Interview: Rob Huebel
Mon, 30 Mar 2009 16:51:33
Jason Segel Videos
You may recognize Rob Huebel from MTV’s sketch comedy show The Human Giant, where his comedic antics have included playing victim to a murderous simian (“Carpet Monkey”) and marveling at the reanimation techniques of co-stars Paul Scheer and Aziz Ansari ("The Illusionators"). He has also appeared as a pop culture pundit on VH1’s Best Week Ever, graced the cubicle space of The Office, and, most recently, played an obscenely tanned “ass clown” (his words, not mine) opposite Paul Rudd in I Love You, Man. If you live in the L.A. area, you can catch Huebel and his Upright Citizens Brigade cohorts performing at their weekly “Facebook (formerly ‘My Space’)” show on Wednesday nights at Hollywood’s UCB Theater.
Amidst his busy schedule, which includes preparation for April's Chicago Improv Festival, Huebel found the time to step away from his Twitter account and answer a few questions about improv, his blossoming movie career, and the future of The Human Giant.
You studied comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. When did you first discover UCB and at what point did you decide to take classes with UCB's founders (Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, and SNL's Amy Poehler)?
My roommate at the time dragged me to a UCB show probably back around '96. I had just moved to New York and had no clue what I was doing with my life. I just wanted to do comedy, but wasn't convinced stand-up would be for me. I had never seen long form improv—good improv—before and it pretty much blew my mind. Those guys started teaching classes and I had to get involved. Then the UCB theater just exploded. I was lucky to be onstage a lot, and from there it was all cocaine and whores!
Which of the four founders were you most inspired by in terms of the comedy philosophies they preached?
Oh wow, good question! All four of those guys (three guys, one girl) are insanely funny and each in their own unique way. I could talk about this for hours but you'd get bored. And then you'll start masturbating. Fuck you, quit doing that! But for me, Ian Roberts' style really connected in my brain. That dude is a machine. He has this ability to be so straight and real and specific, but super fucking funny, and that's kind of what I think good improv should be. Improv discussions always sound so lame, so I'll shut up. But if you've never seen the UCB perform live together, you have to check it out.
Your longtime comedy partner Rob Riggle has been quoted as saying that it took him a long time to grasp UCB's now notorious comedy method "Game of the Scene" and actually had to retake their Level Two class more than a couple times before he could figure it out. Since everyone seems to interpret this comedy method differently, could you tell us how you define it yourself and how long it took for you to grasp it?
Oh man, snores galore. No one wants to read me explaining improv. They want boobies. But okay, fine: basically finding a "game" is what you're trying to do in any improv scene. It's really just finding a funny pattern that you can heighten or raise the stakes on. Realizing, "Okay, if this has happened to these characters, what else can happen to them?" But it's hard to do well. You're basically writing on your feet. Oh shit. No more improv philosophy.
How has UCB's method influenced your comedy material?
I think I mainly got years of practice performing in front of a live audience and there's nothing better than that. You learn fast. But a great thing about UCB has always been this idea of "Don't Think." Meaning, if you think about it, you won't do it—you'll hold back. So to me, that place has always been a place to try anything. Literally. One time, I killed an old man onstage because it seemed like it would get a laugh. That was a mistake. I took "Don't Think" too far. But I'm a better person for trying.
This past summer there was the incident at UCB's 10th Annual Del Close Marathon in New York City that received quite a bit of media coverage. During the marathon's much anticipated late night show Match Game 76, Brooke Shields showed up as a participant, then left during the set when she realized the content was a bit too lewd for her taste. Did she not understand what the show was like before coming out onstage? Was it a case of miscommunication on her part? Don’t be shy: pick someone to blame.
That was all bullshit. Brooke never left or got offended. She was awesome. That show is always crazy and she was totally along for the ride. She actually later tried to get The Post to print a retraction because she thought that story made her sound lame. She's so cool.
“On his role in I Love You, Man: 'It was so damn fun and I'm really glad to be a part of it.'”
I Love You, Man was released on March 20th. It's your first big role in a movie. Could you tell us a bit about your experience working on the film?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I think you're forgetting my awesome scene in the summer blockbuster The Love Guru. Or perhaps my star turn in Norbit. But yeah, this is my first good movie. It was so damn fun and I'm really glad to be a part of it. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are just super cool guys and the director, John Hamburg, wrote a really funny script and cast pretty much a busload of funny people to be in it. John had all this funny stuff for me to do and then he let me improvise a lot, too. I was really psyched because he kept a lot of that in there. My character is this superdouche named Tevin who works with Paul Rudd at an L.A. real estate firm. I'm all spray tanned and I've got frosted tips. I mean, I look ridiculous. What sucked was having to look like that in real life for a month or two. A lot of people just thought I was trying out a new look: the look of a total ass-clown. Anyway, I had a blast and I think Paul Rudd is incredible to watch. If you don't see that movie, you're probably a jerk.
Any word on whether you'll be in director John Hamburg's next film, The Troubleshooter?
I haven't heard about John's next thing, but I got really drunk at a party last night where he was and I think I may have showed him my naked penis. He didn't ask for it. But I offered it. I really regret that.
Your sketch show The Human Giant ran on MTV2 for two seasons. Your co-star Aziz Ansari left to do NBC's new show Parks and Recreation. How did you, Paul [Scheer, co-star] and Jason [Woliner, director] take his leave? And is Human Giant dead because of it?
Oh man, you think you're some kind of serious journalist here, don't you? We were really psyched for Aziz and think the show is gonna be great. We always root for each other. Human Giant is one of those things that we can always do when we all have time. We loved doing it and loved that people dug it. And MTV has been really cool about asking us to do more. Our main thing was to try and do a movie, so we're working on a Human Giant script now. And Paul and Jason and I are all working on other cool stuff, too. But I'm sure Human Giant will rear its ugly head again sometime.
Speaking of NBC, any chance you'll be returning to The Office to kick Michael Scott's ass?
I hope so. That show is so great. I would love to show up again!
During the Superbowl, Pepsi released video sketches that you were featured in as part of Will Arnett's Superbowl Party. How did that originate?
Will had this deal to shoot a fucked up Superbowl party that Pepsi was gonna pay for and put on the internet. And the Russo brothers (Arrested Development) were directing. I think he had to mention Pepsi, like, one time. So he called us up and let us come over and improvise all day. It's always fun doing stuff with that guy. He has this insanely dark sense of humor that we all share. And a really sexy sounding voice.
In April, your UCB Theatre L.A. troupe Facebook is headlining the Chicago Improv Festival. Is this your first time doing CIF? Were you invited by CIF producers or was it your troupe's idea to go?
We did CIF a few years ago as Respecto Montalban (our original improv group from NYC). But this is our first time doing this Facebook show there. We're going to try to not get too drunk. But people in Chicago like to drink a lot. And smoke meth. I am trying to quit meth, but it makes me look younger.
Photo credit: Robyn Von Swank