There seems to be no part Nick Kroll is incapable of playing, from a bro'd out Jersey ladies man to a rich dick, douchey shock jock, obsessed Fantasy Football champion, PubLIZity girl, or pitch-perfect young Larry Bird struggling with a weak vertical and his father's disapproving belief that "shooting’s for showoffs." But in Kroll's latest film he takes on a rare role for the 36-year-old comedian: grown-up. But only kind of.
In Adult Beginners, out now in theatres and on VOD, Kroll plays an entrepreneur who's forced to move in with his sister after his company fails gloriously on the eve of its launch. He ends up becoming a suburban nanny for his three-year old nephew, and again, only kind of. "I have 12 nieces and nephews and babysat them, like, once. One of them once, basically," Kroll admits about the film's inspiration while overlooking New York's Hudson River from the 32nd floor of the Trump SoHo, explaining later how that child went to bed with his diaper on backwards. "It seemed like an area ripe for comedy and dramatic value."
But despite Kroll's recent dive into more serious dramedies, don't expect his characters to disappear. He's excited to get back to sketch comedy, guest roles, and stand-up, and was more-than-happy to tell just us how Bobby Bottleservice stays "yoked" between projects.
What advice have you received while making Adult Beginners?
Michael Showalter gave me advice that he... and I don't think he would ever take credit for coming up with it... but his advice was never have a backup plan. I think that's solid for creative endeavors because if you have a backup plan, often times it makes you feel comfortable, like you don't have to go all out to accomplish whatever it is you're trying to do.
Did that manifest itself with this project?
Yeah. Although, the deviation from it, I would say, is that I always like to have a few different balls in the air, because you never know when one is going to take off or when one is going to go away. So this project is something I was always working on while I was working on something else. So I was doing Kroll Show, where I was shooting The League or whatever, and this was always something back there, and then at some point it comes to fruition and becomes the priority, and you just go full throttle into it.
Why are we so fascinated with exploring failure in film, especially in comedy?
I think in storytelling people want to see triumph, and so it's usually nice to start with failure and see someone somehow rise above it. People like to see people try. And they like to see people fail for comedy and they like to see people succeed for the drama and emotion.
How does the story of your character in Adult Beginners, Jake, mirror your own, especially your relationship with your family, nieces, nephews...?
I have 12 nieces and nephews and babysat them, like, once. One of them once, basically. And I’m no one's god parent among those 12, so it just seemed like a ripe area for what it would be like for a guy like me who’s the youngest brother, who hasn't really had to care for anyone but himself, and can barely do that, if he had to also become one of those kid's nanny, and all of a sudden be a caretaker. It seemed like an area ripe for comedy and dramatic value.
I'm the youngest of my family, too, so when my sister hands me her kids, at first you kind of hold it in front of you waiting for someone to take it back.
Exactly. You just have the one?
Actually twins, and a third on the way, so they're starting to pile up.
Yeah, it's a weird thing. But as they start to pile up, you get more and more comfortable with them. And I really love my nieces and nephews, and they're really special kids. But until they're your own kids, your patience hits a point where you're like, "Okay, great kid. You can take them back now."
When you show them the film one day, will you be like, "This is your fault"?
[Laughs.] Or I just got to pay them residuals for it, like some sort of intellectual property.
If the project was your story, why didn’t you want to tackle the writing?
I was throughout the process writing Kroll Show and/or shooting it and just had very little time and brain capacity for more. And I really wanted to have a female voice, so Liz Flahive and Jeff Cox, as young parents, were very, very capable of helping us bring the details of young parenting to life in a way that I’m sure on my best day I don’t think I could come up with. Especially the details and insights that they have, as people actually going through it. Beyond that, they’re just very funny, talented writers who I think wrote a very good script. There are just so many details that I as a single male don’t have access to to write.
Speaking of the idea of what an "adult beginner" is, does comedy kind of stunt your growth? It seems like most comedians start off silly and don’t become self aware or examine themselves until later in life.
Yeah, I mean, it’s an interesting question. Depending on the person, comedy allows you to observe and communicate sometimes more effectively. I think for some, often times it can be a crutch or something to hide behind, but I also think it’s an unbelievably important means to communicate and observe the world and learn about yourself and grow and tell stories that sometimes people wouldn’t want to hear otherwise. It’s nice. It’s like taking your medicine in one of those alligator-shaped medicine things when you’re a little kid.
Do you want to continue exploring more adult themes? Would you go back to characters like in Kroll Show? What's the balance going forward?
I mean I hope it’s always a balance. The goal is just to keep doing everything I can get my hands on. And, I mean, obviously the goal is to get yoked and be on the cover of Men's Fitness. Fucking get ripped up. Um, you are Men's Fitness, no?
No. Men's Journal.
I’m so sorry.
That's okay, sir. But in regards to getting yoked, what are the Bobby Bottleservice tips for a workout?
1. Drinking, like, six Muscle Milks. 2. Doing only thighs and shoulders. 3. Wading around in Atlantic City at The Borgata pool for, like, six or seven hours and hoping it shrinks your legs.
Excellent. I'll forward that to their editors.
[Laughs.] Well the goal is still to get yoked. But no, I think the goal is to keep getting to do everything, because I found that within Kroll Show I would go from character to character, and each time I did a new character it was exciting because it's something new, just like it is going from doing a sketch show to a dramedy to a studio film, to being a guest star or going back to writing or doing stand-up. The more variance I have in my days, the more exciting each thing is and the more I enjoy doing it.