Rob Corddry is definitely the next member of the Daily Show cast to hit it big, following in the steps of Steve Carrell and Steven Colbert. He’s the best correspondent they have right now, and while it’ll be too bad to see him eventually leave, if he’s going to do more work like Blackballed: The Bobby Dukes Story, I won’t complain.
Some of you may have seen Blackballed; it’s been playing the festival circuit for the last year or so. It’s now getting a small theatrical release (starting this week in New York City at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater) before coming to DVD in the summer. Blackballed is about Bobby Dukes, at one time the Tiger Woods of paintball. But during one pivotal match Bobby took a paint pellet – and was caught wiping the paint off himself. He was banned from the sport and disappeared. Ten years later, his ban over, Bobby returns to paintball, and wants to compete in the Hudson Valley Paintball Classic. He recruits a team of misfits – including Best Week Ever’s Paul Scheer and a bunch of other Upright Citizens Brigade alums you’ve seen before. It’s a hilarious and yet thrilling expose of the excesses and pitfalls of the paintball world. Well, it’s hilarious anyway.
Last week I talked to Rob on the phone about Blackballed, the Daily Show, and his upcoming films. Corddry is going down in history as one of the most personable and enjoyable people I have ever interviewed. Stick around through the end of the interview for the list of where and when Blackballed will be playing (hopefully) near you in the coming weeks.
Q: I saw you earlier this year in Failure to Launch -
Corddry: Lucky you.
Q: – And that film has paintball in it. Were they ripping off Blackballed?
Corddry: [laughs] It’s adorable for you to even think they had Blackballed on their radar. Or that Blackballed is on anyone’s radar. Unfortunately, no. But I think now it’s going to be my thing.
Q: So paintball is now going to be your…
Corddry: My niche.
Q: Very nice.
Corddry: I’m going to be typecast.
Q: As the paintball guy.
Corddry: As the paintball geek.
Q: I think that Blackballed is on people’s radar – it’s done very well on the festival circuit.
Corddry: It really has. And we’ve got a lot of cool awards, too. Like audience awards. The kinds of awards that you want to get. That make you feel the best. It’s really fun.
Q: South by Southwest, which is like the coolest festival you can win awards at.
Corddry: Yeah, I don’t really remember much of it. It’s also the biggest drinking festival.
Q: That’s a great town, Austin Texas.
Corddry: My God, it’s amazing. I wonder if that would be a good town say, in California, or in New York.
Q: No, it’s magic because it’s this great spot in the middle of this incredibly conservative and awful state.
Corddry: It’s a diamond in a fucking trash heap.
Q: Where did Blackballed come from for you? How did you get involved in the film?
Corddry: Paul Scheer and I were approached by Brian Steinberg, one of the producers of the film, who’s friends with the director, Brant Sersen. Brant had this idea and Brian had helped him develop it, and then they brought Paul Scheer and myself in to help them flesh it out and cast all of our friends in it.
Q: That’s the interesting thing about the modern comedy scene is how supportive it is. There are guys from certain groups – like you with the Upright Citizens Brigade – where you can always count on seeing their friends involved in their projects.
Corddry: It’s true, right? It’s very incestuous. Also it’s not just because you want to cast your friends because then maybe your friends will be able to pick up the dinner or drink tab once in a while. That theater produces the most amazing talent I think in the country.
Q: How often do you get back to UCB?
Corddry: Whenever I can. It’s rare because the Daily Show schedule is so weird that it’s hard to know what I’ll be doing day to day. So I can’t have a commitment there, but I do as many one-off shows as I can. Also, I’m really rusty right now. I’m rusty so it’s scary for me to get up there. And I love free time. I really love it. I have become such a TV junkie.
Q: What are you watching?
Corddry: I’m a huge Lost fan. I look forward to being disappointed by that show every week. Know what I mean? So hard to watch. Everything that’s on Sunday night I love. Absolutely everything. All my cartoons are on that night. I love, of course, The Office. I sort of lost interest in My Name is Earl for some reason. I don’t know why. I just realized now that I stopped watching it. And I love Best Week Ever. I get my news from Best Week Ever.
Q: Which is ironic, since the rest of us get our news from you.
Corddry: I take no responsibility for that. You’re all fucked up.
You know what I think the Daily Show has done? I think the Daily Show has provided a forum for idiots to write political books and get them sold. I really do. I feel responsible only for that market glut. It’s totally our fault and I apologize.
Q: What was the reaction behind the scenes to Jon’s big Oscar night?
Corddry: I don’t know. There was a big Daily Show party but I didn’t make it. I was very nervous the whole time. I found myself being very nervous for him, especially at the beginning. But I think he really caught his stride and won, I think, an unwinnable battle. In retrospect I was very proud of him.
Q: I thought his ad-libs were incredible. He really deflated that show in a way that nobody on the show was ready for.
Corddry: And in a respectful way too, a way that Chris Rock didn’t. It’s such a fine line. His Daily Show fans are immediately going to think that he sold out, and Oscar fans won’t think he has enough respect, so it’s just such a fine line to walk, and I think he did as good as he could have. As good as anybody could have who wasn’t Billy Crystal.
Q: How much of Blackballed is ad-libbed?
Corddry: The dialogue is entirely improvised. The story was written by Brad Sersen and Brian Steinberg and the cast improvised the dialogue in its entirety.
Q: That’s impressive because it doesn’t come across that way – some improvised projects come across disjointed. This feels like a much more cohesive whole.
Corddry: We do a different kind of improv than other films do, the improv as taught by theUpright Citizens Brigade – longform Harold style. It’s improv that emphasizes the reality of the situation and the heightening of that absurd reality. And also making connections, tying things together.
Q: Was it always planned to be a mockumentary from the beginning?
Corddry: As far as I know it was.
Q: It’s funny because when I started watching my first reaction was, ‘Oh man, another fake documentary movie-‘
Q: And then I realized that the story that’s being told in the film, if you told it straight, you would be like, ‘Oh man, another misfit sports team movie.’ But melding those two things together it all becomes much fresher.
Corddry: It also becomes easier when you only have two DV cameras and you have to justify why the picture looks so crappy.
Q: How are you as a paintball player?
Corddry: I don’t know. Probably pretty terrible. About as good as the other improvisers who were out there, which is sub-par at best.
Q: How much paintball did you guys play?
Corddry: We played a lot. We played a couple of times before we started shooting. And a lot of the paintball scenes were actual games we were playing against people. Which is a lot of fun, and we got our ass kicked in every game, but we edited it to make it look like we won. Which I’m sure pleased the actual paintball players.
Q: Were there any injuries. I’ve played paintball. I think I’ve actually played paintball where you guys played – Liberty, right?
Corddry: Liberty, yeah.
Q: I played there and my friend ended up with a scar on his back from a paintball pellet. Were there any injuries on set?
Corddry: Well your friend’s obviously a pussy. Curtis Gwinn got a pretty big welt on his thigh, which you actually see in the movie. I got shot in the head during my quote unquote death scene. The guy was a supposedly crack shot, so he was out to get me. And our caterer got lyme disease. The only permanent scar was a neurological disease.
Q: It’s terrible that I’m laughing at that.
Corddry: It could lead to MS. I’m glad you had a good chuckle.
Q: I was doing some research on you last night and I came across your message board on IMDB. Someone posted about how they saw you in Newbury Comics and you were incredibly polite.
Corddry: Oh yeah, I saw that. As I pretend that I don’t check my IMDB page three times a day. But I remember that. I was shooting a piece for the Daily Show, and I’m from Boston, and I always go to the original Newbury Comics.
Q: How often do people come up to you and recognize you?
Corddry: It depends where I am. In New York people play it cool, so I get looks, like conspiratorial nods. Like, ‘Hey, we’re in it together, buddy. Me and you. Fuck the man.’ But then if I’m anywhere near a college campus or an NPR affiliate, it’s a mob scene.
Q: Which do you like best – the cool NYC approach or people coming up and showing their appreciation?
Corddry: To tell you the truth it’s all pretty cool. Rarely do I get really accosted by someone psychotic. Colbert is fond of saying that what we have on the Daily Show is toy fame – it’s not real. Only a million to a million and a half people watch the show every night, which is not a lot, comparatively. It’s a nice fun little level of celebrity. I can’t remember a time when it’s been annoying.
Q: I guess that the level of celebrity isn’t high enough to keep you guys from going out into the field and doing these ridiculous interviews where the people don’t know what your angle really is.
Corddry: They all know. I rarely interview someone who doesn’t know the show anymore.
Q: So they play along at this point?
Corddry: Usually they think they’re playing along. They try and be funny, and I have to tell them, ‘Hey I think you’re great, but stop making jokes, because it’s not going to make it in the piece. I’m the one getting paid to be funny here, so relax. Punch out.’ Usually the best interviews are the ones where people just answer our questions seriously and really consider how to straighten out this jackass correspondent’s crazy logic. It’s the best when people say, ‘You’re crazy. I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re wrong.’ I love it when that happens.
Q: Has there ever been a point where you felt scared or threatened in these interviews when people maybe didn’t get what you were doing? Or is it that you’re sitting down in advance and explaining it to them?
Corddry: I say, ‘Look, you know the show, and you know that some of our questions might be on the crazy side, but please take this interview as seriously as possible. If something makes you laugh, laugh. Get it out of your system and answer the question.’
Q: What’s been your best experience on the show? Was it covering the DNC at home in Boston?
Corddry: In retrospect that was a lot of fun, but at the time it was really grueling. That first day I was on my feet for 17 hours. Which is insane – I don’t know how we didn’t sustain back injury. I don’t know how actual reporters do it or would ever want to. There were some real high points of that, but the election was – boy, that was a weird chunk of my life.
But my best experience would probably be shooting my ‘Welcome to Boston’ piece for the DNC because I’m from Boston and I did this intro like, ‘Hey everybody, welcome to my town,’ and it dissolved into a drunken mess by the end. It was a lot of fun to shoot and I got to use my dad and my friends and old girlfriends. It was great.
Q: You need to show the old girlfriends just how far you’ve come.
Corddry: It’s funny – the old girlfriend agreed to do it. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while, and she was in this prom photo we were using. I called her and I said, ‘We’re calling you Maureen Sullivan, and we’re telling everybody that I lost my virginity to you.’ Which was not the case. And she was like, ‘Oh, Rob.’ And then at the end of the conversation I was like, ‘Oh, oh, oh, one other thing. We call you a whore. Is that cool?’ I don’t remember, but I think she said something like, ‘Oh, Rob.’ But she was very cool with it, and now her photo has ended up in about three piees and also the pilot I just shot for Fox – the prom photo is on the wall of my quote unquote living room.
Q: Is this the same prom photo that’s in Blackballed?
Corddry: Yeah. Same photo – but with different women’s heads superimposed on it!
Q: Is that your real hair in the prom photo?
Corddry: Oh yeah. I had a hair helmet. I had a shock of beautiful hair at one time. I wasn’t born this way.
Q: You were probably not born that way.
Corddry: No, no. I was born with a full head of beautiful hair!
Q: So you shot this pilot for Fox – what’s that about?
Corddry: It’s called The Winner and it’s a fucked up Wonder Years in that a 45 year old man looks back and narrates his coming of age in 1994 as a 32 year old man. It’s basically the trials and tribulations of a manchild. It’s really funny and I hope to God it gets picked up.
Q: When do you know?
Corddry: I don’t know. Probably some time in May.
Q: And when does Fox tell you they cancelled it?
Corddry: Sometime in August.
Q: Aren’t you afraid to do a pilot for Fox? They have such a habit of axing things.
Corddry: I don’t know – they let Arrested Development go a lot longer than they should have. I love that show and I hate to see it go, but they really lost money on it year after year and let it go on the air. I assume it was sort of a badge of honor of them. And I would love nothing more than to be a badge of honor for a network.
Q: For Blackballed you’re more of the straight man for most of the picture. Do you see your film career as being more of the leading man type?
Corddry: [laughs] That is hilarious. I don’t see my career as being one thing or another. It would probably be as a jackass. If I were to cast myself it would be as a jackass.
Q: Are there more films coming up?
Corddry: Yeah, a couple of them. I’m shooting a small part in a movie called next week. Finishing a small part in a movie called Blades of GloryUnaccompanied Minors the week after.
Q: I was supposed to go to Salt Lake City this week to visit that set. I couldn’t make it, I had to send somebody else to do it for me. I’m so bummed.
Corddry: That’s too bad. It’s a great set, man. Those people are so awesome.
Q: I know! I’m a huge fan of Paul Feig.
Corddry: Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever met him, but he’s the nicest guy in the world.
Q: I haven’t met him. Now you’re rubbing it in.
Corddry: He’s so incredible. He wears a suit to work every day. He’s the nicest, most gracious person I’ve ever worked with.
Q: What do you play in that? It’s about a group of kids, right?
Corddry: Yeah. I play a young dad who travels about a thousand miles to try and save his children from having to spend Christmas morning alone. I’m sort of this subplot that runs through the movie where I’m driving alone in the fake snow.
Q: What is the future of Blackballed? Is it hitting DVD at some point?
Corddry: In July there will be a DVD.
Q: Is there some kind of commentary you’re involved in?
Corddry: Oh yeah. Paul Scheer, Rob Riggle and I do commentary and there’s an embarrassing amount of bonus features. Way too much.
And here’s the schedule for Blackballed in the coming weeks. Go see this film if it’s playing near you!
New York, NY – Two Boots Pioneer Theater Opening April 13th
Tucson, AZ The Loft Theater, Opening April 21st
Toronto, ON – The Royal, Opening April 21st
www.festivalcinemas.com Tel: (416) 516-4845
Austin, TX Alamo Theater-Lake Creek, Opening April 24th
Boston, MA Brattle Theater, Opening April 28th
Vancouver, BC – Granville 7 Cinemas, Opening April 28st
www.empiretheatres.com Tel: (604) 684-4051
Edmonton, AB – Metro Cinema, Opening May 12th
www.metrocinema.org Tel: (780) 425-9212