Interview: Nick Kroll

When you hear NICK KROLL describe the protocol for filming sex scenes with beautiful actresses, even though he’s speaking in his own voice, it’s hard not to hear one of his trademark characters – an endearing guido meathead named Bobby Bottleservice – trying to escape. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where Kroll’s characters end and he begins and, thanks to his dedication to listening to those voices in his head, he can slip into the guise of Bobby B. (or El Chupacabra, Gil Faison etc.) and improv for big laughs alongside names like Andy Daly and Paul F. Tompkins.

A decade of hard work has begun to pay off in a big way for the comedian, who already stars as the diabolical Ruxin in The League on FX and whose new Comedy Central sketch program Kroll Show  just got picked up for a second season. He checked in with us while on a break from developing Season Two of his show that the A.V. Club called “laugh-out-loud funny,” to talk about his plans for the series, making out with friends and the Canadian mystique.

Hi, Nick, how are you doing?

I’m good. I’m just here at the office writing Season Two right now.
Can you tell me what these people have in common: Canadian pop star Anjulie, actresses Nadine Velazquez, Janet Varney, and most recently, your Burning Love co-star June Diane Raphael?

What do they have in common? I mean… I’ve made out with all of them?
Right. All within the last year too.

I guess so (laughs). It’s funny how long I’ve actually known some them. Nadine I met doing The League, but June is a good friend of mine – she’s married to Paul Scheer who is in The League as well. I’ve known Janet Varney for a number of years doing Sketchfest and stuff in Los Angeles and Anjulie and I met doing an open mic in New York seven or eight years ago, and we have been in touch and close ever since.
Have you had to do many kissing scenes before this?

Yeah, I guess over the last couple of years I have had to do some kissing scenes. One of my first big jobs was in a movie called A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy. So, I got thrown into the fire on that one.
Do you have a process in terms of when it comes to getting ready for those types of scenes?

It kind of depends on the person. With June it was sort of a peck and my character is just hammered. Some of it’s scripted, some of it is improvised. Sometimes it’s a discussion depending on the scene. Some people kiss open mouth, some people use tongue. If it’s a real sex scene I think those conversations happen more.

It’s a funny, very bizarre part of the job. I mean, I’m not going to complain about it but it’s also, you know, you have a ton of people watching you and there’s choreography going on so it’s not always the most exciting thing.

If you were to be in a rock band, do you see yourself in a role similar to your character Nash Ricky, as the long-haired charismatic singer?

Yeah (laughs).
I say that because I get the sense that you don’t play guitar or drums or anything like that.

I don’t play any instruments. I can say very, very confidently that I don’t have any musical ability. If you look at our “music” episode, you’ve got Young Billy Joel, Nash Ricky the “Game Interruptor” and Beats & Rice, where I’m I think there’s probably a little of all of those guys in me. Young Billy Joel is bright-eyed and has an innocence to him. is at the pinnacle of his career and doing whatever is necessary to survive and make money. Of course he is no relation to and is in no way a parody of and the Black Eyed Peas.
Not at all.

Not at all. And Nash Ricky – his finest days are perhaps behind him and he has resolved himself to his current career as the “Game Interrupter”. There’s a lot more of Nash Ricky coming in Season Two. We really enjoyed what we found with him so he’ll be coming back.
Is Nash Ricky a comment on people’s inability to not be distracted?

Yeah, it started there. It started with noticing that every moment at every game/TV show has got to be filled with entertainment. There can’t be an empty moment at a live venue where there isn’t something going on.
A lot of the actors you’ve got in the sketches play guitar – like Jon Daly and Tim Heidecker, and Andy Milonakis – are you writing a lot of the music-centric material alongside these musical guys?

Yeah, we’re continuing to make some music stuff. We’re writing something right now for Andy and this new character C-Czar who’s coming out this week on the show. He’s Andy’s character and Roman’s bad influence/best friend with an infected lip ring. We’re always trying to develop more of that stuff. It’s fun and it keeps things fresh.
In the most recent episode I’ve seen there were guest appearances by Maria Bamford and Andy Daly — who are some other guest stars coming up in the episodes ahead?

We’ve got Fred Armisen coming this week. We’ve got more Maria Bamford coming, more Jenny Slate, more John Mulaney, more Andy Milonakis… shoot I’m going to forget some of the others…
A lot of people that have sat around the Comedy Bang Bang podcast desk with you have also appeared on your show – are you working on finding a spot in sketches for Scott Aukerman, Reggie Watts or Paul F. Tompkins?

I have no interest in working with any of those guys.
Yeah, screw those guys.

No, we’ll see come Season Two. I just did Comedy Bang Bang the TV series and saw Reggie and Scott. Paul is not in the first season but I would love to have him. I would love to have all of those guys. It’s such a great big community of people doing comedy right now largely in L.A. The goal is to keep using all of these crazy talented people who come in and can make things so funny, so quickly and easily.

I’ve gotta ask you about your sketch Wheels Ontario – why did you want to send up Degrassi: The Next Generation – I mean what is the awareness of Degrassi in the States?

You’ve been holding off on this one. I’m shocked it’s taken this long.
I was saving it.

This is a big one. For a Toronto music website to wait this long to get to Wheels Ontario – that’s an accomplishment. Wheels originated with Jon Daly and Joe Mande, who is a writer on the show. Jon Daly grew up playing hockey and has been obsessed with Canada from childhood and Joe grew up watching Degrassi. So they developed this idea and wrote it, and then we just kept punching it up with more and more jokes about Canada. The wheelchair aspect of it was partly inspired by Drake being in a wheelchair on Degrassi. I had also wanted to do something that was in the vain of these Canadian or British teen drama shows, like Skins, or all these other ones that are imported and put on MTV. I think Degrassi is one of those shows that, in Canada and in the United States, has resonated so strongly with people for such a long time, and yet had never been parodied to our knowledge.

It came later in the season but it just felt like this fresh territory. It was like there had been this major snowstorm and there’s all this powder that no one had skied on yet. Then the joy of it was saying, “let’s have all of these people be in wheelchairs but really make no jokes about wheelchairs, and have all the jokes be about Canada”. It was about putting in these names like “Sara Paige MacDonald” and all these things that were, to us, very Canadian things.

It’s been awesome how Canadians have responded to it, which is really exciting for us. In general you want to make fun of people but in a way that those people enjoy it, you know what I mean? The nicest response I’ve had from Canadians is just this feeling of being acknowledged (laughs). So it’s just fun filling in these details like Joel Otto of the Calgary Flames, but also creating this fake Canadian lore, like with Sir Brian, the founder of Canadian electricity.
Did you intentionally give yourself a young Bieber-type haircut?

We did do the Bieber haircut, partly just because it’s a good haircut to make someone look young – in my case – and I also got excited about doing the hair flip.
Does Canadian culture go in and out of style depending on the popularity of Canadian celebrities?

I don’t know. I think part of the joy in it was that people often don’t acknowledge Canada very much. Stars come down like Bieber, or older than that, Michael J. Fox, and you only hear in passing that they’re Canadian. Our feeling was that very little is known about Canada in a weird way. Like you guys know so much about us and we know so little about you. It was just so fun to delve into what was the Canadian mystique.
Why did you decide to bring the characters Bobby Bottleservice and Peter Paparazzo out of the Ed Hardy Boyz world and into the world of Ghost Bouncing?

We shot an Ed Hardy Boyz sketch for the pilot and we had access to all the Ed Hardy stuff through Christian Audigier, the mind behind Ed Hardy. But then they wouldn’t sign the release to allow us to use their logos, and we had to bail on it. So it was a combination of two things. One, they screwed us. Shocking, that we couldn’t trust the guy who built the Ed Hardy empire. And two, Ed Hardy has become an irrelevant brand, and it was time to move Bobby away from Ed Hardy and Jersey Shore. Those feel like a time and place and that time and place is gone. But Bobby and Peter are guidos and guidos will live forever. Ghost Bouncers felt like a fun way to continue that relationship and dynamic but also continue to evolve it into stuff that’s more relevant, like ghost hunting shows.
Your new show is coming back for a second season, your other show The League will be back for a fifth season, not to mention recent roles you’ve gotten on The New Girl and the web series Burning Love – is this as successful as you’ve ever been?

Oh, yeah. It’s amazing. I basically started about ten years ago and if you’d have told me that I would have one of these things going ten years later, I would be really excited about it. The fun thing is that in this particular moment I’m either working on my stuff or I’m on The League where I have a lot of say in how we do things, or I’m working on my friends’ stuff. If I’m at Burning Love, it’s written and directed by Ken Marino and his wife Erica, and I’m working with June and all of my other buddies; or I’m at The New Girl, created by Liz Meriwether, and working with Jake Johnson and someone like Bill Burr. These are all people that I know and like.

That’s the most exciting thing; that the people I respect and have come up with are all in positions of working on their own things. I get to collaborate with them on things that a lot of people will see hopefully. It’s really exciting and fun. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat tired at times, but I’m in such a rare position right now that I get to do exactly what I want with people who I think are hilarious and talented. I feel… honoured is the wrong word… but it’s just a very cool, a very fun position I find myself in at the moment and I’m trying to enjoy it while I’m here.
Any plans to come back to Canada anytime soon?

Maybe we’ll come shoot a little bit of Wheels Ontario on location in Toronto.

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