Anyone who finds themselves holding the amount of success that comedian/actor Nick Kroll has earned up might let it go to their head. But Kroll is all too humble about the opportunities he's had along the way, claiming it's all for his immense love of comedy.
Despite being busy with both an FX show and his Comedy Central program, Kroll took the time to speak with me over the phone on his way to sit with Conan O'Brien at the TBS set. He opened up about Kroll Show, the cast of The League and how fortunate he feels to be working in comedy.
Kyle Dowling: How long have you been thinking about your own show and what it would be?
Nick Kroll: I think it all started when I did a special for Comedy Central a couple of years ago called "Thank You Very Cool." It was a stand up special that also integrated characters. I think for both of us -- myself and Comedy Central -- it was sort of a backdoor pilot. So we did that and simultaneously started to develop a pilot for a show I did with Jon Daly. He's an amazing producer; he's the producer Kroll Show. So we pitched it to Comedy Central but they asked if instead we'd be interested in doing a larger sketch show. So it just naturally progressed.
KD: You've had amazing guests on Kroll Show thus far. Is it mainly friends in comedy or have you had the chance to work with people you've always wanted to?
NK: A lot of them are friends, really. People like Jenny Slate and John Mulaney and Jon Daly; the list goes on and on. They're friends that I've been working with forever. I'm so grateful that these people are willing to collaborate and help out.
But we did reach out to some other people. Richard Kind is on an upcoming episode. I had met him briefly at a charity poker tournament. I wouldn't say he's a dear friend but I knew him well enough to ask him to be on the show. He did a sketch called "Ponytails." It's like "True Life: I have a ponytail." It's following three different men with ponytails and the trials they face because of it. So aside from him, Karen Black and some others -- who were all so great -- it's largely my friends.
The thing that I'm most proud of with the show is that I think the comedy is incredibly strong and that we all help each other out. I think this show is a decent example of how comedians work together.
KD: It must be great having those guys on. I'd imagine you can go off script and they can easily follow along.
NK: Definitely. We script everything very tightly. John Levenstein -- our show runner -- knows how to write a style that is tightly scripted but also gives room for improv. He's done that before at places like Arrested Development. And Jon Krisel, he's worked on Portlandia, which is similar. My friends, we all improvise together usually. So we write what I think is a good script but always leave a lot of room to find stuff on the day; and we always do find something. That's the advantage to having actors who are in their own right writers.
KD: Do you find that you keep the improvised material more?
NK: It depends. Sometimes something will come out of an improvised moment that is funny but not exactly right, so then you have to edit it. But then there's a bit like one in the pilot where Jenny and I are in a fight. I call her ridiculous. She says something like, "Don't call me ridiculous. You know that's my pet peeve. My dad always called me ridiculous." That was improvised, but I think we kept it. So with an example like that, she does it, it works and we keep adding to it. We added stuff about her not liking being called ridiculous. We're always trying to find those moments. That's one of the great things about Krisel; he can find something on set and then make it blossom.
KD: That's definitely special and important in a producer. With this show, you're the star, creator, writer and an Executive Producer. Do you find it hard juggling it all? Or are the others so reliable that it helps?
NK: I think that's the key to the shows success. Obviously it's called Kroll Show -- I'm going to get plenty of credit -- but it's really an ensemble both in front and behind the camera. That's the key to a good show -- the teamwork. This team makes my job a lot easier. I can trust that Krisel will put together a good show. I can trust that Levenstein will shape the scripts incredibly well. All of our writers too, they're fantastic people who are very funny. And then the actors bring their own elements, which also takes off a lot of the pressure.
KD: How does this experience differ from The League?
NK: Well, the similarities are that there is room for organic material in both. Obviously, The League is done in outline form. We get a 12-page outline -- which is always tight -- but we have room for improvisation and finding organic moments. There's an element of that to Kroll Show.
The cast on The League is such a funny, smart group of people who are also writers. And the creators -- Jeff and Jackie Schaffer -- Jeff comes from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld so his background is in that kind of show as well -- scribing a detailed outline. So there are both similarities and differences in The League and Kroll Show. Obviously, in 'Kroll Show, as opposed to just being one character and playing Ruxin in The League, I'm playing eight or so characters in one episode, which can get difficult.
KD: That makes sense. After four seasons of The League, is it still as fun as it seems watching it?
NK: Yeah, it's a blast! I was just traveling with those guys actually. We did a show this weekend. It's such a fun group of people. It's weird thinking that I've known them for five years; I've watched them grow families! I feel very lucky that's the cast of that show.
KD: I know you started doing stand up; was there ever a dream to do TV or was it merely comedy?
NK: I think my goal was just to do comedy, honestly. It still is. Whatever form that took or takes, it doesn't matter. Whether it was sketch or stand up back then or doing video or TV or movie or even a bit on another show today -- whatever it is -- it just comes down to doing comedy. Really, I just love doing comedy. Any form it takes is great, as long as I can keep doing it, you know? If I can do my show and The League while also getting to do other bits, that's awesome. I think my friends would agree. I'd say 90 or nearly 100 percent of the people I know would do it for free. I just really love comedy. We all do.