We caught up with the 30 Rock star before this weekend’s Del Close Marathon improv festival.
Photo by Ali Goldstein/NBC
You’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of improv comedy festival, The Del Close Marathon this weekend. When you’re sharing a stage with the likes of Amy Poehler, Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas, Ellie Kemper, and hundreds of others, does it turn into a competition to see who can get the most laughs?
I don’t think so - we were all trained in the ensemble format, and we learned over the years that the way to look good ourselves is to make our partners look good.
Alternatively, with that much talent on the stage, are you ever tempted just to coast?
Haha, you mean just let everyone else be funny? Sometimes you get caught up when you’re with so many great people, and you find yourself just enjoying the show. But that’s the joy of it, because then you can go and watch these incredibly funny and talented people, and then walk over to them and join in. It’s pretty amazing.
When you see an opening and you have a great joke, but you see someone else going for it at the same time, what’s the etiquette there?
The way I was brought up in improv was that any idea you have is not as good as your partner’s idea, so if I see someone else initiating at the same time I am, I just defer to them because I assume their idea is going be better. And hopefully, they’re doing the same with me.
Couldn’t that lead to neither of you saying anything?
Well, there’s always the third person who doesn’t care about us at all.
You’ve been doing improv for a long time now, are people still able to surprise you?
Absolutely, all the time. A lot of times it’s students I teach - they’ll just have a completely different take on everything. But I can always count on people I’ve played with for years to surprise, and that’s when I get caught up and just start watching because it’s fascinating.
30 Rock had an insanely talented cast, how hard was it to get through an episode without just losing it?
We had longer days than we needed to because we were having a good time, for sure. The script was always really tight so there wasn’t a lot of need for us to improvise, but we would button things, or at the end of scenes we would extend it a little bit and improvise. That was always good for a laugh - it didn’t always make it to air, but we did have a good time doing it. I mean, I could watch Alec or Jane or Tina do anything and just stand there and watch them.
When you’re sharing a stage with someone, who makes you laugh the hardest?
I really like Patton Oswalt and Paul F. Tompkins. As far as improvisers go, T.J. Jagodowski and David Pasquesi from Chicago. I just did a show with them - we’re actually putting together an off Broadway show, them, myself, John Lutz, who’s my partner in New York, and Stephanie Weir and her husband Bob Dassie. These people are the cream of the cream, they’re just amazing improvisers.
Photo by Francine Daveta
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
Um, not calling my mom. Yeah I know, not very funny, but it’s very universal, I think.
What’s your favorite curse word?
“Ass-jag.” I think I said it to Tina backstage once at Second City, years ago, and for some reason we both kind of smirked at that and said, “That’s a keeper.”
Does it mean anything specific?
I think it might be ejaculating through your asshole. I’m not sure, I never thought of this - it’s a good question, but it sounds like something I’d be apologizing for, so we may be able to revise the first one.
What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
I’ve never been hungover, because I’ve been drunk once. Three years ago, I got drunk for the first time and I had enough water and food that by the time I went to sleep, I was sober and I woke up just fine. I said, that was a really good drunk, I had a great time and I don’t need to experience any bad drunks, so I’m done.
What was your first car?
My first car was a Buick Skyhawk from like, ’78, I think. I ran that thing into the gutter. It was shaped like an egg, it was cool.
It’s cool just to have a car with a name that sounds like a Transformer.
I wish it would transform into an egg! Like, break open and have a chicken come out, or maybe every time I come out of the car, it would look like a chicken.
Photo by Theo Wargo/NBC
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I’ve got a scar that has been hidden, but in my adult life, it is now very apparent. When I was six I dropped a jungle gym on myself in my backyard, and a screw bore the entire weight of the thing as it came down on my skull, so I’ve got this line on the top of my head. I was like, oh, no one will see it, I’m fine. Then I lost my hair and now it’s like I’ve got a Frankenstein skull. The screw came about a millimeter from my brain - they said I would’ve died if it had come down just a little bit harder.
That’s sort of an embarrassing way to go.
Yeah. If I would have died when I was six, the world would not have the word ass-jag!
Do you have a party trick?
I can touch my tongue to my nose. I’m very untalented at parties, as it turns out.
What is the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
What is the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
Car keys between each knuckle, ‘cause I’m not a fighter.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
My girlfriend, I think. Does the dog count?
Sure. Finish this sentence: If I ruled the world for a day, I would…
Cancel it. I can’t think of anything - that’s terrible, I guess I must be really content. But I would make cats be more like dogs.