was up in my office writing.

What are the reasons you throw them out?
You just can’t get it right. I think our, like, OCD works for us and against us here. We just cannot let something go if one or all of us feel in some small way it doesn’t work. Or if it feels familiar. Or if it feels like, why, we’ve been banging our heads against this and we’re just not having fun doing it — what about that other idea that we had?

And I suppose writing begets re-writing?
It’s incredible — we’re always re-writing. This year, we were so behind the starting line. At one point, we had a week left to shoot and I was [still] writing the episode that we were going to be shooting in two days. I was re-writing and IMing David [Wain] my notes on what was currently shooting so that he would re-write that one, and then I would re-write the scene that was shooting downstairs from my office in between takes. And that was the day before I got the flu and my body just folded and gave up.

If you could do it all again, is there anything you would do differently with the show? Like, maybe not calling it Childrens Hospital, which is really hard to Google?
You know what I would do? The first couple seasons I proudly eschewed character and story development for jokes. We were purely a joke-based show, character and story be damned. But I realized around season three somewhere that character and story are the greatest joke engine. So I think if I had started with that in at least season two, then who knows where we’d be? We’d have one extra storyline this season?

How do you prep newcomers and guest stars, like Jaleel White?
He was on last night’s episode, and he was amazing. Amazing! We shoot two episodes over four days, and, yeah, their first time, everybody kind of comes out of it wide-eyed, but smiling. Like, Wow, that’s fast! We just work really, really fast. But I like doing really low-budget run-and-gun stuff because everybody is trying to solve a problem together and we can’t throw money at it. So people are more creative, and they feel more focused, and that makes you happier. It’s just science.

Childrens Hospital has become a boot camp for comedy. Lake Bell’s first couple times in the directing chair was on your show, right?
I would love to take credit for her directing abilities. But luckily, we got her while she’s hot. She’s so good at it, in a way that a lot of actors aren’t visually, and just has that inherent feel for an overall view of what you’re doing. I’m just constantly in awe of Lake Bell. I just married her and her husband in New Orleans.

The tattoo artist [Scott Campbell]?
He gave me a tattoo the week before.

What did you get?
I got my wife’s name on my shoulder.

Doesn’t he do a thing where he crosses out his ex-girlfriends on his own body?
Yeah! He’s got a big like LAKE down the side, and he got it after only four months of knowing her. And he’s like, “By the way, if this doesn’t go well, don’t worry about it — I got a lot of tattoos. I’ll just add an RS and get into basketball.” But they’re really cool people, and it was really fun [to officiate the wedding]. I really focused. I really got into what is so special about Lake and Scott. So it’s really hard for me to concisely give you a sound bite. Here’s a really grand, pretentious, weird one: I believe in God because of Lake Bell.

Yeah. How ‘bout that? Put that in your fucking web magazine.

Did you have to get ordained?

Like, online?
Yeah. You could be ordained by the time we finish this call.

Can you only do ceremonies in the state of Louisiana?
I can do them in New York and Louisiana — I married some friends in New York last year. Every state is different, but Louisiana is just a lawless place in general. You have to write a letter and send photocopies of your “credentials” to the department of health and hospitals. And then that’s it. I had my assistant call them back to follow up, and they’re like, “Follow up? Oh, that’s adorable. No, hon, you can do whatever you want here. Wanna arrest somebody? Sure, go ahead. Have fun! Here’s some beads!”

I do have to ask about Hot Tub Time Machine II.
Do it.

How are you going to explain John Cusack’s absence? Has that been figured out yet?
I hope so. We just finished shooting last Friday.

Is there a complicated science-fiction explanation?
I’ll tell you this: Time travel is both a gift and a curse, in that a) you can kind of get away with everything, but b) when you pick a rule, you have to stick by that, and it has a domino effect. So, a lot of what we shot and we figured out and wrote, now we’re beholden to a whole crazy storyline in Hot Tub 3, should it happen. And John Cusack’s character is very much a part of that.

So you honored some kind of a sci-fi code of verisimilitude.
I would not be able to watch a sequel that didn’t deal with a missing character in a satisfying way. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t watch it, let alone be in it.

You would have walked away if the explanation had been less than satisfactory?
No, I would’ve gotten paid. But I wouldn’t have liked it.

Rob Corddry on Rewrites, Tattoos, Time Travel