The Zany Shades of Nick Kroll
Nick Kroll is nostalgic. Weeks away from the premiere of the Kroll Show’s third and final season, he’s officially reached the beginning of the end, and it’s bittersweet. “Putting the show to bed was like “Fuck, am I breaking up this all-star team?” he says. “I’ve been really spoiled.”
Although it was the 36-year-old himself who decided to end it, doing so means breaking up a cast of comedy writers, performers, and producers including Jenny Slate, John Mulaney, Jon Daly, and Chelsea Peretti. Fans of the sketch series, too, will have to bid farewell to a fantastically zany group of characters like the spitfire guido Bobby Bottleservice and big booty player Ref Jeff. Kroll, it seems, will miss these characters as much as anyone.
But difficult as it is to say goodbye, Kroll is convinced that it’s the right move. “It’s such a funny, talented group of people,” he says. “What I am proud of is that I feel like we created an environment where people could be the funniest, the best versions of themselves as performers and writers.”
In the midst of “literally” shutting down the offices, Kroll talked to The Daily Beast about the final season.
You’ve recently announced that this upcoming third season of Kroll Show will be the last. Can you talk about the process behind it?
My feeling was that there are so many British shows we watch and say “God, that show is so good.” And it’s like, yeah, because they did 12 of them. People forget the British Office. I’m not comparing my show to it, but I think there’s something to be said for doing the best work and then kind of leaving it on the table. It wasn’t a pre-ordained, “Well I’m only gonna do three seasons.” But the more I went through I thought, this feels like we told the stories we wanted to tell. I look at a lot of the British sketch shows that I like and respect that they didn’t overstay their welcome
How has the response from fans been?
The response has been really nice. I mean, the biggest bummer, a very nice one, but also sad, is to get people who tweet at the Kroll Show like “Noooo.” But it’s super nice, too. You hope that people like your show— hope that they will miss it when it’s gone.
The characters you play on the show are extremely diverse—ranging from a cocaine-rattled rich boy to an ornery Jewish grandpa. Which one of them is the most challenging?
Luckily I’ve been able to choose the characters, so there are very few times when I’m like “I can’t wrap my head around C-C,” or “I don’t know where Bobby [Bottleservice] would come from on this.” But I will say the hardest to play for me—well, one of the easiest to improvise, but also the hardest character is Liz.
Liz G., one half of “Publizity” [the other half of which, Liz B, is played by Jenny Slate] is one of the best on the show.
Yes. It makes me have so much respect for being a woman because it’s hard! It’s hard out there for the ladies. Ladies don’t shave their faces every morning like I do, but the bras digging into your side and heels the balls of your feet, and the spanks. Again, chunky necklaces that get caught in your chest hair is less of an issue for ladies, but the makeup, the mascara, and eyeliner is like a nightmare. The idea that women put eyeliner on the inside of their eyes everyday is crazy. That was challenging physically for me but actually doing Liz and being able to access her is surprisingly is pretty easy.
Were you always playing characters growing up?
I was the youngest of four and I think when you’re the youngest you perform, you always have an audience. My friend Andrew Goldberg who writes for Family Guy now, we would just re-do Wayne’s World sketches. I was always doing character voices and stuff but not really on a crazy, crazy level. I always did like doing skits at camp and talent shows at school but it wasn’t like “the boy of a thousand voices.”
When did you first land on this as a career?
At my high school we would have like coffee houses and talent shows where people would play plastic buckets and drums and other people would be reading Kerouac and I was… well, I did like a lip sync to a James Brown song in an orange jumpsuit. That was the first time that I was like ,“Oh, I could be a weirdo and do this weird thing and it will be fun.” That’s where I started to think it would be fun to be a performer and come up with something weird and do it. I felt very free there to sort of, you know, perform…not just doing guys and dolls and stuff.
Does each character have one in real life that inspired it, or are they from your imagination?
They’re all amalgams of different things. Some of them are familiar to me; things I’ve witnessed, and then they get built out from various influences whether it was like being on the subway in New York or watching reality TV. Bobby [Bottleservice] and Farley’s relationship has, if you watch Sammie and Ronnie on Jersey Shore it’s like this constant roller coaster of like dumb, true love. So there are all types of sort of ways in. I wouldn’t say almost any of the characters are based on one person but they’re a combination. They’re a bunch of different gumbos. Some of the gumbos smell like cologne and some of them smell like, you know, cocaine—and some of them smell like old thrift-store blazers.
You are great at capturing tiny nuances about the human experience. Are you obsessed?
When I watch TV, I’ll sit down and watch three hours of TV and watch ten minutes of everything. From like a time and life thing about The Lawrence Welk Show, to ten minutes of a Korean soap opera, to ten minutes of Family Feud, to ten minutes of a Lifetime movie, to five minutes of The Voice, to five minutes of CSI Miami, to five minutes of The Jeffersons, to five minutes of Wendy Williams. You know what I mean.
Are you endlessly fascinated by the human condition or disturbed by it?
It doesn’t generally overly depress me. Its like, I love riding the subway in New York, and I love to walk around or just like scroll through Facebook and look at people’s posts. Man, life’s like really weird and hard for everybody, everybody. Whether you got a lot of money or you’re really poor. I mean the problems are different and if you’re in tough shape financially it’s a really different version of having a hard life. But everybody is just trying to make it through the fucking day, and it’s fun to try and understand why people ended up where they are, and what keeps them from killing themselves everyday. [Laughs]
You’ve mentioned that you hope your show will be like a “time capsule” of the people and things you think are funny now. Will you work with Jenny Slate, John Daly, John Mulaney, etc. moving forward?
I hope so man, I hope so. That was honestly the scariest thing about putting the show to bed. It was such a well-oiled, fun, beautiful production machine. It was such a good vibe. I hope to get to work with all of them. Putting the show to bed was like, “Fuck, am I breaking up this all-star team?” I’ve been really spoiled by the idea that I can be like, “Oh, I have access to John Daly and Jenny Slate, who are playing now like four or five different characters but are so versatile and so funny and so smart.” That was honestly the scariest thing about putting it to bed. But the beauty of comedy is that it’s so collaborative and there are always new things coming along.
Are you happy with how things ended up?
What I am proud of is I felt like we created an environment where people could be the funniest, the best versions of themselves as performers and writers and that I’m very proud of. I am very pleased and proud to think that these very funny people got to go and stretch their legs and fuck around. I can’t wait for people to see Season 3.
Today’s Thursday so…the obvious question: Are you listening to Serial?
Yep. Very much. But I haven’t listened to this week’s. People hunger for good storytelling in whatever form that it comes. I’ve listened to This American Life for years and love it. That spawned an entire genre of media that continues to progress and now the evolution of this longform thing, which is so interesting and engaging. Serial is much better if you listen to it from the beginning. “Wait but Jay, who is Jay? He doesn’t seem that shady.” And you’re like, “Go listen to Episodes 1 and 2.” People are constantly striving for that, it’s like “What? There’s no Breaking Bad? There’s no Staircase?” It’s this common experience of listening to a really engaging story. Kroll Show is very different but similar to longform stories in that it’s these characters that you can come back to. [Which is why season three will best if you've watched seasons one and two]. That’s the most fun, when people become engaged in these stories and will follow them—I just want to go with them.