In Early Works, we talk to artists young and old about the jobs and life experiences that led them to their current moment. Today, it's actor and comedian Rob Corddry, who's in the most recent season of HBO's Ballers, which airs every Sunday evening at 10:15.
I had a very typically American, middle-class upbringing in Massachusetts—walking to school, shoveling, mowing the lawn, a tight family unit, dinners together, a dog and two cats. But looking back, my perception has changed a little bit: My parents have since split up, my mother is a lesbian, and she met her partner in 1995 when they were still together. It was very hard, because that perception of our perfect American family was shattered.
We weren't homophobic or anything, so that wasn't the hard part, but it was a real shock. I was like, "Listen, I'm not angry because you're a lesbian or anything, I'm just angry because I'm angry. What am I going to do for Christmas? What's dad going to do?" It's a weird life adjustment that you can't prepare yourself for. But she's still with this woman, and they're very happy, and I love her to death. They've been married, like, ten times. When gay marriage first became a thing in states, they would just go to the state it became legal in and get married again.
Being an Eagle Scout played a huge role in my life. I was lucky, too—I've heard a lot of people talk about their Boy Scout troops, and I think I had a kind of special experience. The leadership and the other guys who were in it are my lifelong friends. I don't hang out with guys I went to high school with—I hang out with my Boy Scout buddies. It was a great community that was likeminded in that we just wanted to be good people, help out others, and have fun too.
I was in a fraternity at UMass Amherst, but I didn't necessarily pledge. I was in my dorm, it was Sunday night, and these guys came by with flyers and were like, "You guys like beer? You guys like girls?" We were like, "Yes sir, both things," and he was like, "Come to this party." He gave us a flier for the North Pleasant Social Club. After my pledge period or whatever, I was like, Wait, this is a fraternity? And we're getting our charter back? Um, I think I'm a theater dude now. I was only involved for about a year or so—and when I say "involved," I mean "drunk."
I don't know what their actual politics are—I just liked starting fires—but the Boy Scouts are considered a very conservative organization in that they aim to preserve the traditions of young manhood—and that I can respect, in the same way that I can respect conservatives who aren't boy scouts when I'm trying to find common ground with the guy I'm arguing with. The fraternities are a different thing. They're not so much geared to helping an old lady across the street—it's really about getting together and having fun. I definitely place an emphasis on community—I like to have a tribe. The fraternity was a tribe, and so was the college theater department. When I got to New York and I was in the UCB world, that was a tribe as well. I like being a part of a group.
I was a journalism major for two days. I wanted to be a writer, and I worked for the high school paper and thought, This is what writers do, right? My dad's an engineer, so he would always try to think practically: "If you want to be an artist, you can be a commercial artist. If you want to be a writer, you can be a technical writer." So the dad voice in my head said, You can probably get a job as a journalist. When I got there, I hadn't even taken a class yet and that voice quieted a little bit. I was like, I can do whatever I want.
Acting was always something I knew I'd be good at. I'd watch movies and I'd go, I could do that. In college, I got bit by the bug: I saw a play, it blew me away, and I got into the theater department. I majored in Theater and English, which opened my mind in a lot of ways—not just artistically. There were a lot of different kinds of people that I had never met in the South Shore of Boston.
I moved to New York the day after I graduated. I was a Security Guard at the Met because you could work 45 hours and have tons of time for auditions. I wrote a lot of poetry, too. It was a really strange job, man—there's some lifers there. The head of security was a former cop—they all were—and during orientation, he said, "Here's a question. Am I allowed to carry a gun?" We were like, "…No?" And he said, "Wrong. I am. Am I allowed to shoot someone?" We were like, "Yeah," and he was like, "That's correct, I'm allowed to shoot people."
I live in Los Angeles now, but I lived in New York for 15 years, so I still consider myself a New Yorker. I miss the weather. I'm probably the only one to say that, but I hate the sun. In New York, you get an easier feel for neighborhoods because people are out. In LA, everybody's in their cars, so it's harder to get the character of a neighborhood. You've really got to find your drive there—and luckily, we did.
My kids are 11 and 8 years old. I'm starting to understand being a parent a little better, and why it's hard. People are always like, "It's so hard, your life is going to change." Well, thank God my life's going to change—I was a mess. What's hard about being a parent isn't getting less sleep or having to play princess—it's that if you do your job well, these people will want to leave you, to love someone else more than they love you.
You have this biological love for them that's chemical, unconditional, and hard to explain. It's terrifying. My daughter's away at camp for four weeks in Vermont. She was psyched to go—four weeks, 2,000 and something miles away. It's so sad for me. I'm like, Oh, they're going to be gone someday.
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