Interview: Craig Robinson of Hot Tub Time Machine — "What color is Michael Jackson?"
Wed, 24 Mar 2010 10:48:38
Craig Robinson Videos
Craig Robinson heats up Hot Tub Time Machine with some sizzling singing.
In fact, the comedian belts out some righteous renditions of a few personal favorites—Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl"—during a big performance sequence mid-film that's as rockin' as it is hilarious. His character Nick may be the "whipped husband," but when he gets the party started on stage, he really gets it started…
Robinson makes for some of the funniest moments in the hilarious new comedy, and that's saying a lot since he's playing alongside John Cusack and Rob Corddry. Robinson's got all kinds of stage experience performing with his band The Nasty Delicious, and it definitely helped get him warmed up for Hot Tub Time Machine's more rock 'n' roll moments—all of which he sparks.
Craig Robinson sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about kicking out some of his favorite jams in Hot Tub Time Machine, bro-ing down with John Cusack and Rob Corddry and how he came up with his, "What color is Michael Jackson?" line.
How did you become such a great singer?
My mother is a musician, and it's in my blood. I appreciate the compliment! You can see me singing and doing jokes at some point with my band The Nasty Delicious who are actually on the Hot Tub Time Machine soundtrack. They weren't behind me in the movie, but they're on the soundtrack. I'm actually singing in the scene on stage. It was recorded afterwards and overdubbed in.
"Jessie's Girl" and "Let's Get It Started" are both very different, but you still managed to nail them.
That's another whole way of looking at it! Thank you, bro! I've been singing for awhile, and it was nice to be in the studio because in concert you might hear a couple of flat notes or a couple of cracks. It's always nice when you can let it be and get it out there perfect, so to speak.
Did you choose those two songs or were they in the script?
We went over so many songs and debated. It turned out that we picked songs that I know and love. We recorded more than those two, but those turned out the best.
Nick experiences that self-realization when he's finally singing. His character arc is definitely the sharpest.
When he goes back, he probably would've never found himself, had he not figured out that his wife was cheating. That leads to the scene with the nine-year-old girl [Laughs]. Watching him go through his thing was cool.
If Hot Tub Time Machine were a song what would it be?
It would be "Do What You Like" by Digital Underground [Laughs]!
Why do you say that?
Because that's what we did! [Laughs] We did what we like! Steve Evetts [Director] was excellent in directing and being a visionary, putting everything together. It was so much fun. We'd go out and party some nights. Then we'd come back the next day and we'd be laughing, creating bits and improv'ing. We did what we liked!
Did you instantly click with John and the other guys?
Yeah, it takes me awhile to warm up to people sometimes. However, one of the quickest ways for me to warm up to people is if they come to see my show because that's when I'm really putting out who I am for the masses. John, Steve and a bunch of the producers all came out, and it was an instant click. As a matter of fact, the show is what made them change Nick. He wasn't a musician in the beginning. They came to one of my comedy shows where I play, and they were like, "Okay, Nick's a musician."
So you feel like Nick has a part of you?
Exactly! We had to find his ending. This was an amazing film to be a part of because we did a lot of improv and some stories didn't have a close-up at the end. We had to figure what would happen to Nick at the end as the movie went along. I had certain things I was able to throw into the movie—whether it was improv or pitching an idea. An example of what I did was the Michael Jackson line—"What color is Michael Jackson?" Pitching an idea would be me looking into the camera and saying, "Hot Tub Time Machine." There was a lot of room, and everybody got to collaborate. They say too many cooks spoil the pot, but I think we had just the right number of cooks.
With how collaborative Hot Tub Time Machine was, it sounds like the process mirrored creating an album.
It was easy to collaborate because instead of being in the writer's room, we were right there on set. You've got a good point there.
Were you listening to anything to get into character for Nick?
I just remembered to be whipped! I'd go back to relationships where I was in love with somebody and they were taking advantage of me, which unfortunately has happened over and over.
Do singing and acting come from the same creative place for you?
It's all art. Anything will give up its secrets to you if you love it enough, so I come from a place of love, wanting to grow and wanting to get better. It's all the same creative place because you find out there's a trick to something or there's a knack to it.
Are you going to see Hot Tub Time Machine this weekend? Should Craig release an album with the Nasty Delicious?