The best way to described Nick Kroll would be as a modern day renaissance man in the world of comedy. An accomplished actor, writer and stand-up comic, Kroll’s credits include appearances in, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, NBC’s Parks and Recreation and Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital. He recently released his first stand-up special, Thank You Very Cool on DVD, and his hit show, The League just kicked off its’ third season on FX.
SanDiego.com recently caught up with Kroll from his home in Los Angeles and discussed his early years in comedy, and had him shed some insight into his upcoming sketch show for Comedy Central.
What came first for you, acting or stand-up?
Nick Kroll: I had done improv in college and then I moved to New York and it was my New Year’s resolution to do stand-up in 2002, so I’m heading into my tenth year of doing stand-up. Although the first time I did stand-up ever was my freshman year in college. I did this thing called The Funniest Act on Campus. I can tell you about the first joke that I ever wrote. First joke I ever wrote was, ‘My mom and my girlfriend are wearing the same perfume, which is kind of bugging me out because all of a sudden I’m totally attracted to my girlfriend.’
How did you develop as a stand-up comedian starting out in New York City?
NK: I just wanted to get onstage and I kind of would take any version of that, that I could. So I was doing open mics, I was doing UCB, I was doing this place called Rififi in New York that popped up that was more for like, alternative stand-up stuff. I was kind of doing everything I could to be on stage, because I need constant attention. So at different times I had more of a focus on different things. There was moments where I was more focused on doing stand-up, but then I sort of stopped and really focused on doing the character stuff, and then I was doing more full-on sketch comedy and then back to stand-up. I think that the special is a good example of all the things I was sort of doing. So you’ll see straight ahead stand-up that you’d see at a comedy club; then you see some character stuff that you might see at a place like UCB, and then you see short film stuff that you might see on a sketch show. I just wanted to create something that I thought was funny, whether it was a character or a sketch or straight stand-up. It just was like, ‘What are the funniest things that I can do in this special?’
With such a busy schedule filming The League and your upcoming show for Comedy Central, do you still find the time to do stand-up during the week?
NK: It’s obviously harder when you’re on a show. When I’m working on The League, we’re working generally five days a week and we’re working long hours and the hours are filled with a lot of improvising and writing, so it’s a little tiring, but I try to go up at least a couple times a week. And if I have a big show scheduled that always helps me work out material. I do a monthly show at a place called Largo here in L.A. and that always helps. And as I get more and more ready for my sketch show I will be performing at the UCB Theatre in L.A. whenever’s possible.
How much time will you do on a big show?
NK: It just depends. If I go out on the road and I’m headlining, I’ll do 45 to an hour. When it’s my monthly show, I’m always trying to bring new material so it’s not like I have 40 new minutes every month. But I’ll host the show and this month it’ll be me and the other guys from The League, the month before was me, Aziz and Zach Galifianakis and Brett Gelman and Tom Lennon; all guys who I have friends with. I’m also going out on the road; The League Live, we’re doing some dates when we have some time off. We’re going to hit the east coast.
When you’re performing do you get a lot of hecklers are people shouting out your resume?
NK: It’s never negative. It’s such a funny thing that the only heckling is positive things; screaming out lines from the show or from the special or one of my characters. For the most part people are just psyched. Then you have to sort of make sure that they understand they’ll be more psyched to just enjoy my show than try to participate in it. And that’s the funny thing, is so many of these events end up being people trying to be enthusiastic and they just end up getting crushed. Because the performer is like, ‘I gotta shut you down for the audience to actually enjoy this show.’
Do you go off script much or do you prefer sticking to your material?
NK: I try to maintain a loose environment. If you ever see me live, what you’re seeing is happening that night and is special to that night. I mean obviously I have my prepared material, but I always like to acknowledge where I am and who I’m with. I think that for someone to feel like they’re seeing a special show live as opposed to just watching your special or watching one of your sets on TV or YouTube; that you’re seeing something that is unique to your experience on that night in that place. I enjoy that and I think that audiences enjoy that as well.