On his hilarious new web series, Childrens' Hospital, Daily Show alum Rob Corddry proves that laughter makes for some strange medicine. Now get him a cancer joke, stat.
Two years ago, intrepid Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry walked away from Jon Stewart’s indomitable news team in order to star in The Winner, a mid-season comedy he once lovingly described as “ a fucked-up Wonder Years.” A winner it was not: FOX cancelled the show after six episodes. Since then, Corddry has made the occasional cameo ( Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and, in a perverse bit of casting, played former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone’s W.
Now Corddry is ready to star on the small screen again—the very small screen. His new web series, Childrens' Hospital—which he wrote, produced, and stars in—debuted yesterday on TheWB.com. An at-times grotesque parody of Grey’s Anatomy and ER, Childrens' Hospital also features such comedy stalwarts as Megan Mullally, Erinn Hayes, Ed Helms, and Nick Kroll. Will the ten-part series generate a cult-following à la Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or simply make a bunch of nineteen-year-old boys laugh over beers? The Daily Beast took his temperature.
Your fellow Daily Show alums—Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and Ed Helms—have all been very successful since moving on. How much more pressure does that make you feel about Childrens' Hospital’s debut?
I definitely don’t think I feel extra pressure having been on The Daily Show. I would feel pressure regardless of where I’m coming from. I think in terms of Carell and Colbert and Ed—we’ve all been lucky enough to at least be honing what it is we were meant to do. And Carell is perfect in his role on The Office, and all the roles he plays. And Colbert should be doing nothing but what he is doing right now. And I think Helms and I are honing in on what it is we should be doing. Doing Childrens' Hospital I learned how to write in my voice and find the kind of comedy I like to do. It’s a little weird, kind of on the surreal side, and yet, no winking. I can’t really describe it. But this is what I feel like I should be doing, so I’m thinking how could I do more of it?
Why do an online series, why not prime time?
The Internet is definitely cooler in terms of street cred. People who won’t normally be seen get their stuff seen. It’s starting to evolve—people who normally tell stories and write for television and film now write for the web and consider it a viable genre, especially for comedy. We could get away with a lot more. You can swear or poke fun or joke about things like September 11. It allows you to be more creative.
I think the best place to frame comedy is in the least funny things ever. The September 11 joke in Childrens' Hospital about how these two guys broke up over arguing about a date. One guy thinks 9/11 happened in January and the other guy thinks it happened in September. It’s the most petty argument in the face of the most non-petty thing that’s ever happened to us.
Also, I don’t think the networks or studios have a handle on what’s happening with television right now. So I am definitely kind of afraid to dip my toes in those waters.
In a somewhat ironic twist, you recently played Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone’s W. How did it feel, playing someone you spent so much time making fun of on The Daily Show?
It was probably the worst casting in the history of film. Anybody who knows who I am, when they saw me on the screen, kind of reacted like “Huh?” and weren’t really sure what to make of it.
Did that bother of you?
Oh, I don’t care. I need a job. And to work with Oliver Stone and all those guys was amazing. I don’t care how people react to it, but I just thought it was interesting. It was also weird playing a guy whose time in office coincided with my term at The Daily Show. So it was weird that I had been eating, drinking, and sleeping this guy for three years at one point.
It must have been torture watching all The Daily Show election coverage without being a part of it.
Au contraire. I missed The Daily Show until the election season ramped up. No one wants to be a part of that. In 2004 I lived the life, at least physically, of an actual journalist and it was miserable. I looked around me at all these road journalists, you know the boys on the bus, who follow these campaigns around and didn’t see a happy face in the crowd—and I saw those faces over and over again. It’s miserable—it’s like covering the same sports game every day for two years. I thought we got some great content from it, but the process itself was just insufferable.
There’s no better place to be a part of The Daily Show election coverage than watching it from your couch.
“There’s no better place to be a part of The Daily Show election coverage than watching it from your couch.”
Do you think The Daily Show and SNL will be able to keep up their momentum now that we’ve elected a president almost everyone loves?
The Daily Show has always targeted hypocrisy overall, and no offense to people in your profession, but mostly the target for The Daily Show is the media and journalism and their failure over the last eight years, and I don’t think that is going to get any better. To tell you the truth, I think Saturday Night Live nailed it when they made fun of the media’s coverage of the debates and how they would favor Obama. I think it was a brilliant sketch and probably got closest to what we’ll see in the next four to eight years. But that depends on the media as well. They could be inspired to clean up their act, so to speak, and I think the worst thing that could happen for comedy is that the country heals. There wasn’t a lot of good comedy in the ’90s. And that was a pretty great time for America.
There has been a lot of talk about Childrens' Hospital mocking Grey’s Anatomy and ER. To what extent did you intentionally write that into your scripts?
It’s directly a parody of the hospital genre and the modern television drama. The idea came from a series of horrible things that I saw at Childrens' Hospital in Los Angeles: for instance, seeing a small body on a gurney being pushed by a bunch of doctors and nurses yelling “Stabbed!” It reminded me how inappropriate the hospital genre is: What better way to highlight these doctors various flaws than with the curtain of death and sickness behind them? That these beautiful doctors, despite of all the sickness they come in contact with every day, still find time to bone each other? So I picked the most inappropriate place to set one of these hospital dramas.
My target audience is anyone who has never had actual experience with the Childrens' Hospital. I will say though, if you’ve ever had a kid with cancer, please don’t watch.
Now that Childrens' Hospital has premiered, what’s your dream next project?
Anything that pays me a ton of money, because Daddy is in the red. Just bought a house and don’t have a job. At least I will hopefully have the opportunity to do a really crappy movie and make a lot of money I’m not worthy of.
Note: This article has been corrected to note that Joss Whedon produced Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog , not Josh Whedon as originally published.
Miriam Datskovsky is an associate editor at The Daily Beast. Her work has also appeared in Conde Nast Portfolio, New York magazine, and nymag.com.