Recently I had a chance to do a phone interview with comedian and actor Lt. Colonel Rob Riggle, who is perhaps best known for his correspondence on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This of course is only one of his notable credits, having been a cast member on Saturday Night Live, as well as in films like The Hangover (a pretty notable appearance).
Riggle was on set in New Orleans filming 21 Jump Street as we spoke but couldn’t say much about the show. Instead we talked about his entrance into comedy as a career. Riggle had studied theater and film at the University of Kansas but entered the Marine Corps shortly after receiving his pilot’s license. However when it came time to commit to becoming a Naval Aviator (after at least 8 years in the military) he decided to take a shorter ground contract so he could go to Chicago and study with Second City.
“I knew I wanted to try comedy and acting. Even if I failed, at least I would have tried. It’s better than never having tried.”
Oddly the Marines managed to convince him to stay on for three more years, and instead to move to New York City where he worked for the Marines by day and studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade by night.
“I took classes and performed and did improv and sketch. I and wrote sketches and did lights and sound for other people’s shows just so I could be around the theater. That was about seven nights a week for seven years.”
One of Rob’s most successful improv teams was Respecto Montalban the lineup of which contained: Chad Carter, Danielle Schneider, Dannah Feinglass, Jackie Clarke, Owen Burke, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, and of course Riggle. All these folks have gone on to do very well for themselves, and you should recognize more than a few of those names. 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer was also an interim or honorary member of this comedy “meeting of the minds”. Paul and Rob Huebel were on Human Giant at MTV where Rob Riggle made many notable appearances. Rob Huebel and Rob Riggle also have maintained a long standing partnership, and have performed on a two man show called Kung Fu Grip.
Montalban still performs today under the name Facebook at the UCB Theater in Los Angeles on Wednesday Nights. I’m not suggesting you should stop everything and book air fare to come see that show, but if you were going to, treat yourself to some first class seats because you make good choices.
Riggle embraces his military history, often claiming he could kill any other member of the Daily Show cast. I asked him about his frequent casting in the role of police or similar roles and he had this to say:
“I’ve always been cast in authority roles; I think because I have that presence. (laughs)… Comedically I can play against that pretty well. I enjoy playing that arrogant ignorance. That’s one of my favorite games to play in comedy”.
Let me say here that anyone who understands their comedy style with such clarity is cool in my book. I’d agree that Riggle’s casting in this vein hinges on his comedic skill and not his square jawed looks. He went further saying:
“I don’t mind it so much if I get type cast as an authority figure. I get to do comedy no matter what it is, so it doesn’t bother me.”
We spoke briefly about his work in voice over, and the challenges it presents a performer who came up primarily in stage work:
“You have to use your voice to communicate a lot. What’s different is that you are doing it by yourself, in a studio, with headsets on, and nobody else around. It’s just you, the page and the microphone. Which is not unlike stand up; which is you, the microphone and the audience.”
If you are interested in seeing Rob do some of the aforementioned stand-up? Check out his website at www.RobRiggle.com (which he promised he would update soon). Actually let’s knock out all his important links:
Currently Riggle is working with Axe Shower Gel hosting their latest “dirt-cathalon” where couples compete in events to get dirty with hopes of winning a trip to Spain to participate in a giant tomato fight. You can check out lots of cool videos from that series here at http://axe.atom.com/ Axe reminds you that “The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get.” I believe that to be true. Check it out and enjoy the hosting of Rob Riggle.
Much thanks to Rob for chatting with us here at CraveOnline. If you want more Riggle, here’s a Daily Show segment in which he profiles himself: