There are a lot of funny, up and coming, Jewish comedians out there right now. However, you’d be pressed to find one who is funnier than Nick Kroll. A former contributing writer for Chappelle’s Show and Human Giant (including being featured in my favorite sketch from that show) and actor on Cavemen, Kroll is currently starring in FX’s The League and offering his voice for HBO’s The Life & Times of Tim.
Even with that busy schedule, Kroll was able to sit down and answer a couple of questions for Mixed Multitudes.
Jeremy Moses: I read that your first “acting” role was playing Pharaoh in your elementary school’s depiction of the Exodus. Have you had any other Jewish acting jobs since then?
Nick Kroll: I was the rabbi in a my synagogue’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. I don’t think you can get more jew-y than that.
I think all adolescence is funny. That time of being super awkward in your early teens is universal and that is why people (not only Jews) responded to those books.
What was the most awkward situation you ever had either at a bar mitzvah party or at camp?
I’ve been told that I talk in my sleep. I was recently reminded that one night at camp, I shot up in bed and screamed “Mr. referee, please don’t be the equalizing factor!” For some reason, I’m very formal and polite, yet forceful in my dreams.
On your show The League, there are a good amount of Jewish jokes (the biggest one that comes to mind is the theme song of the Shiva Bowl being sung to Hava Nagila), yet you’re the only Jewish cast member. Since the show is mostly improvised, how much of a role did you have in the insertion of the Jewish jokes onto the show?
I don’t insert Jewish jokes. I just say what comes to my mind. There is nothing intentional in what jokes get to air from me or the writers or the director. The Hava Nagila song came from Jeff Schaffer’s (co-creator of The League) high school buddies.
The League was renewed for a second season. Can you reveal any scoops as to where the show will be going in its sophomore year?
I wish I could reveal scoops but unfortunately, I’m not a 1930’s reporter who says “WHAT A SCOOP!” I have no idea what is to come but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hilarious.
Possibly my favorite thing you do is The Oh, Hello Show (featured below) with SNL writer John Mulaney, where you portray two divorced, Upper West Side elderly men. Who are the influences for those particular characters? Do you have a crazy, Upper West Side uncle or something?
John and I have always loved these types of guys. Growing up watching Woody Allen movies helped but really, living in New York City, seeing these fellas every day was the inspiration. One day, we were in The Strand, a bookstore in New York, where you basically have to have a PBS tote bag to get in, and we saw two old guys buying Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda. We followed them, listened to them talking and began mimicking them. Eventually, we decided we should do something with them as opposed to just talking like them to each other.
I’m a big fan of comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. When you were on it, you talked a lot about Judaism and the complaints that Marc gets for acting too Jewish. In your humble opinion, which comedian, besides you of course, do you think embraces their Jewishness the most?
I honestly could care less about who embraces or doesn’t embrace their Judaism. All I am interested in is people being as funny as they can be talking about whatever makes them tick. If that happens to be a Jewish subject matter than good on you. If it happens to be about micro-penises, then kudos to that too.
Finally, 2009 was a successful year for you, even being named to Comedy Central’s Hot List. What does 2010 have in store?
I’m very excited about 2010. I have a bunch of very small parts in some very funny movies that I hope I won’t get cut out of. I’m in Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carrell, Get Him to the Greek with Jonah Hill and Russell Brand (AND DIDDY!) and a few others. We’re doing a second season of The League and I’m the voice of Stu on the HBO animated show The Life and Times of Tim which premieres on Friday Feb. 19th w/ Ricky Gervais’ new show, HBO Funny or Die Collaboration and Bill Maher. It’s gonna be a really amazing comedy lineup. And now, I’m gonna go dry heave from that shameless self promotion.