Rob Huebel. You know him and love him for being a super duper funny, silly, comedian and actor in such greats as “Children’s Hospital,” “Human Giant,” “Burning Love,” “NTSF:SD:SUV::,” and that’s just SOME of the TV shows! There’s also I Love You, Man and The Descendants, to name a couple of movies. The list of things he’s been in goes on and on. All for good reason. His absurdist style is addicting. We all love to laugh with him because he’s just one of the funniest guys around. We talk lil’ Rob, improv and not exactly seeing What to Expect When You’re Expecting. We’re posi (positive) you’ll enjoy this one.
Serial Optimist: Rob! Hi! Thanks for doing this! Can we be silly at the start? What was your favorite toy to buy from a 25-cent machine?
Rob Huebel: Is that some kind of a joke about me being old? What’s a 25-cent machine? Something from the 1940’s? Fuck, this interview’s over.
SO: Wait! Not yet! What was growing up in Virginia like for you? What did your parents do for a living and did your family help shape your sense of humor?
Rob: Alright, that was less hurtful. I’m back onboard with this interview. My youngsterhood was pretty much like most people. Suburbs, strip malls, riding bikes, looking at porn mags in the woods, parents got divorced, I was sold off to the semen farms. Wait what? Not the last part.
My dad was an airline pilot and my mom was a mom, and then later went to work for PBS. I have an older brother and a younger one. Both are really funny and my mom’s really funny. My Dad is a good laugher. It’s important to have one of those in the mix. I think my brothers and me spent a lot of time trying to make each other laugh. Just at dumb stuff. Making fun of neighbors we didn’t like and other kids we knew. Not in a mean way. You know, just like imitating them behind their backs. Is that mean? This was the 80’s, it was okay then.
SO: It’s not THAT mean. Kids will be kids, as they say. So, what was the most important kind of media to lil’Rob? Cartoons, comedy albums, TV shows or maybe something else?
Rob: My mom turned us on to SNL when we were very young. That was huge. I’m sure it is for everyone. I pretty much wanted to be Chevy Chase. Or Steve Martin. (I know he just guested on SNL, nerds). There was this older girl in our neighborhood that would “write” sketch comedy shows for some of us younger kids and we would put them on for the neighborhood parents. It was just stealing whatever was on SNL that week. Like verbatim. And doing a shitty, kid-version of that. We should probably be in jail for plagiarism. But yeah, that was probably my first experience at getting any kind of a laugh.
SO: What initially drew you to sketch comedy?
Rob: Well like I said, I loved SNL and SCTV and much later Kids in the Hall and of course Mr. Show. Writing is so hard. But sketch writing seemed fun. Until you try to write one. “How the fuck are we going to end this?” is pretty much all you do. Any idiot can come up with a funny premise. But how do you escalate it in a surprising way? And seriously, how do you end a sketch? Tell me.
When I first moved to NYC, I wanted to get involved in comedy but was too unsure of myself to do standup. I remember taking a sketch writing class at the School of Visual Arts. What the fuck? We were all terrible. But so was our teacher. It was super-depressing. A while later, my roommate took me to see ASSSCAT with the UCB. I’ve said this in interviews before, but it blew me away. And it also changed the course of my life (not to sound dramatic). I had never seen improv before and I knew I had found something that I wanted to do more than anything else. So I started taking improv classes with them. And then writing sketches with my friends from class and putting up sketch shows at UCB. At that time, the theater needed shows. They wanted to have shows every night of the week, so people started working their asses off to put stuff up. And some of the fucking funniest stuff I’ve ever seen came out of those early shows by people who were just starting out.
SO: We wish we knew how to end a sketch! But we’re no Rob Huebel. Staying on improv, you are still heavily involved with UCB. I guess I’m telling you? Do you think you’ll be performing there when you’re an old man? I’m also telling you to please keep performing there when you’re an old man.
Rob: I already feel like an old man there. I guess I am. Yeah I perform there a lot. Paul Scheer and me host a standup show (Crash Test) and we also do an improvised show (Facebook) every Wednesday with some other friends of ours. Even when people’s schedules get crazy with shooting stuff and travel, we somehow keep it going. Eventually I’ll have to stop. Obviously. But it’s so much fucking fun. And LA is such a bummer sometimes. So UCB has always been something I look forward to every week. I’ll stop when audiences are like “Go away man, you are bumming us out with your oldness.”
SO: More like “Keep it up man! You’re a legend!” Or something better than that. I love watching you play the weird, silly and just out there characters that all have your unique, perfectly strange, perfectly hilarious touch on them. What is one character in particular you’ve played on either TV or in a movie that is a personal favorite?
Rob: That’s tough. I’m probably most proud of our show “Human Giant.” That will always be our special thing that we made just the way we wanted to make it. And it gave us (Scheer, Aziz Ansari and I) all the chance to play a ton of fun, dumb characters. But most people in America probably didn’t see that show. So I guess I’d say “Tevin” in I Love You, Man. A lot of people saw that. And that was right when I moved to LA, so I had to have a fake, spray-tan and blonde highlights for a couple months. I fit right in. And the director, John Hamburg, let me improvise a lot and be a total douche. I like playing those types of characters sometimes, just total a-holes. So I’ll go with that one.
SO: In contrast, you also play non-comedic roles very well, as you did with “The Office,” The Descendants, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and others (it’s like, acting!).What are the challenges you have when going for roles like these? It comes off as so natural!
Rob: Haaaa. That’s harsh saying What to Expect… was non-comedic. It was supposed to be. You probably didn’t even see that movie. Unless you’re a girl, that’s also currently pregnant. So I forgive you. But playing it straight is an important part of comedy. In “The Office” Steve Carell is so funny; they don’t need another funny guy in those scenes. You let him do his thing. And by playing the straight man, you can get a lot of laughs. You’re like the voice of the audience. In something like The Descendants I just wanted to play it real and not embarrass myself in front of George Clooney or Alexander Payne. I was so lucky to be a part of that movie. So, you just listen to the director because you know he’s great and he knows exactly what he wants.
But doing serious stuff is really fun to me. It’s more of a challenge to me in a way, because it’s not what I’m used to. In a comedy, you can sort of hide behind a bit of a persona. If it’s serious, it’s often just you being you. So I still feel like I want to prove myself in that arena. But at the end of the day, I could care less if it’s comedy or drama. As long as it’s good writing. The writing is really all that matters. (Keep in mind I was in The Love Guru. Fuck!)
SO: How did the role on “Children’s Hospital” come about? How much input did you have on the character of Dr. Owen Maestro? You’ve also written a few episodes. In the writing and acting and everything about that show, it’s just so evident everyone involved is having a blast!
Rob: Yeah, that will go down as one of my all-time favorite jobs. Basically Rob Corddry came up with the whole thing as a web-series way back. It was all just friends of Corddry’s who wanted to be a part of this fucking hilarious, absurd project during the writer’s strike years ago. Then Adult Swim decided to put it on TV. So we all came back and made more. Now, we shoot the show every year over Christmas and January because that’s the only time that cast isn’t booked on other shows/movies. But yeah it’s the best time. My favorite time of year! I would kill and eat every one of those people… and I mean that in the most positive way. Imagine getting to go to work, they hand you a script where someone wrote hilarious stuff for you to do and say, they let you throw in your own jokes if you want, everyone on the show is fun to be around, and they let me bring my dog to work… Fuck! I love it so much. I get jealous watching other people do their scenes, they’re so good. Ken Marino and Lake Bell and Erinn Hayes, dammit. So good. And Megan Mullally and Malin Akerman. Fuck. And don’t even get me started on Henry Winkler. He’s so fun to watch. Corddry? He’s okay. I like Nate Corddry a lot.
SO: You and Paul Scheer are often associated; from “Human Giant,” to “NTSF:SD:SUV::.” When did you two meet? Was it sort of love at first sight?
Rob: Scheer and me go way back. We started at UCB in New York at the same time. And were on the same improv group (Respecto Montalban) early on. He’s just a solid friend all the way around. I know when I’m onstage with Scheer I don’t have to worry about a thing. He can make anything funny. And, we’ve written a ton together so we just have incredible shorthand with each other. We host a standup show (Crash Test) at UCB and sometimes we’re too busy to get together to write bits beforehand, so we’ll just show up and sort of improvise two-man standup together. It’s effortless. I’m not saying it’s pretty or tight, but I know it’s funny. And that’s all I care about.
SO: You wanted to talk about Paul more right? What sets your movie with him, Rapture-Palooza, apart from the other end of the world movies right now? It’s kind of weird that there are so many out at this time right?
Rob: Haaa. People keep asking that. It is weird that movie studios can make so many movies in the same category. There are two movies about the White House getting blown up! REALLY? But Rapture-Palooza is the ONLY movie where Craig Robinson plays the anti-Christ. And he’s so damn funny. See it just to watch him do his thing. And there’s an epic battle between God (Ken Jeong) and the anti-Christ. And it rains blood and there are locusts that say horrible shit to us everywhere we go. But mainly it’s about Craig’s character trying to sleep with the lovely Anna Kendrick. It’s a small movie set against this huge backdrop. But pound for pound, it’s really funny.
SO: What would you want your last sentence to be if the world was ending right………NOW!
Rob: I love you, Mom!
SO: Are you an optimist, a pessimist or a realist and why?
Rob: I want to be an optimist. I really do. How do I do that? Sign me up.
SO: Be like Nike and Just Do It. You seem to always have another project going on. So, is there anything else you’d like people to know about? Professionally or personally? You have to tell us one of each!!
Rob: Brand new season of “Children’s Hospital” starts in July!! (*Premier is Thursday, July 25.) It’s gonna be unbelievable. I’m probably gonna get an Oscar.
I’m also a voice on Fox’s new animated show “Axe Cop” starting in July (*Premier is Saturday, July 27.). Nick Offerman is Axe Cop. Patton Oswalt, Ken Marino, Peter Serafinowicz are all part of that insanely awesome cast. It’s a show written by a 5 year old kid. No joke.
And later this summer we have Hell Baby coming out. That’s the movie that Tom Lennon and Ben Garant (Reno 911) wrote and directed that went to Sundance. With Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb (so hot), Keegan Michael Key, Paul Scheer, Tom and Ben, Michael Ian Black, Kumail Nanjiani and Riki Lindhome. Just go see it. Trust me.
SO: Thanks Rob! An Oscar is sure to come your way.
SO Note: Like we said, Rob’s the best! Follow him @robhuebel to get all the updates you need and to read funny tweets. Of course. Go to his website here, look out for “Children’s Hospital” Thursday at midnight, July 25, and “Axe Cop” as part of FOX’s ADHD premiering July 27, and you can watch the trailer for Hell Baby here because why wouldn’t you?
*Featured image by Robyn Von Swank