Henry Zebrowski calls me from his Toronto hotel room where he is currently shooting Heroes Reborn. Within seconds, he launches into a live commentary of a raccoon adventure happening right outside of his window. “They’re squaring off by the dumpsters, either fighting or having sex. I think they were fighting over food, but then it turned into sex. Which is pretty much how I do it.” Zebrowski is best known – or rather, most recognizable to the general public – for his role as Alden “Sea Otter” Kupferberg in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. But comedy fans likely know Zebrowski better from his lead role in the Adult Swim series Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, wherein he plays Gary, a bumbling associate demon trying to climb the corporate ladder of Hell. I talked to a very caffeinated Zebrowski about the second season of Your Pretty Face, his comedy history, and how weed is a good marketing tool (despite the reluctance of the networks to admit it).
So, you’re shooting Heroes Reborn right now. Are we in store for a Chris Pratt-esque physcial transformation for you?
I don’t have the team of nutritionists and people who work on your body. I couldn’t do it if I wanted to. The problem is my genes. I’m a Zebrowski. I’m built like a duffel bag filled with wet leaves. That’s my lineage. If I were to change that, my father would disown me.
Are you playing a conspiracy theorist on that show?
Yes, which is very similar to me in real life. I run a podcast about the paranormal, occult, and conspiracy theories called Last Podcast on the Left. If you come in to my room anywhere it will be littered with books on aliens … like on my coffee table here in Toronto I have this gigantic book called Bloodlines of the Illuminati. I read that to distract myself from all of the good news that’s going on in the world right now.
I feel like a lot of comics are into this stuff. What is the attracting factor?
Everybody’s into it! It’s not just comedians. Everybody engages in something that’s dark because it’s something that’s so outside of their lives. If you think it’s fake, it’s entertaining for you. If you think it’s real, then it makes you feel like you have a little less control over your life, which can alleviate anxiety. If you believe in magical rituals and stuff like that, then maybe you think it can change your life. Like a masturbation ritual where you write what you want on a piece of paper, jerk off on it while thinking about what you want, then eat the paper.
That’s basically The Secret, right?
Right, plus jerking off.
How did you get involved in comedy?
Despite the controversy, in elementary school I copied Bill Cosby’s Himself. That and Chris Farley and Sam Kinison. When I was an infant, my mom would watch Sam Kinison and every time he screamed, I would laugh. Then I started to discover as I grew up – I was pretty fat as a kid – that when I did the motivational speaker as Farley, I would get pulled out of class. Teachers would send me to other classes to do my impression. I would get ten minutes at the end of every class in elementary school to just run my mouth. They did that so I would stop disrupting class. Originally, I wanted to be a serial killer profiler in the FBI. I had a guidance counselor when I was 15 who said, “You should try drama.” I’ve pretty much done that ever since. The girls were also in drama, which helped a lot.
When and where did you get into comedy as a career?
We – all of Murderfist – had moved to New York from Florida State University right after school and started doing shows. We begged for stages. We didn’t do UCB or The Pit or anything yet. That was before I guess it became mandatory for anybody to do comedy in the city. We were independent. The people we started with … we did free weekly shows with like, Kumail Nanjiani and Michael Che. I remember when John Mulaney had nothing going on. It was a really cool time. Well, it was the end of the really cool times. We got to do a couple of shows at Rififi. But then Rififi closed and we were like, “Fuck. Everything that was cool about New York comedy just died. Now we have to make it ourselves.” That’s when we got a monthly show at The Pit and we’ve been doing that for like, seven years.
When did you make the jump to acting?
When they hired me. Actually, Kumail got me my first job in show business. He pulled my tape for Michael & Michael Have Issues. The Michaels saw it, were into it, and hired me. That was incredible. I went from nothing to basically hanging out with two of my comedic idols … who I discovered were drunks and wife-beaters, which is really fucked up.
I would imagine that a career highlight for you was getting the role of ‘Sea Otter’ in The Wolf of Wall Street.
The experience was the most incredible, rock ‘n roll thing that I could ever be a part of. It was absolutely apeshit. I got to have conversations with Rob Reiner about filmmaking. DiCaprio and I talked about the war between chimpanzees and Neanderthals. It was great. We all became really close friends. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never get back.
Season 2 of Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell is currently airing on Adult Swim. Your character, Gary, is still struggling to find his footing in Hell and be a good employee for Satan. Have you ever had a job that resembles the way Hell is depicted on the show?
Most of my jobs that weren’t acting.
The show is shot in Atlanta, right?
Yeah, it’s my favorite place to shoot. It’s an amazing city. It has such a dark center of weird. It was called the Horror Capital of the Country. The energy there is wonderful.
Take me through an average day of shooting.
I show up at about 6 a.m. I’ve had two hard boiled eggs and a bowl of Raisin Bran. I sit down for makeup, which takes about an hour and a half. Shane Morton – who does all of the makeup for Pretty Face – and Chris Brown – who applies all of the prosthetics – are like my brothers. We listen to heavy metal while dancing, yelling, and talking about reptilians. It’s the most inappropriate makeup room that exists. We all kind of fully identify with being Satanists. There are crosses and demon heads all over the place. We shoot about 14-hour days. We get a lot less done than we should because of how much improv stuff Dave (Willis) and Casper (Kelly) love. We’ll do the script, but they just let the camera run, so we improv all of the time. Honestly, it’s my favorite job of all time. It’s total freedom. I’m a human cartoon character. By the end of the day, I’m covered in bruises and cuts from running around and rolling on the ground and shit. It’s very physical. After the shoot, I go back into makeup, where a poor woman has to wash my body. Then we proceed to drink and go to sleep. The job is so intense that you’re like, “I have to have six scotches.” The next day, we wake up and do the same thing again. It’s the best.
It sounds like your version of a dream job.
I’m jealous of myself. Don’t get me wrong. It’s very physical. I mean, my skin falls off. But there is so much happiness that I just have to delete the fact that my skin falls off for a month, or that I sweat red stuff. I went to go workout on the elliptical at the hotel gym. This guy next to me is looking at me like I’m crazy. I look in the mirror and realize that the sweat on my face is red, like I’m sweating blood.
You just represented the show at Comic-Con. How was that?
It was great. We had big crowds for the panel and the signing. It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s been two years since the show first came out, but it feels like people still held on to it. Now that the second season is out, the fans are coming out of the woodwork.
Any teasers you can give us for this season?
To be honest, the whole show is bigger, badder and weirder than ever. Spark a hog leg … I’m not supposed to say this because Adult Swim does not like the weed talk. But do yourself a goddamn favor and roll up a torch, blow it down, watch the show and have a great time. What they don’t understand about weed is that then people have to see the show again. It’s actually getting them return customers.
Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell airs on Adult Swim Sunday nights at 12:15am.