There is no question that Rob Riggle is one of the hardest working and funniest men in show business. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, chances are that you have already seen his side-splittingly funny work! His journey into the entertainment industry is far from conventional. One one thinks of the United States Marine Corps, comedy isn’t something that necessarily springs to mind but that is where Riggle’s amazing journey began. He guaranteed flight contract with the Marines and was just months away from receiving his “wings” when he decided he had another calling besides flying. After fulfilling his contract, Riggle immersed himself in the world of sketch comedy. This new path would lead to him tackling Improv comedy in New York and Los Angeles for the last 12 years as part of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. With stints on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live, Riggle quickly branched out and landed roles in a slew of hit comedies such as ‘Talladega Nights,’ ‘Step Brothers,’ and ‘The Hangover.’ With a plethora of exciting new projects on the way in the coming months, Rob Riggle’s career as one of Hollywood’s brightest comedic stars is switching into high gear! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Rob Riggle to discuss his roots, his role as commentator for the AXE Dirtcathalon, his writing process and upcoming projects!
What drew you to comedy initially and made you throw caution to the wind and take a shot at it professionally?
I was a theater and film major in college. I was voted “Most Humorous” in my Senior Class in high school, I always just had a passion for comedy and acting. I ended up in the Marines and I was flying planes for them and they were about to pin my wings on me and make it official and I realized that I really wanted to try comedy and acting before I died! [laughs] I knew that if I pinned those wings on that they would own me for eight years and I would probably, in all likelihood, would never get to it. So I stopped flying for the Marines and they made me a ground officer. From there I went and pursued comedy and acting at night until I was able to do it full time.
How does the Marine Corps prepare one for standup comedy?
For standup, it prepares you by giving you a thick skin. However, I don’t think anything truly prepares you for standup comedy! [laughs] I have been in four combat zones, five actually, and the heart rate and adrenaline flow is probably equal to anything that I experienced over there! [laughs] It is a totally different type of fear!
Who or what are some of the influences that helped fuel you creatively early on?
I remember seeing as a young man, probably to young to be watching it, Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’. That was a huge influence, along with Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’. I remember thinking that it was just amazing! I loved his storytelling. Bill Murray is another guy who had a huge impact on me. Ya know, I love every comedian out there. I love them all! I think that everybody brings something to the table.
How do you go about crafting your act? Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
You know, what I usual do is come up with some premises and then I get on stage and I will work it out there. I mean, I will come up with some stuff beforehand but a lot of what gets written gets written on stage. You kinda find it when you are in the moment. I came up doing improv at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, so my first seven years where all improv, sketch, long form improv, writing and that kind of stuff. I didn’t start standup until much later — only about three years ago really. But also what I do is tell stories in the vain of what Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy did in ‘Delirious’ and ‘Himself’. They just kinda told they stories and along the way you got to meet characters and there was fun and a lot of jokes. so it is not three jokes per minute. It’s not set up, punch, set up, punch, set up punch, it is more or a story. These are my personal stories, so that is where it comes from.
You recently had a partnership with AXE and I know that you did play by play analysis for the Axe Dirtcathlon. What can you tell us about that project?
Well, AXE was basically relaunching their brand. They came up with this idea for a web series and they asked me to host it, so I said “YEAH!” That is the topline! What it is really is half reality game show with me as a host. You have these sexy young couples that are competing against each other in these ridiculous events that they came up with to get the dirty. The slogan is “The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get!” The winner gets to go to Spain and take part in that Tomato festival where they throw tomatoes at each other all day! [laughs] If you go to www.axedirtcathlon.com right now, you can find out who the winner is because the final episode is up and running!
What advice do you have for anyone who is looking to pursue a career in stand-up or the entertainment industry?
You gotta have fortitude! [laughs] You are gonna here “No!” a lot! And if you are going into standup, you’re going to bomb! I know that everybody says that but when you do bomb it sucks! And it hurts! And it hurts for days! But you have to get out there and do it again and again! Eventually, you will get much better and you will find your voice. Basically, you have to stay with it. If you think that you are going to get into show business and have success quickly, that is the exception and not the rule. The rule is that it is ten years to make an overnight success.
What else is in store for you for 2011? Anything we should be on the lookout for in the coming months?
Well, there is a movie coming out on July 1st, 2011 called ‘Larry Crowne’. That stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and I have a small part in that film. I am shooting a film right now in New Orleans called ’21 Jumpstreet’ that is going to come out next year and that stars Jonah Hill. I shot a movie called ‘Everybody Loves Whales’ which is more of a “feel good” movie but it has Kristen Bell, John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore. There are a couple of other things out there waiting for me but I can’t say anything about them right now, we will have to see how they unfold! We have a couple of irons on the fire and hopefully those things will work out!
Have you given any thought to writing a book that chronicles your adventures through the years? If so, what would you call it?
Ohhhhh!!! [laughs] I have not thought about that! [laughs] But if I did, what would I call it? How about ‘Don’t Steal This Book! PAY FOR IT!’ [laughs]
Well, that is a good place to start! [laughs] Thank you very much for your time today, Rob! We look forward to everything that you have in store for us!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.