We Spoke to Nick Kroll About TV, Feces, and Weirdos
Nick Kroll has been infiltrating screens for the past six years as a supporting player in some of television’s best comedies, including Community, Parks & Recreation, and most notably, The League, where he portrays hypercompetitive douchebro hero, Ruxin. Now the dude has his very own show, creatively titled the Kroll Show, and it sees our man playing characters like delusional Guido, Bobby Bottleservice, vapid reality-TV PR stars “PubLIZity” (alongside former SNL alum, Jenny Slate), and obnoxious scions of privilege, “Rich Dicks” (with friend and frequent collaborator, Jon Daly). Kroll Show has caught fire, thanks in part to their plum post-Workaholics timeslot. Just last week, Comedy Central renewed Kroll Show for a second season.
We talked to Nick about the process of physically transforming into some of pop-culture’s most repellent people, his run-ins with overzealous fans, and the unusual places he’s heard George Clooney has defecated.
VICE: I’m in Toronto. Your “Wheels, Ontario” sketch was pitch-perfect, right down to the Degrassi fonts and producer names.
Nick Kroll: [Laughs] Thank you.
What has the reaction been like to the show when you’re out in public? Are people coming up to you and shouting out quotes from different sketches yet?
Yeah, there’s the public reaction and the Twitter feedback. It’s interesting because people have their favorites already. The most common comment I get is, “I would watch a whole show of…”
Like, “I would watch a whole show of ‘Wheels, Ontario,’” That’s the goal, to create, a bunch of mini-series’. A bunch of mini-shows. Creatively, for us, it keeps it really interesting and fun, moving from character to character and world-to-world. And I think as an audience it keeps it fun, ‘cause you’re just constantly moving back and forth and getting an opportunity to see different characters and worlds develop.
So, “Wheels,” for example, did resonate in a way that we were really pleased with. I don’t think anyone had parodied Degrassi yet. Jon Daly and Joe Mande wrote that sketch. Jon has always been obsessed with Canada and Joe grew up watching a lot of Degrassi. Then our editor, Dan Longino, is a HUGE Degrassi fan. So font choice and producer names like "Sara Paige McDonald," comes from years of watching it.
You’ve been on a lot of popular television shows and had roles in some movies, so you’re pretty recognizable. Have you had any strange encounters with people in public?
There are definitely dudes who know me as Ruxin who come up ask for me for fantasy football. And I follow football, but I don’t really know the intricacies of your team or your league to know what you need help with. I mean, the funniest thing about being on TV is—and I used to do this to celebrities when I would see them—there’s an assumption that because you spend a lot of time with someone, you’re friends with them. I think the other funniest thing that happens is when dudes come up to me and go, “Bro, I don’t want to be fag, but can I get a picture with you?” The only gay thing about wanting a picture with me is having to call out that you don’t want to be one. And then grabbing me around the neck to pull me closer for a picture. That’s the only gay thing about this encounter.
You transform very convincingly into a bunch of different and disparate characters on the show. Do you ever go on the road and feel like being someone else and act different? Or maybe party harder than you would at home?
No, I think maybe being in the characters provides that outlet for me. I mean, there are times when I’ll be out at a bar talking to a girl and be like, “You know, it’d be much more effective if I were like Bobby Bottleservice right now.” But no, I think, generally speaking, I am much more likely to get all those impulses and terrible things that live in my head get ‘em out in the character form. That’s probably a healthy outlet for me.
Fair enough. Which costume and make-up is the most fun to get into?
Well, I don’t particularly like getting into any make-up. [Laughs] So, fun is relative. I mean, becoming a woman is crazy. It’s given me a ton of respect and pity for women, because getting in high heels and Spanx and a bra and two hours of make-up is intense. And not that comfortable. So the fact that women do that every day—I mean, granted, they’re not necessarily wearing Spanx or filling their bras—it’s still a lot. High heels are the worst. They’re probably the worst part of any costume, anywhere. So the fact that women wear them everyday is kind of amazing.
Your show seems to get away with a lot of crazy shit. Has there anything Standards and Practices has stopped you from doing?
Not really. Comedy Central has been supercool about letting us run with anything throughout this whole process. It’s just a question of, as long as you don’t say certain words, and there’s very few of them, they’ll kind of let us do whatever. You can talk about just about anything on TV. We had an issue with the Euro guy. There’s a bit where I’m like, “We call black footballers monkeys.” They’re like, “you can’t do that.” I was like, “That’s what they do.” They’re like, “Well, send us the article.” So we literally typed in “black footballers monkeys” and a New York Times article came up and we sent it to them. They were like “okay, great.” So they’ve been very logical.
They’ve not been censoring for the sake of it. There’s one thing, there’s Nash Ricky, the interrupter guy. So at the end of that, there’s an interview at the end of the episode where I’m like, [goes into the Nash Ricky voice] “I love the Internet. I love pussy.” And they bleeped “pussy.” So you don’t know what he’s saying there and that’s a little frustrating because it’d be so funny to hear, “Well, I’m sober. I love Jesus Christ. I love pussy.”
You do a lot of stuff that is dudes making fun of dudes, like when you’re playing Ruxin on the League or when you’re doing the “Sex and the City For Dudes” sketch on Kroll Show, which is based on your hangouts with your boys, most of whom are comedians. Do you guys play pranks on each other?
I think it’s actually a quite friendly, supportive group of dudes. If there is mocking or jokes at people’s expenses, it’s usually for ironic reasons. Very, very rarely do I find that my friends are purposely mean to each other.
That seems pretty wholesome. It seems the new generation of comedians are more collaborative, whereas the generation above you guys seemed more antagonistic and competitive.
Yeah, I’m not sure. I can just speak to my friends’ experience. I can’t tell you how many people who play douchebags on TV are actually incredibly nice, thoughtful people. It might be that playing these characters is an outlet for it. Or maybe it’s because all you do is spend your day looking at douchebags, so it’s fun to play them.
So your friends pretty much always get along and you guys don’t play pranks on each other, but what’s the shittiest “bro” thing that one of your friends has done to another?
My favorite story is…have you heard the story about Clooney?
No, I haven’t.
Richard Kind is on the show in a sketch called “True Life: I Have a Ponytail.” Richard didn’t tell me this story, but I’ve heard it before.
Supposedly Richard Kind had a cat, and George Clooney - who was a close friend - would go into the kitty litter every day and scoop the cat’s poops out. So for like a week, Richard Kind was like, “My cat hasn’t pooped!” and he was worried about the cat, or whatever. And then at the end of the week, Clooney squatted in there and took a dump.
[Laughs] Oh my God.
Richard Kind came back and thought that the cat had finally “unclogged.” Richard didn’t tell me that, but it sounds like the funniest fucking story I’ve ever heard.
[Laughs] Alright. Is there anything else you want VICE readers to know about your show or about you?
For the VICE readers out there…I think the beauty of our show, hopefully, is that it’s pretty sharp, harsh comedy about where society is. I think VICE does such a good job of celebrating the grotesque. And I think that the Kroll Show does that a lot.
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