Rob Huebel is a man of many talents. Well, actually, I don't know if he could juggle chainsaws (I bet he could), but the talents he does possess are being incredibly funny and popping in on just about every show you and your friends like. Right now he's starring in the absurdly hilarious Childrens Hospital so we chatted with the funny man about writing for the show, making out with classic television stars, and dogs chasing squirrels. Hard hitting stuff, indeed.
I absolutely love Childrens Hospital. It’s one of my favorite things on television right now.
Thanks. It’s one of my favorite things too.
How do you prepare for an episode of Childrens Hospital when everything is so bizarre and weird and so completely different from one episode to the next?
I think the trick to that show is to really treat it like it’s a real, serious medical drama. Hopefully we don’t ever look like we’re being silly, or goofy, or doing wacky shit. What we really want to do is take really absurd things really seriously. Hopefully that’s what makes it funny. I think that’s the trick with things like that. You don’t have to do anything different than a real show. Even though you’re saying crazy, crazy shit… like the most ridiculous things, you just have to deliver it really dramatically and really seriously.
So, it’s kind of like Airplane! and Naked Gun in that way. I remember reading that’s the way Priscilla Presley got through it: to not even think of it as a comedy line.
Well, I would love to be compared to that. I’m not sure that we are exactly on par. I look up so much to those movies, Airplane!, and Naked Gun. I think that stuff is so funny. I grew up just loving all that stuff, and sort of idolizing Leslie Nielsen. So I’m not sure that we’re exactly on par with that, but that’s a really nice comparison for sure.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for Childrens Hospital?
Well, we’ve had to do a lot. Last season I made out with Marion Ross from Happy Days. She was Mrs. C on Happy Days. You’re probably too young for that. She’s an older lady. I had to have a very graphic make out with her with my shirt off. And you know, our tongues were intertwined. That was interesting just because of our age difference. I’m walking my dog. My dog’s chasing a squirrel, here. There’s always a lot of crazy stuff. This season I get my foreskin reattached. That’s pretty crazy. There are a lot of porn stars on set this season. We shot an episode called “The Night Shift,” where we sort of reveal what happens at the hospital during the night. They completely change us over. It becomes this really dark place, and there are biker gangs in the emergency room. It’s like a really scary place at night. And there are a lot of porn stars there shooting. Henry Winkler’s character rented out the hospital to some porn crew so they could shoot a porno at Childrens Hospital at night.
That sounds awesome. How do you work in an environment like that where you’re surrounded by all these hilarious people and you’re basically goofing off, but at the same time you still have a job to do? I’m assuming you’re under deadlines. How do you strike that balance?
I wrote an episode this season, so I know a little about how it goes. The very first time you read this stuff, you shit your pants laughing. You love it, you can’t wait to do it. By the time you do it, you’ve reworked the script and reworked the script, and there’ve been a lot of meetings about it. When you’re actually in production, it’s like anything else. You have a certain amount of time in that you have to have this thing done. We try to shoot an episode in, basically, two days. There’s not a lot of time for screwing around, otherwise we wouldn’t have any type of show. We really have to work fast and you have to really focus up. Even though you’re saying and doing crazy things, you still have to do them in an organized way.
What really goes into writing an episode of Childrens Hospital?
What we do is, a group of us get together and sort of just pitch out ideas of things that we think would be funny for a specific cast member, or a funny thing for a lot of the cast to do. A thing that we did this season a lot was kind of take a break from the actual hospital thing and do something totally different. We’re really lucky that the show is only fifteen minutes long, so we can kind of do whatever we want. Most of the episodes are always dealing with hospital stuff. Crazy patients, crazy situations, just really absurd things in the hospital. But then we decided there should be a few episodes that are nothing like that. Completely different. We did one last year that was called "News Readers", sort of like 60 Minutes parody. There’s a guy that comes, and there’s a whole 60 Minutes piece on us. There’s one that’s like an old timey play. The whole episode is in black-and-white and it’s shot just like a play. Which is crazy, it’s completely bananas. If that’s the first episode of Childrens Hospital that you turn on to watch, you’re gunna be so fucking confused. But it’s really funny, and really cool. There’s another episode that’s all in the 70s. There’s another one where Jeff follows the ambulance driver, and we just follow this one character out of the hospital and see his whole life. It’s all about this sub-character, this ambulance driver Chet, played by Brian Huskey. And it’s really just following him around on his insane day. Picking up organs, delivering them, dealing with all the ambulance stuff. That was just sort of something that we thought would be kind of cool this year, to just break the form a little bit and get out of the hospital every now and then.
So you’re moving away from the medical, procedural tropes, to explore the universe a little?
Yeah. I think it’s just like, we know that we can always make fun of medical procedural dramas. That will always be our bread and butter. But we like to challenge ourselves every now and then to do something that’s totally different. To make it feel and look like a completely different show. Whether or not the audience goes for it remains to be seen. I think they will. At the end of the day, funny is funny. And all those episodes are really funny. Just because we’re not wearing scrubs, and we’re not under fluorescent lights in a hospital hallway, that doesn’t really matter.
What do you bring to the cast and writing to Childrens Hospital that no one else really does?
NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. And I’m trying so hard to hide that. The minute they sit down and have a budget meeting, and go, “Okay, we need to cut some costs. How much does everyone get paid? What? Huebel gets paid two million per episode? We gotta trim that shit.” I think that we all sort of bring our own attitudes to the show. We’re all sort of these sex-starved, insane and sort of vapid, stupid people that are really full of themselves, and probably horrible doctors. But I think we all do that in a different way. Malin is different from Ken, and Ken does it different from me. By the way, Ken does it the wrong way. I do it the right way. Whatever Ken is doing is wrong. I think we all just sort of do it in our own way. I tend to play super serious, or aggressively dumb, which is how I am in real life. Not too much of a stretch. On the writing side, we’ve all known each other for a long time, and we know these characters pretty well, so we know how to write for each other. I know how to write funny stuff for Corddry, I know how to write funny stuff for Megan. Once you have those funny characters, you know what they can’t do in that world, so it’s like trying to plug in funny situations for them.
What can you tell me about the upcoming Party Down episode?
Hold on just a second, my dog is going crazy on this squirrel. He’s gone up in these people’s yards who I don’t know. He’s terrorizing the squirrel. Wait! Wait, wait, wait! Sorry. German Shepherd. He hates squirrels.
Oh, the Party Down episode… I’ve been told by Rob Corddry’s law firm: Corddry, Corddry and Rosenstein, I am not allowed to talk about that episode. Corddry’s law firm are a bunch of leg-breakers. Literally. They’re so shady. They will fucking break your legs. They spray-painted the word “douchebag” on the front of my house to intimidate me.
I don’t want to get you in trouble.
Without giving it away, fans of Party Down will be very psyched to see that episode.
What can you tell me about The Descendants which is coming out later this year?
It was really an amazing experience. I got to go to Hawaii for three weeks and work with George Clooney, and one of my favorite directors, Alexander Payne. I have a very small part in the movie, but when you get the chance to go to Hawaii and hang out with those people—
You don’t really say no to that.
Yeah, you don’t turn it down. It was really great. Alexander Payne is one of those directors who is completely in charge and knows exactly what he wants, which is really fun. It’s fun when a director is very specific. He knows totally the tone that he’s going for. It makes it easier than if everyone’s just guessing and trying to figure it out. That’s no fun. It’s fun when the director knows what he wants. He’s that type of guy. George Clooney is exactly what you would expect. He’s annoyingly good looking, insanely funny and super smart. So you just feel really inferior around him all the time. You end up feeling really bad about yourself, but you walk away feeling really great about George Clooney.
You’ve appeared in pretty much every good comedy of the past few years. Is there everything you haven’t done yet that you really want to?
There’s a lot that I haven’t done. Thank you for saying that, but if you look hard, I’m the king of small parts on cool shows. And I’ll take that! I’m happy to do that, but I want to do bigger things and have bigger parts on those things. I’ve never been on a regular network show—I’ve been on a lot of network sitcoms like The Office.
You were just cast in Family Album, weren’t you?
Yeah. There still trying to figure out how that’s going to go. They shot that for the fall, and then they tried to retool it, and I think the plan is to maybe make it a midseason show. They’re still figuring that out. But that was great. The guy who directed that is Shawn Levy, who directed Night at the Museum and Date Night. His new movie is Real Steel. He’s amazing. Not to sound like I think every director is so great. He’s one of those guys where you’re like, “Yep! Whatever you want, dude. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” We were shooting this mark and I had to do this scene where I jump off of a motorboat into the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know where you live, but the Pacific Ocean in March is fucking freezing. But I was like, “Yep! Absolutely! No problem!” You wanna do a good job for these guys because you know they’re gunna make something cool. Sometimes when you shoot stuff, you never know how it’s gunna turn out. You don’t know the director. And you’re like, “I don’t know if this is going to be funny,” but you do it and hope for the best. But with Shawn, you know it’s going to be great. So that was really fun. It would be really cool if it became a show. It’s a totally different kind of thing. It was interesting going from Childrens Hospital to that, because that’s like a network sitcom. It’s like a family show, too, where you can’t say and do the crazy things you do on Adult Swim every night. But that said, my character is completely inappropriate. I’m like the uncle in the family, so I don’t have kids or responsibilities. I can just do and say whatever I want. So for me, that was really great and really fun.
Childrens Hospital airs Thursday nights at Midnight on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.