The Phenomenon That Is Nick Kroll
Papi Steenbergen, Aspen Bruckheimer, Gil Faizon, Fabrice Fabrice, C-Czar, Dr. Armond, Bobby Bottleservice, AKA Bobby Bruschia, AKA Bobby B., … these are only a handful of the many colorful characters emanating from the mind and talent of what I call “The Phenomenon that is Nick Kroll.”
And what I think is most amazing is that when I see him inhabiting the body of all of these characters there are times I can not tell you who the real Nick Kroll is. I’ll try and explain that.
When Nick is in character as Gil Faizon it’s obvious that he’s in costume, but his body language and facial features seem to actually change along with the character he’s doing to the point where I no longer can tell what he really looks like. At the beginning of each episode he seems to appear as himself, in a Nick Kroll type of monologue, but even knowing him as I do, I’m still not 100% sure that’s him without any make-up. I couldn’t really tell you how he wears his hair.
And my background as a former cosmetic dentist made me very observant of detail. He so becomes the character he’s doing that he truly gets lost in it. When he’s Gil Faizon or Bobby B. it seems effortless to him to inhabit the facial movements, the tone of voice, the cadence of speech. It’s truly amazing. In all my years of comedy I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with the ability to do so many characters, and do them well.
Quite a few years ago, around 1990, the first time we at The Friars Club roasted Chevy Chase, I was working with the producer of the Roasts at the time, as kind of the official writer for The Friars Club, and wound up working with the SNL crew who was going to appear at a Roast for the first time.
Most young guys had never done a Roast in those days, so it was up to me to guide them through the process. I had been writing for the Roasts for 12 years previously with legends like Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, and Pat Cooper, and became kind of a liaison between the older comics and the younger comics, since I was friendly with both. In those days a Roast was kind of a secret art form.
As I recall I had to work with my old friend Phil Hartman, who I’m pretty sure appeared as Donald Trump, Kevin Nealon, who I think appeared as Mr. Subliminal, and who I recently saw when I appeared on his show at The Laugh Factory in LA, and Dana Carvey who may or may not have appeared as Church Lady. I saw first hand how hard it is to be able to stay in character for an entire set. Nick makes it look effortless.
Needless to say, people were very excited about the prospect of “Kroll Show” before it came out. A year ago February, I got a call from Inman Young, Nick’s producer in LA, asking if I’d like to come out to LA to be in some sketches with Nick. I packed my bags when I got off the phone even though I wasn’t going until the next month. That’s how excited I was to do it! (LOL)
I went out last March and shot two sketches. One was with Nick, and his writing partner and friend John Mulaney another super talent loved by all who know him, in an “Oh, Hello” sketch, and another in a Woody Allen like party scene with Nick, John, and award-winning actress Karen Black.
I had the time of my life out there with Nick and his friends like Ed Helms, Jason Mantzoukas, Joe Mande, and Jon Daly, who is not only a producer on the show but also an actor who also does several characters like Wendy Shawn, Nick’s partner in Rich Dicks.
The show is literally filled with Jons/Johns including Jon Krisel the director also co-creator of Portlandia starring Fred Armisen, and producer John Levenstein, previously from Arrested Development.
I often say there’s no more two man teams out there like you used to see with Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, or Jackie Gleason and Ed Norton who were hysterical together, but Nick and John Mulaney, or Nick and Jon Daly are two teams that could wind up in that category.
The lunch table on set was representative of the level of talent that Nick brings in. All of his friends were on other shows as well.
In the Comedy Matters TV interview I did with Nick and John after the shoot they were still in character and I made the mistake of trying to interview them as Nick and John because it’s confusing sitting with people in character as to how to address them, … as themselves or as their character. Well, let me clarify that. It was confusing to ME, not to them as you’ll see in this video!
Months before the show came out as “Kroll Show” people were already excited to see it, and buzz was building for what was originally going to be called “The Nick Show Kroll”. As a matter of fact in the early e-mails I received from the LA office, the “Subject” line all said ” Nick Show Kroll” which I promptly corrected, thinking I was being helpful, to “Nick Kroll Show.” After about the third one, I realized that it was I who was the moron, and that no one on the staff was making a consistent typo, but that it was meant to be called “The Nick Show Kroll”!
In the intervening months while people were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the show, the public had to be satisfied for their Kroll fix by enjoying Nick as Ruxin on FX’s “The League” with his pals Paul Sheer, Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi, Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, (husband and wife in real life!), and in his other personal appearances.
By the time it came out in January simply as “Kroll Show” the buzz was loud and Nick knocked it out of the proverbial park. The show got renewed on Comedy Central after only the first three episodes. My first sketch was in Too Much Tuna, where Nick and John do their best to prank me with a much too large tuna sandwich, but as you’ll see in this clip, I wasn’t having any part of it!
They told me if the show got picked up they’d ask me back for the 2nd season. As a precautionary measure, I’m not leaving the house until they do, just in case my voicemail doesn’t work when they call!
Check out Kroll Show, every Wednesday night at 10:30 ET/9C on Comedy Central, and be ready to laugh your ass off! And don’t forget to tell Nick I sent you!