comics talk to comics

Jack McBrayer Talks to Rob Huebel About Transparent and Tina Fey’s Thank-You Notes

Photo-Illustration: Maya Robinson and Photos by Jeff Vespa/WireImage and Unique Nicole/FilmMagic

If Transparent is the only show you watch — as you have very good, yet very specific taste — then you would only know Rob Huebel as Len, Sarah’s grumbling, onetime knife-wielding ex. But most know him as a fixture of the comedy community. As one of the UCB Theatre’s early students, Huebel has found himself consistently in roles big and small in TV and movies for over a decade. So, with Transparent and Len coming back for a second season earlier this month and Childrens Hospital coming back for a seventh next month, Vulture had one of Huebel’s earlier improvising friends, 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, interview him. The two talk shooting Transparent, tans, giving back, and a variety of nonsense.

Rob Huebel: I’m ready for my big interview! I wasn’t told who it was with, I was just told it was with one of the stars from 30 Rock. Hello, who is this?

Jack McBrayer: It’s Jack McBrayer.  
Is it Tina? Is it Alec Baldwin?

What did I just say? This is Jack McBrayer. 
Please, please be Tracy Morgan. Please be Jane Krak … owski.

I love that you had to look down to see how to say her name. 
[Laughs.] Scott Adsit. Judah Friedlander.

Shut up. It’s me. It’s Jack. 
Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Jack McBrayer. Which one were you on 30 Rock?

I was Kenneth the Page. 
The what?

[Scoffs.] I don’t want to do this anymore. 
Um, thank you for doing this.

I know!
Before we get started, I do want to set some ground rules. You had mentioned to me in your text messages that there would be a lot of “gotcha journalism” in this.

That was probably a joke, but, you know, let’s just see where the conversation goes. 
Yeah, but let’s also be clear that this is not gonna be any “gotcha journalism.” If this is your attempt to get me to talk about, you know, my involvement with Scientology …

Be careful, friend-o.
Delete. How do we delete that part? Go back.

No, you already said it. 
This isn’t even recorded. We haven’t even started recording.

Yes, we have, dummy. 
Oh, hold on a second.

[To someone off the phone] May I please have a tall vanilla latte with skim milk?

[Responds to inaudible party] Yeah, Rob Huebel. Yes, I am. Transparent. Oh, um, yeah, a lot of stuff. Sitcoms. I’m doing an interview with Jack McBrayer. Excuse me.

[To Jack] Sorry about that. I’m just out and about. I’m back now.

You knew that this was happening, though. We scheduled this. 
I forgot what time we scheduled it for, and I’m running some errands. Right now I’m at a very exclusive coffee shop, and people are recognizing me from my work in the television …

Don’t do this. Don’t list your résumé.
[Laughs.] Did you say, “Don’t do this,” or “Do it?” I should list my résumé?

No! But, now that we are getting into it, what are you working on now? Are ya’ll still doing Transparent now? Or is that done?
[Sighs.] Boy, you have no sense of Hollywood, do you? I’ll explain to you how Hollywood works, Jack. Because I guess all the shows you do are in New York. Write this down: We shot Transparent over the summer, but it came out on Amazon Prime on December the 11th. So we just shot the second season this summer, and then they’re writing the third season right now. I think they go straight into the third season, so we’ll start shooting the third season pretty soon.

[Yelling] Are they still casting?
[Chuckles.] Excuse me?

Are they still casting?
Why are you yelling that?

I just get a little nervous.
To be honest, I don’t know how they’re doing on the casting front. It sounds like you’re hinting for me to mention you to them.

I would never do that, but if it comes up organically, my gosh, feel free. I would not be offended. 
In what way would it come up organically that Jack McBrayer is available to shoot on Transparent?

Turn a nearby TV on to 30 Rock. Or mention such things as Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Or Talladega Nights. You know, recent movies. 
Don’t do this. Do not list your résumé. Do not list your résumé.

When I first explored the character of Fix-It Felix Jr. [in Wreck-It Ralph] …
Do you think that people reading this will realize that you are also Fix-It Felix? Will they be able to hear your voice in print, and go, “Oh, yeah, that sounds like Fix-It Felix.”

It depends on the font. If they put it in Banjo font. People will get the gist of it. 
Is that a real font? Banjo font?

It is now. We’re gonna be rich! Mark Zuckerberg rich. To think of it: We appeared in a movie together — Despicable Me
Wait a second. I was in Despicable Me? Oh, wait a second. You were in Despicable Me? What were the names of your characters?

Oh, you know, Tourist Dad and Carnival Barker.
I played Anchorman. It was a newscaster. Were you invited to do the second one?

Uh, no. Despicable Me 2? No. I mean, not yet. Not yet, Rob. 
It’s already come out. 

Are they still casting?
No, they’re not casting Despicable Me 2.

We’ll see. 
No, we won’t see. I’m already telling you. You don’t know how Hollywood works.

It all comes out in the wash.
I’m gonna tell you how far away that ship has sailed. There’s already a ride at Universal Studios based on that movie.

I’ll do it. 
No, you can’t say, “I’ll do it.” There’s a Minions ride. You’re not in it. You know, I will say that I am upset that we’re not in it.

Right? We could have been the glue. We could have been the glue. We could have been some minions. [Makes minion noises]I’m a minion, y’all.” “Y’all, I’m a minion.” That’s what I would do. 
Yeah, yeah. Just to talk about all of our projects that we’ve done together, I was a hit character on 30 Rock going way back. And I’m hoping that you remember the name of my character.

Uh, yeah, I believe it was MILF Island Host.
That’s right. I was the host of a reality show called MILF Island, and that was a long time ago, and Tina was so nice. She’s such a nice, thorough person. She sent me a thank-you note. A handwritten thank-you card. She just said, “Thank you for coming on the show. We really enjoyed having you.” I kept it. I was just blown away. Then I found out that she does that for everybody. She’s so nice.

Well, you know, what, buddy? She makes me write those. 
You wrote that?

She made me! She’s not as nice as everybody says. 
[Laughs.] It really takes a lot of the magic out of it.   

Also, where were you last night? We do an improvised show together in Los Angeles called the Facebook Show, and I noticed last night when I was onstage with Paul Sheer, Seth Morris, and Charlie Sanders that you weren’t there.

Yeah, you noticed this when you were onstage? You didn’t notice this when you were backstage.
Well, I don’t really pay attention offstage. I hope you had a good excuse for blowing off your friends and not being part of the show.

Yes, I do, Rob. I was helping out our other friend Owen Burke on a Funny or Die project. 
Oh. Gotcha. You do a lot of projects.

I do so many projects. I don’t know. I just feel good giving back. 
You seem like the kind of Hollywood personality that would literally think that what you do is helping the world. You would be that confused and fucked up about how the world works that you think that you’re making a difference in this world by the comedy that you make. Is that what you think?

I don’t think it, I know it. If you’re so #blessed with gifts, such as I am, you have no choice but to share the wealfth. Am I saying that right? Wealfth? I have always prided myself on if, hypothetically, the entertainment industry just dissolved, just went away today, I feel that I have enough marketable skills that I could still contribute to society and make a difference. I’m a very good typist.
I have an opinion on what you just said. That is not the case at all. If, God forbid, the entertainment industry suddenly evaporated, you would be one of the first people dead. You would die of starvation. There’s no way. What marketable skills? At this point in your life, what marketable skills do you have that you think could translate into the business world?

I can file. 
They don’t do that anymore.

Yes, they do. The secretarial pool: I can do that. 
They don’t do that anymore. It’s all on computers. Do you have a computer?

Yeah, I have a computer. It’s awesome. 
Do you know how to do Excel spreadsheets?

Yes, I do. 
Do you know how to create a PowerPoint presentation?

No, but I’ve never had to do that. 
Do you know any sort of coding? Like HTML, or anything like that?

No. Like, is not a programming language for the internet.

I’m sorry. See what I did?
So, if the entertainment industry goes away, maybe we can both get jobs at Vulture?

Yes, oh! Oh, we’d be so good at that. 
What sort of charity work are you into? Not only are you giving back with all the comedy that you’ve made over the years, but with Fix-It Felix, you went in for, like, two hours and probably made $5 million. So, you’re giving back all of that. You and Mark Zuckerberg. Okay, I’ll phrase it this way because I don’t think you are involved with charities: What charities are appealing to you? And they don’t have to be real. They can be fake.

No, these are real. I have seen so many pale babies in my life. It’s important for them to understand it’s okay to be tan. It is good to be tan. 
No, it’s not.

Listen to me and hear me out and let me finish. Babies are so pale, and it sickens me and it saddens me. And I want that to end.
Babies cannot be tan.

You don’t know that. Anything is possible if you’re free. 
If you saw a tan baby, it would be so upsetting. If I saw a baby that was tan, that means that some bad parent left it out in the sun like a raisin.

You would try to kidnap that baby because it was so beautiful. That is what you would do. 

Also, you would be so jealous of a tan baby. Your skin is like if skim milk were a solid. 
Thank you, thank you. I take that as a compliment. You’re one of my oldest, best friends in the business. See how I qualified that? And we’ve enjoyed making a lot of comedy together.

For charity. 
For charity. To give back. But one of the main differences between us is our opinion on sun exposure.

Correct. You are wrong, and I am right. 
No, I can tell you that the sun is bad for you, and that’s why I avoid it. That’s why my skin is soft like skim milk and marzipan and porcelain.

Ugh. No, marzipan isn’t even soft. Marzipan is like a hard foreign candy. 
I don’t even know what marzipan is.

Well, I don’t either, clearly, but … 
But your skin. Have you already been in the sun today?

Well, yeah, it’s L.A.  
So you went outside and you got sun exposure today without any sunscreen?

Look, this is not my interview, okay? I don’t need this “gotcha journalism.”
I would like to refer you to my dermatologist.

I have a dermatologist, Rob. 
Well, you need to get yourself checked. You’re always tan. You are always tan.

Thank you.
No, I’m not telling you as a compliment. I’m telling you as a criticism. We’ll do a side-by-side skin comparison.

Ah, couples’ dermatology. You nerd. 
We’ll both go in. That’s where we should have done this interview.

Well, I would win. It’s a contest, right?
Can I tell you this? I actually just went to the dermatologist. I go once a year.

Go more than once a year.
Wait, how often am I supposed to go?

Multiple times. I go at least three or four.
Three or four times a year?

To the dermatologist. 
Now I know what you’re doing with all that Fix-It Felix money.  

Oh, here is one other question I was thinking about. I was like, What can I ask Rob Elizabeth Huebel for this interview?
That’s not my middle name. 

You are from South Carolina.
I am. You’re from Georgia.

We don’t talk the same. 
That’s right. We don’t talk the same, and let’s explain why.

You hate your heritage. 
Because I live in Hollywood, and I like to play characters that aren’t just southern. Can I play a southern character? You betcha. Can I do the voice of Tourist Dad and Carnival Barker? Ya betcha. Can I do Fix-It Felix? Ya betcha. But I don’t want to just play southern characters, so I hide it, I bury it, I tamp it down like a secret. Like a dirty little secret.

Oh my God.
And I put it under dirty clothes, and then I put it all in a garbage bag. Then I cinch up the garbage bag really tight, then I put it way back in the closet. And there’s a trapdoor in the back of the closet, and I open the trapdoor, and I throw it in there, and I say, “Southern accent, you stay in there!”

“You stay in there, with the runaway teenager I found earlier. “
The real reason is that people in South Carolina speak differently than people in Georgia. People in Georgia don’t have public schools.

People in Georgia don’t have indoor plumbing.

Oh hell no. 
People in Georgia don’t have dental care.

Or birth control.

So, people in South Carolina have all of those modern advances.

And our accents are a little less and a little more beautiful.

Everything you said is wrong. 
All right, we should probably wrap up the interview.

Aw, but this was great fun. 
This was great fun. I appreciate your time.

It’s nice to give back. It’s really nice to give back. 
Especially at this time of year.

This time of year. Right?
For us to take the time out of the busy holiday season, you give back to comedy fans and internet trolls.

Well, I thank you for including me in this wonderful project. 
Thank you for being the voice of Fix-It Felix. Thank you for being Kenneth the Page. Thank you for being the guy on Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And for all the many.

Yeah, okay. Thank you for Transparent on Amazon Prime.
And? And? And, and when what else are you thanking me for?

I don’t know.
Just Google a movie called Night Owls coming out, with Adam Pally.

Okay, I didn’t know about that. I wish you would have told me that.
You would also like to thank me for a television program called Childrens Hospital. You can thank me.

That is true. 
I was on The Goldbergs last night. Would you like to thank me?

Oh, I didn’t know that. 
I shot Fresh Off the Boat yesterday. Would you like to thank me?

Uh, fine. Fine. Thank you. Thank you. I will have Tina Fey send you a thank-you note for this interview. 

Jack McBrayer Talks to Rob Huebel