Anyone who is a fan of the hit FX show The League knows that while the cast is very much an ensemble comedy, it is the acidic quips of Rodney Ruxin, played by comedian Nick Kroll that makes the show one of the funniest on TV. Kroll is no slouch to the comedy world, performing stand-up for the better part of a decade in addition to starring in a slew of sitcoms and projects. His sardonic stand-up is complimented by his cast of characters like Bobby Bottleservice who was Jersey Shore before the Jersey Shore, and the flamboyantly fierce Fabrice Fabrice. It’s a busy week for Kroll because his first hour special Thank You Very Cool will premiere on Comedy Central this weekend (Saturday the 29th at 10 pm). We caught up with him to attempt to find out why he’s one of the funniest guys out there.
So, tell me about the new stand up special Thank You Very Cool
The idea for it was to create something that was a fair representation of all the different things that I do right now combining stand-up and characters both live on stage and on film. The goal was to make something that was a representation of the things that I found funny and to collaborate with my friends that I think are really funny, or enjoyed working with, or have always admired. The idea was to create a one man Muppet show basically.
Are their any plans to turn the special into a DVD release?
Oh definitely. It won’t come out for a while because we just shot it in November so the turnaround time was too short but their are plans for a DVD which will be loaded with a ton of other stuff because the show for-air is only forty one minutes and their is probably well over eighty minutes of material that we just couldn’t fit into the for-air special.
Have you ever thought of doing a sketch comedy show that would integrate all of your separate characters?
I always loved doing the characters and hopefully we can work somewhere towards where we can do something like that. We will see what the future holds. I think something like that would be a great opportunity to combine the characters with stand-up.
Where do your costume ideas for your different characters come from?
It all depends. Fabrice was the first live character that I did regularly and obviously he has evolved over the years. I sort of came up with costume ideas as they come and that was for everything, their language, the way they move, the way they act. They continue to evolve similar as a stand-up does. The difference is I know the way I speak but it was interesting leading up to the special it took me a while to figure out how Bobby holds a microphone. Because I just hadn’t figured it out and then literally a couple of days before I was just, “oh this is how he holds the microphone.”
Did you ever break into character unexpectedly without even realizing it?
Yeah, well right now promoting the special by doing these live Bobby appearances in New York and LA, and in Las Vegas Bobby will be appearing at the Palms Night Club and so I find moments where I will slip into it there. The other side of that is the “Oh Hello” character that me and John Mulaney do. Those evolved from us just talking like those guys in life, and we thought we should probably do something with this if we are going to talk like them all the time.
Is there a chance that you’ll get tired of any of the characters and want to retire any of them?
You know the beauty of having two different characters to play with is you work on one for a period of time and then when you get bored of him you put him on the shelf and pull another one out and it feels fresh and new. It’s like working on a set, you build up the material and then when you get it you put the majority of it away and work on the new stuff. And then you don’t do a joke for a couple of months and then you pull it back out and it makes things fun again. It’s nice to always have these kind of options available to you. It keeps everything interesting and fun.
How did you get involved with The League?
Well Jeff and Jackie [Schaffer] who created it were sitting down with various comedians they met or heard about. We had a meeting, this was a while ago, probably eight months before the show started, we sat down and we really hit if off. They didn’t even tell me that the show was about fantasy football because they wanted to keep it under wraps. They are really smart and have an amazing pedigree. Jeff has written for Seinfeld, directed Curb Your Enthusiasm, worked on Bruno and Borat, and Jackie worked on a lot of cool movies. With all of those accolades, the language they were talking made sense, the people they were talking to made sense. I shot a pilot for something else that didn’t go and The League sort of came to life and we all just went to work, it was really fun.
Were you a football fan when you went into the show?
I am a football fan. I am a sports fan. I’m not a fanatic and I’ve never played fantasy football, but doing it we created a league internally and all of us got into it internally except Lajoie, who is essentially the Taco of The League in real life too. Not as a person but in the way he plays fantasy football.
What’s your league’s name in real life?
This past year was “Basic Cable Actor’s Wife” which was sort of a joke at Stephen Rannazzisi. The other year it was “Ruxin Kroll.” But the other names in the league were like “Fear Boner,” “Vinegar Stroke,” “I Shit When I Cum.” A bunch of the show jokes.
Now how much of the Ruxin character is actually you?
We’re all a bit like our characters, because of the amount of improv there’s aspects of us in each character. I would say that Ruxin is a lot more unhappy sort of obsessed with conspiracy than I am. Obviously the insults he comes up with are coming out of my mind.
So what you’re saying is don’t cross you?
*laugh* Well the joke we keep making is that he [Ruxin] is basically the most unlikable person on television so the idea that people seem to be okay with him is really fascinating to me.
I’m not going to lie he is pretty much the main reason why I watch the show every week.
That is so kind of you. We’re actually really generous cast with one another. Peter will come up with a joke and think it’s something more for Ruxin, or Mark will think of something and think it’s really more for Kevin or vice versa. Everyone just tries to figure out what the best version is for each other.
You’re at a point in your career where you’re established and now touring with younger comedians, what’s it like not being the young guy anymore but not the crusty old guy yet?
I guess when athletes are in their league for more than seven years they become a veteran. I love it, and in doing a couple of these interviews, the more I realize that I just love doing comedy. I love collaborating with different people and going on the road with different people and turning on a show and see a friend on it. Or see any movie or comedy show and see someone I’ve worked with. I love where comedy is right now because of the Internet and because of blogs, and podcasts, and Twitter. There are just so many ways to get your word out and develop stand-up and comedy. I just think we are in such a great time to be doing it and I feel very privileged that I came up when I did and work with all of these people right now.
What comedians are you really into now?
I mean I wouldn’t even be able to answer that fairly. Louis C.K. makes me laugh harder than anyone alive, I was on the road with [Mike] Birbiglia, and what he is doing right now with his storytelling is unparalleled. There are younger guys like Joe Mande, Jenny Slate, and Max Silvestri, that are all great. There is just a ton of new stuff that people are doing that is super exciting. My buddy John Daly makes me crack up with his posts on Twitter and all of his videos on Funny or Die. I could go on, I mean these are all my buddies who I think are fucking hilarious.
Now you’ve had a lot of shows and unfortunately a lot didn’t work out. Which is your favorite show that failed?
This is going to sound cheesy but none of them failed for me, they were all learning experiences as you go. Caveman was my first show ever and obviously it was sort of infamous but I learned how to act on that show and we did some really funny stuff on it. If people go back and watch it on Youtube and all the episodes are up there including the un-aired ones I am really proud of it. That’s the obvious answer I think and every job you do makes you better.
We’d like to thank Nick Kroll for taking time out of his schedule to talk to us, you can find more information about him at www.nickkroll.com. His Comedy Central special Thank You Very Cool premieres this weekend on Comedy Central.