Children’s Hospital began as a way for former Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry and friends to stay working during the writer’s strike of 2007, giving a bunch of improv vets and emerging stars a platform to exercise creative freedom in the nascent web series space. The first season of the absurdist and serially inappropriate hospital drama parody consisted of quick five-minute episodes, and after proving a cult hit, got picked up as a full-fledged TV series by Adult Swim.
Corddry, who plays clown doctor Blake Downs, brought a large cast of collaborators to the network; regulars include Rob Huebel, Ken Marino, Erinn Hayes, Megan Mullally, Lake Bell, Henry Winkler, Malin Ackerman and Michael Cera, with frequent appearances from Nick Offerman and David Wain, among others. In its seven seasons, Children’s Hospital sent up hospital soaps like Grey’s Anatomy while blowing through any and all social taboos, including joking about 9/11 (just a few years after it happened), pedophilia, religion, deadly diseases, and just about anything else that could inspire outrage from people who aren’t awake and watching deep cable at 11:30pm, when the show airs.
It looked like the actors were having a hell of a time on the show, which won Emmys in both 2012 and 2013 for best short-form production, and since the final episode of the series airs on Friday night, we spoke with Corddry and Huebel to look back on Children’s Hospital. What we thought would be a fond retrospective of their eight years on the program very quickly became a very, very explosive airing of very, very real grievances. As Corddry and Huebel reveal in this very honest and in no way tongue-in-cheek conversation (seriously it’s 100% real, don’t bother doubting it), the set was filled with extreme acrimony, and what follows should forever reshape the way people look at not only Children’s Hospital, but the performers involved.
How was cast camaraderie, after all those years together?
Corddry: This has been happening, I suspect, since the beginning of the show and it’s still happening, I think Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman are having sex. Regularly having sex.
Huebel: I was curious about that, because in season two, I started having sex with Nick, and I could tell that he was not into it. And so I started to think, well maybe he’s having sex with someone else, and he’s not telling me about it?” I never would have put them together.
Corddry: That’s when I put it together: When I was having sex with Nick, he would never call my name out in the height of climax. He would always either say his own name, or he would say “Megan.” Sometimes he’d say various character names that he plays. He’d say “Ron Swanson” a lot.
Huebel: I remember one time I was having sex with him and he yelled out “OffermanWoodshop.com,” which is a website where he sells wooden crafts that he makes.
Corddry: To be honest, I continued having sex with him just to hear the weird shit he was going to say.
Rob Corddry, you are the creator of the show, and I’m wondering if that led to any creative control battles.
Corddry: It started to, at the very beginning, but what I did was, and Huebel can attest to this, starting halfway through season one, I stopped looking at, listening to, and talking to anyone else in a room with me, at all.
Huebel: We haven’t even talked about this, but now that everything’s wrapping up, I guess I can say that he became very unpopular with the rest of the cast and crew.
Corddry: That’s fair.
Huebel: You don’t know this, Corddry, but for about six seasons, there was kind of a bounty on your head. And basically, the word was that if someone could I hate to even tell you this now because it’s going to color your whole memory of the project — but people were talking about assassinating you. And there was for a long time, people were trying different ways.
For a long time, people were trying to poison you on set. But you would never open your mouth. You would never eat food that you hadn’t directly prepared or brought from home, so that became very hard.
Corddry: It’s now all water under the bridge now, obviously. You guys understand that when you have a vision, and people try to change tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny aspects of that vision–
Huebel: Dude, we could not change a word. You would never let us change a word of the script. It was like some Aaron Sorkin shit. Like it came straight from Corddry’s brain and you had to say those words, nothing different.
Corddry: Now I’m not comparing myself to Jesus Christ, I’m not. But look what happened: After he wrote the Bible, then some guys got in there, and they wrote a different version and a different version, and those versions all suck. So you’ve got to, no matter how hard it is, you have to stay true to the first idea you have, and just stick with that.
Huebel: Are you sure youre not comparing yourself to Jesus Christ?
Corddry: God no, I have no magical powers. This all comes from my brain. My only magic is in my boundless creativity.
Huebel: Oh boy. You see, this is why there was such a movement to overthrow him and assassinate him. And there were so many plots that came very, very close. There were so many times where poisoning almost worked. Everyone at one time was carrying a high-powered weapon with a scope on it.
Corddry: That was that was for. Oh, that’s funny.
Huebel: And eventually it regressed, to old, almost cartoonish ways of killing someone. We would hire a moving crew to be hoisting up a piano into a window outside and then wed try to get Corddry to move down the sidewalk and get them to drop the piano on them. But nothing worked. He was basically unkillable.
Corddry: That’s funny. Once Ken Marino ran — I was chasing him, just for sport — and he jumped off a cliff. And I knew, I was like, “This guy thinks I’m gonna fall off a cliff, too. But no way. Not today, dumb dumb.”
What would you have changed, Huebel, if you could have changed the words?
Huebel: I would have loved to have changed a lot of it. So much of it is just overwritten and just too much drama. Here’s another secret: The show’s supposed to be a comedy, and for it to be a comedy, you have to do stuff that’s funny and gets laughs, and Corddry was just writing this drama. And so many of the people on the show are really good improvisers, and they have their own ideas and inspirations for scenes. That’s sort of the fun of doing a comedy. But Corddry was just a dictator when it came to the words.
Corddry: Right. I agree with that, but think back in history to the many dictators—
Huebel: Don’t do this—
Corddry: The dictators who were very right and popular. Idi Amin, Mussolini—
Huebel: No, don’t do this—
Corddry: Franco, he was a really funny guy. And people tried to compromise his ideas. And hey, somebody tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Am I comparing myself to Ronald Reagan? No.
Huebel: Sounds like you are.
So what changes would you have made specifically?
Huebel: If I’d been in charge, there would have been more ghost episodes. I love ghosts, and I wanted us all to be ghosts. And I had this whole big idea to shoot an episode inside Erinn Hayes’s vagina, where we were actually going to be inside her vagina. The whole cast. And Corddry fought me on this, he was like, “There’s no way, that’s physically not possible. We’re full-grown adults.”
Corddry: Huebel’s not an idiot. Every once in awhile if you say a lot of stuff, some stuff is going to stick. Erin was just kind of against it so what could I do? It was up to be to sort of bring the hammer down.
Blake dies at the end of the fourth season, but is then revived for the fifth season. How was that decision made? Was everyone on board with it?
Corddry: I just bought a yacht and I wanted to cruise around the world for a little bit so I decided to kill myself off. Take a little time and see the world. And then when I was ready to come back, I just wrote myself back.
Huebel: You bought a yacht? Because that was the season you implemented all the pay cuts.
Corddry: I don’t know, I don’t have the books in front of me right now.
Huebel: Well, you don’t need the books, I remember!
Corddry: Those two instances, if they happened simultaneously, might be coincidental.
Huebel: Oh, definitely. If you instituted pay cuts across the whole show and then bought a yacht, how else would that happen?
Corddry: I have many jobs, so essentially I’m getting four paychecks.
Huebel: Is the name of your yacht Pussy Hound?
Huebel: What kind of a monster doesn’t pay the actors on the show, turns around and buys the yacht to cruise the world, and names the yacht Pussy Hound?
Corddry: I dont know. Franny keeps the books, so you’re going to have to ask Franny for that. I don’t remember cutting your pay when I personally stenciled Pussy Hound in goat’s blood on the back of my yacht.
Goat’s blood? Was there a lot of animal sacrifice on the set?
Corddry: Not a ton. As much as you see on any other set.
Huebel: Basically any time you see an animal on the show, that animal was immediately killed.
Corddry: It’s not going to make it, and I think the trainers knew this too. But that happens across show business.
Huebel: Yeah, anytime you see an animal on TV, it dies.
Lake Bell leaves in season two, and is replaced by Malin Ackerman. Then Lake came back. Was there any sort of awkwardness or rivalry between the two of them?
Huebel: I just remember that we weren’t sure how to resolve that issue because if I remember correctly it was just a scheduling thing at first, but when we had them both back on the show we weren’t sure there was going to be enough room for them both, So the way we settled the dispute was they decided to make out a lot, a lot a lot.
Corddry Yeah, they would call it fighting.
Huebel: Yeah like “we gotta work this out”
Corddry: And then they would make out.
Huebel: We would say “there’s going to be a fight!” And everybody would gather around and it would start off with some gentle slapping or tickling, some fondling, some caressing, and then some tongues and heavy petting.
So you filmed it all is what you’re saying.
Huebel: Yeah, we’re not idiots. I’ve got a lot of it on my phone.
Were there people on the set people just didn’t like?
Huebel: Well we’ve always had a problem with Henry. Henry Winkler, obviously, if you’ve been around, you hear the lie all the time that Henry Winkler is one of the nicest men in Hollywood, he’s a mentor to a lot of people, he’s got a great energy about him. But we got to the point early on where we found out that he’s a monster!
Corddry: Oh yeah, carries a knife in his boot.
Huebel: Yeah, it’s not even a knife, it’s a machete. But eventually the only way we could even work with him was to just use him hologram. You know technology has come a long way since the Tupac hologram or the Michael Jackson hologram. So it’s easier to use the Henry Winkler hologram. So anytime you see Henry it’s actually just his hologram.
Corddry: But what a great actor though. When the camera’s rolling he just switches that off. Its really fascinating to watch. And a little terrifying.
Huebel: It’s scary to see someone transform that completely.
You said there was a season where you didn’t get paid, but how did the cast end up doing financially?
Corddry: They do fine.
Huebel: No, we don’t.
Corddry: It’s like the Seinfeld cast. It’s like everybody that is not Jerry Seinfeld or Larry David are very, very content with the deal they got. I’m sure they’ll feel the same way.
Huebel: What are you talking about? No, absolutely not. In no way are we like the Seinfeld cast.
Corddry: No, are you in no way like the Seinfeld cast.
Huebel: Financially, to be honest, I think Corddry probably made money off the show, but I’ll do anything to pay the rent. Seriously, dude, Mr. Interviewer guy, I’ll do anything. Like read the between the lines. Anything at all. I’m talking frat parties, humiliation, any sort of stuff. Whatever you’re thinking, that’s what I’m talking about, bro.
Corddry: So obviously they’re a resourceful group and they will keep their heads above water. I’m not worried about them.
Why would you be? You have a yacht.
Corddry: Yeah, most of it is make out of gold.
Huebel: That doesn’t even make sense! Gold is so heavy.
Corddry: I said most of it! There’s enough polycarbonate in it to allow it to float. Look, I’m not going anywhere fast. It’s nothing like Donald. He was on it the other day and he was envying my yacht.
Huebel: Why are you hanging out with Donald Trump?
Corddry: It would be rude to cancel our daily lunches just because he’s running for president! We talk, guy stuff. He’s got a lot of good plans. I related to a lot of what he said.
Huebel: Oh, fuck.
Corddry: He’s not even giving you the good stuff.
What’s the good stuff?
Corddry: I can’t betray his trust, but I will say that he’s got a lot of ideas that are going to be very surprising. Part of you will appreciate them. You’ll understand. Youll have a feeling about them.
Huebel: I am so fucking worried about the rest of this phone call.
Did Trump have any influence on the show?
Corddry: Oh, absolutely.
Huebel: I didn’t know anything about this.
Corddry: I’m just saying DT is behind the curtain and he’s getting it done.
Huebel: DT? You call Donald Trump DT?
Corddry: I call him what he tells me to call him.
A lot of people want to know why the show is ending. What’s the reason for the sudden end?
Corddry: The union, okay there’s a rule in the actor’s union where after a certain number of years that they get an automatic pay raise and it’s a significant percentage. So I thought you know what, why do that to Adult Swim? We did it, we nailed it. Im going to buy a helicopter and fly off into the sunset.
Huebel: I had no idea that’s why the show is cancelled. Because of the union? I felt good about the show. I felt like we’d done all these great seasons and now I find out that’s just because the boss of the show hates unions.
Corddry: There was also a general feeling that the show’s not so great. Just the looks on your faces when I said we were ending it was so funny. It was sweet.
Huebel: You ended the show just to see the shocked and horrified looks on our faces?
Corddry: No! No, I ended the show because I need to buy another helicopter. That was a fun little bonus and I think if you were in my position you would think so too.
Huebel: I don’t think I really knew what you were like until this phone call. For me it’s such an eye opener. I gotta say I’m really relieved to be through with the show.
Corddry: I know, we did it buddy. We climbed that mountain together.
Huebel: No. No, don’t give me that buddy shit. I just didn’t know. I feel gross.