Meditating with Rob Corddry

Actor, writer, producer, Daily Show correspondent – when I think of Rob Corddry I think talented and hilarious, but quite frankly a little jerk-ish. He tends to play the rougher, sarcastic, to put it in his words, asshole. I’ve learned not to judge someone based on the roles they play. Yet I was still didn’t expect Rob to be so nice, nor to learn the secrets of life and how to meditate from him. (Yeah, you read that right.) Yet, our conversation about his new movie Hot Tub Time Machine 2 took us down that road and somehow I came out of it a little more enlightened.

I’m sure people ask you all the time if you could time travel somewhere, where you would go, but I want to know if you could travel somewhere in your own career and change something you’ve done, would you and what would it be?

Huh? Well, I appreciate the specificity by the way, because yeah, I haven’t even started the junket yet and that question’s already gotten a little tiresome. I like that take. What would I have done differently? You know, the laws of cause and effect being what they are, I wouldn’t change anything, because then everything right now would be you know, different. I wouldn’t want to create a butterfly effect. I’m pretty happy with my career. I’m trying to think of something that’s disappointing…

Maybe you could’ve just been nicer to that one intern on that one shoot?

I’m so nice to interns, because I realize that they will someday, if statistics are correct, be my boss.

Good point.

And also, I’m just insecure about people not liking me.

Are you really?

Well yeah! Not as much as I used to be, because it’s impossible, but yeah definitely. I conduct myself and my business in sort of an unofficial karmic way. But also it’s kind of selfish in a way. There’s a part of me that wants to be known as a nice person, because then people are talking about me favorably. (laughs) No matter how altruistic you are, and I do feel like I’m a nice person, it’s definitely… you know, everything’s ego driven at it’s core.

Right. It’s still self-serving to be a nice human being.

Yeah, it is. The bad part is that I have trouble getting angry.

What do you mean you have trouble getting angry?

I don’t know. It’s an emotion I’m not comfortable with. I don’t often get angry, I mean, I get frustrated. I mean furious and losing myself in a rage, in some kind of explosion. That very rarely happens, because I’m just not… I descended from puritans. We’re not comfortable expressing any emotion and anger’s usually the one that we replace with sarcasm.

Do you meditate or are you into the whole “Laws of Attraction” and The Secret kind of world?

I’m definitely a sucker for that sort of brand of thinking, the touchier, feelier stuff. I don’t think I have a set course. I’m open-minded to it all. I do meditate. I do TM.

Really? So tell me the secret of that. Because I’m not a Zen person by nature, but it’s been my goal for the last several years, so how did you learn to meditate? What are your tricks?

The whole problem with Zen is there’s no explaining it and there’s no understanding it and once you do understand it there’s no explaining it, because it is, well that’s a circular conversation just on itself. But I think as a culture, we don’t like to be bored. We don’t like to sit still and I just think sitting still in itself for no other purpose than to sit still and be bored is a very helpful tool. Meditation is just an exercise that strengthens human beings’ comfort with it. The secret to meditating is doing it. It’s a practice. And I go up and down, but it’s a practice that can be very frustrating, but it can also be very… everything else. I think the Buddhists call it Dukkha. It’s the, and I’m going to murder the definition, but it’s the fundamental dissatisfaction we feel as human beings. As a culture we’re trying to escape all the time from being somehow, inexplicably dissatisfied. But the real secret, I think, and I’ve in no way achieved a kind of enlightenment in this realm, but I think the real achievement is to accept the fundamental dissatisfaction and be cool with it.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody put is so perfectly to actually make me go, “Oh! That totally makes sense.”

Yeah, it’s kind of relaxing isn’t it? When you think, “Oh! So I don’t have to stop being fundamentally dissatisfied. I just have to not dwell on it.” There are some teachers of a particular meditation that I really like, Mindfulness Meditation, that’s the whole Ram Dass school. Basically I think Jack Kornfield says, “Have the thought, whether it be anger, sadness, boredom and just recognize it as such, label it and then don’t indulge it any further.” It’s really the secret to life and it’s not as hard as you’d think, but just the concept, just understanding, that is a relief to me.

I always feel that it’s so important when you’re uncomfortable, because you’re growing and changing, whether it’s personal or in your career. You have to stay in that uncomfortable part of life to get to the other side and evolve. I’ve never thought about meditating in that same way.

It’s helped me in other ways, in personal, psychological and spiritual ways too.

So tell me, do you prefer writing or acting more?

I think I’m better at acting, because I’ve been doing it longer, so it’s a little more immediately gratifying, but I like the process of writing a lot more. Whether it be sitting by myself and writing, or writing with a group of people, it feels more like work. Whereas acting is a lot of waiting around and then it’s a lot of trying to do it better and that brings with it a whole host of other considerations like, “Why is that bit hanging me up here? I got to work on this. We only got time for one more take.” So, writing there’s more of productive feeling to it than acting.

Did you always want to do comedy specifically?

No, no. Up until the mid-nineties, I was on an Off-Off Broadway Shakespeare track, almost exclusively. I came from a very small theater department at UMass Amherst. We all fancied ourselves artists and servers of these ancient texts and really delving into the twenty-something-year-old mind. Really I most shone in comedy parts.

Do you think you’ll go back someday and do more drama or Shakespeare?

I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between it all. Whether it be comedy or drama or Shakespeare, you just have to approach a moment honestly and it’s the same result. It’s the same process to a different result, rather. I don’t plan things necessarily in that way, mine’s more amorist. I just want to do cool shit with people who aren’t dicks.

Which seems like you’re doing a pretty good job with that.

I surround myself with people I love. That’s it.

Yeah, you attract that stuff as the Artist’s Way and other books would say.

I love that book.

It’s so great! It’s the first time I was willing to call myself an artist and not feel like an asshole for it.

Isn’t that huge though?!

It really is.

It took me the longest time to be able to call myself a writer, to give myself permission. That permission usually happens long after you are that thing. It’s a fascinating. I don’t really understand it.

But it changes your choices, your intentions. It makes you start to realize, “I’m not good in this situation, because it’s not fulfilling the artistic side of me.” That even if I didn’t want to be one, I can’t help it. I’ve been one my whole life.

Yeah! Well it gives you personal authority. To be able to give yourself permission to call yourself something gives you the authority to do it as a professional would.

So, Rob of the characters you’ve played and currently play, which one do you think is closest to you?

Oh man, oh man… I don’t know. My short hand answer to why I choose specific roles is that it’s because the script fits in my mouth and in my body. So I guess there’s always a shade of me, but I can’t say that any of them resemble who I think I am at all. You know, I usually play assholes.

Yeah, I am very surprised, pleasantly surprised, how sweet you are. I don’t think I would’ve expected that.

(Laughs) Well it’s all ego-driven. That’s what I want you to think.

It’s working. So the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 looks hilarious of course. The scene where you’re looking in the mirror at yourselves, did you guys get to improvise much of that?

(Laughing) Yeah, for sure. A lot. It was kind of actually a frustrating thing about the writing process, because I was developing it with the director Steve Pink and the writer Josh Heald and there were some scenes that seemed a little half written and we were running out of time. Steve was like, “We’ll figure it out on set.” It was sort of the way the first one worked as well, because Josh is there the whole time. Josh and Steve sort of make up a fifth character. The mirror scene in particular was a lot of improv. That whole back and forth is a runner in the movie of how “you look like a…” So I’d go back to my trailer and write a couple things and then we’d run dry and we’d come up with a couple things in the moment. Then Josh was right there behind the camera throwing us lines. I think the one I’m most proud of that I came up with was, “You look like Billy Zane’s dick.” It’s better if it only makes a little bit of sense.

The best one was Josh Heald’s and luckily I got it. It was to Craig. I said, “You look like a minor Tyler Perry character.” I believe that was even scripted.

Do you have any good behind the scenes stories that maybe you haven’t talked about in an interview yet? That’s a very open-ended question, I know.

Yeah, it’s a tough one. There’s nothing that I find myself having to hide. We’re all friends, so there’s never any drama or anything. There’s just a lot of fun, man. Okay, once my wife was in town, we were in New Orleans and Craig (Robinson) texted me and said, “Meet me at The House of Blues.” So we went to The House of Blues and it’s closed. I said, “Where are you?” and he said, “I’m in here!” And we’re looking around like, “What? Is there another House of Blues? This is it.” All of the sudden behind us we hear (deep voice), “You looking for Craig?” We turn around and there’s two huge black bouncers staring down at us and we’re like, “Yeah.” And he was like, “This way.” We follow them through a “Spinal Tap” maze of tunnels to this secret room, which is done up like a beautiful turn of the century lounge. He’s sitting on a couch with his towel, because that’s real, surrounded by beautiful women. There must’ve been twenty beautiful women on this long couch and he went “Heyyyyy!!” And he got up and left the beautiful women to come give us hugs. Craig Robinson is the Mayor of every town we go to. Within a day he knows everyone.

You’re obviously friendly, but are you that outgoing or a little more quiet?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I think if I took that test they have, I would probably test as an introvert. I much prefer being alone than to being with people. In my twenties and thirties, I had crippling social anxiety, then I realized it stemmed from childhood. I remember in second grade sitting in the car outside of a kid’s birthday party not wanting to go, in tears and not being able to explain it. My mother being like, “What is the matter with you?” She was angry, because she was confused. And I was confused. I was just afraid of communicating. I went at that hard in my late thirties and conquered it for the most part, but I realized then that my form of comedy and my way of communicating with people in a very seemingly extroverted way is largely born out of having to fill the space and the silence and make everybody else more comfortable. I’m always very sensitive to the vibe in a room and my first instinct is to put everybody at ease and to make them laugh. I think when I was younger that mostly came off as obnoxious, but I wouldn’t have my particular sense of humor if I hadn’t had that problem. It goes back to your first question. Now I’m sort of comfortable sitting still and letting things take care of themselves and knowing that everybody feels similarly to some degree. Everyone is a little uncomfortable.

It’s like when you go out and you meet people, especially comedians who have a reputation of being assholes and it’s like, no, they’re just socially awkward. Everyone’s got their own shit and we’re all just trying to balance and somehow get along with the other people who have their own shit to deal with.  

Yeah, comedians are by nature just very, very sensitive people, which makes them good comedians, because they’re sort of the, especially standup comics… oh god, it’s so cheesy to say, it’s almost religious. They’re priests in a way. Just at a religious person’s best, they’re pointing out the things we all feel dissatisfied by and then giving us relief with laughter. It relieves them because they’re much more sensitive than the typical Wall Street guy.

If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be? And you can’t use the words “funny,” “bald,” or “famous.”

Umm… Well-intentioned. Does that count as two words?

I’ll let that counts as one.

Well-intentioned, hard working… functional alcoholic.

Oh. (laughing) Didn’t expect that last one. Do you have any big goals or things you want to do in the future?  

Well, I’m in Miami right now shooting a show for HBO that I’m really excited about. It’s called Ballers. Before I started shooting it, I probably would’ve said I wanted to do the same sort of thing on a more interesting, grander scale, just because of the challenges. And of course because of the cash. I love money, don’t get me wrong. It’s made by Steve Levinson and Mark Wahlberg and Kevin Riley and they’re sort of like the Entourage, How to Make it in America guys and they’re doing for football what Entourage did for show business, in a way. So it’s like a behind the scenes business, and it’s a comedy. It’s really, really good. I mean, to call it like Entourage is totally wrong, but it’s an easy shorthand way to describe it. But Ballers, I don’t know I have such faith in this show and I’m enjoying it so much that my near future at least, is very tied up in my hopes for this show’s success.

Lastly, any thoughts on Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show?

Good! Because I’ll be right where I’ve been since I left the show, Stewart… right outside. You better have my five bucks!

Meditating with Rob Corddry