I got to watch the new season of HBO’s Ballers before it came out. But it came with a message: “Everything might change.”
I watched it all anyway. Because I was interviewing Rob Corddry (a.k.a “Joe” in Ballers).
Rob usually plays this likable jerk character. He has some sympathy. But for the most part he’s a jerk who knows he’s a jerk.
There’s something to this idea of character building. Because, growing up, we’re all told who to be and who not to be. What to say and what not to say.
But Rob sort of created a new “okay” for himself by being this easy-going, not so mean, mean guy.
People started to recognize him for his character. And then one day he got a phone call from the creators of Hot Tub Time Machine. They wanted to hire him.
“It was the first movie I didn’t have to audition for,” Rob said. “I don’t even know what the audition would be like.”
They saw him on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He was a correspondent. I remember watching and I’d always ask myself, “Is he likable?”
Then in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine, they wrote a line that will forever be the best description of Rob Corddry’s characters… They said, “He’s an a–hole, but he’s our a–hole.”
But Rob wasn’t always enjoying his life and his career as much as he is today.
2006, 2007, 2008. Those were his dark years.
His show had just been cancelled. It was called, Winners. They had six episodes. It looks like just a tiny blip on his resume.
But those blips are scary.
Even by definition, they’re scary…
Because you don’t know what’s temporary until everything shifts again.
“What were you going through in those years?” I asked. “Were you worried you weren’t going to get a job?”
He told me the backstory.
“I was making no money. It was the writer’s strike so there wasn’t even a chance to get a job at that point. I just moved to a city that I didn’t know or understand with a two month old daughter.”
Plus, it was also the middle of the financial crisis.
“It was a very, very stressful time. So because I didn’t have anything to do, I spent 8 hours a day learning how to be productive.”
“What were you doing?” I asked.
“A lot of different things, but mostly, I landed on this thing called GTD (Getting Things Done). It’s David Allen’s thing about how to write a better to-do list. And it’s basically getting everything out of your head onto some sort of device or peice of paper. The idea is that your mind is calm and still for ideas and creativity to happen. Cause if you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got to do X,’ and you don’t write it down, it’s in your head… you’re a little afraid that you might forget it. And that causes a certain amount of stress whether you know it or not.”
Then it came full circle.
Because he had an idea for a new show come to him in one of these really quiet moments. And then he bypassed the gatekeepers and turned the idea into a web series.
The show was called Childrens Hospital (no apostrophe). Each episode was 11 minutes. And Rob had the title of “Creator.”
My studio engineer gave me the “wrap” signal. We were out of time. But I kept asking questions.
“How did you come up with the idea for your show? What made you go out and do it? How did it become a TV show?”
I’m pretty sure my engineer was going to throw his iPad at me. But I would’ve dodged it and kept going anyway.
Because I never want a good interview to be just a blip.
Links and Resources
“Do You Want to See a Dead Body”
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
creator Steve Levinson (and his dad Papa Dave)