For The Love Of Acting With Rob Corddry

Rob Corddry, the “Top Gear America” host and regular on CBS’ “The Unicorn” chats about performing, cars, and dad weed.
For The Love Of Acting With Rob Corddry
Courtesy of Motortrend

At the beginning of our phone conversation, Rob Corddry comments on how “time itself” has been on a long summer break. And indeed, the past year has been marked by a tremendous worldwide lull. But a look beneath the hood of the “Hot Tub Time Machine” star’s shell reveals the inner workings of a grounded individual who manages to balance a proud home life with an incredibly busy shooting schedule. Rob Corddry is a man about the screen, his face simultaneously being beaming to viewers of Motortrend’s Top Gear America and the CBS television series The Unicorn, the season two finale of which drops March 18th. Throughout the entirety of our conversation, Rob’s youthful exuberance is on full display as he walks us through his youth in Massachusetts, his early adult years in New York, and the hijinx, fun, and cannabis consumption that went into crafting his accomplished acting career.

You were initially a journalism major at UMass and ended up switching to drama. What motivated you to make the change?

Rob Corddry: I wrote for my high school paper but was hardly involved with it nor cared too much about it. The question really is, “Why did I become a journalism major?”

I had no interest in journalism and I immediately changed it to English when I got to UMass, ending up with a Theater and English double major. It might have been my parents saying, “Declare a major and you can always change it later,” but that doesn’t seem like them. It’s a mystery. 

Were your parents supportive of you pursuing something more artistic?

Rob Corddry: They were supportive, though my dad, to his credit, is a very logical-minded engineer. I used to love to draw as a kid and back in those days, the circulars in the newspapers were hand drawn, not photographs. My dad was like, “You could become a commercial artist.” If I expressed thoughts about writing, he would say, “That’s great, you could become a technical writer.” His intention wasn’t to take my pursuits out of an artistic zone, but rather for me to get a job and for him to be able to count on me being “okay.” I recognized that about him, and it’s one of the many reasons I took my acting career very, very seriously.

Was it the kind of thing where you took on a variety of different jobs to fill in the gaps financially until acting was running full steam?

Rob Corddry: I couldn’t even imagine acting paying money. I was doing way-the-fuck-off-Broadway theater for various crappy Shakespeare companies—all of which were nonpaid—and I remember laughing with another guy about the idea of getting paid to act. Like, “Do people actually do that?” And this pompous guy in our group said, “I get paid to act. I got paid sixteen grand last year.” I was like, “Whoa, sixteen grand? Look at moneybags. You can actually do it?” It was never about money for me because I knew it was probably not in the cards for this career type unless you were one of the lucky one-percent that got to be a movie star or whatever.

Did you take anything from those job experiences that helped you with your acting?

Rob Corddry: Absolutely, in so many ways. I also just took a lot from them in terms of office supplies. So many paperclips over the years.

When I was working at Goldman Sachs, I got jobs for all the guys in my sketch group—Naked Babies—which would perform at The Upright Citizens Brigade. We all worked on different floors but so many times, one of my friends would walk past my desk and throw me a little ream of paper, which was a sketch they’d written. If we were writing it together, I was supposed to look at it and edit it and add my part. So we actually got a lot of writing done at Goldman Sachs.

Almost “covert writing.”

Rob Corddry: It was really covert. I don’t know what the other floors were like, but mine was the legal floor, so it was really buttoned up. I was the assistant to the assistant of the general counsel—meaning I was a secretary’s assistant who was the assistant to the general counsel of Goldman Sachs, so those guys felt they had to be clandestine. Writing was always like planning a heist of some sort, but there was always something fun about being mysterious.

Was there a defining moment either through these jobs or at other points in your career that reinforced for you that acting actually could be a tangible career path?

Rob Corddry: There were several, and one was actually at UMass. I was about to graduate and my acting guru—Ed Golden—took me into his office and said, “So, you want to do this for a career?” And I guess I hadn’t fully come to that conclusion yet. I’d already planned on going to New York and had a first month’s deposit down, but it wasn’t as real as it became in that moment when I said, “Yeah, I think I do.” He paused, and just goes, “Yeah. You can.” It was like I’d gotten permission from my guru.

The other time was my first paying gig in 1995 or 1996 when I toured the country with The National Shakespeare Conservatory. Now that sounds really impressive, but it’s not. It was this ramshackle company that had broken away from The National Shakespeare Company, and they were operating as their own thing. It was kind of crappy, but I was making money. It was just seven of us in two vans driving around the country performing Shakespeare for community colleges. I was making three-hundred-and-fifty to four-hundred a week, which I’d supplement with another fifty-bucks if I taught an iambic pentameter class, and I remember sitting on the stage of a rocket science college in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was this one moment where I didn’t have anything to do and I looked out into the audience thinking, “This is it. You’ve made it.” And I knew then—as I know now—I could be happy making four hundred-dollars a week doing what I loved. If you truly have that realization, then you keep having it every time you have a revelatory experience.

What’s cool is I have the pleasure of “making it” all the time now. When I was on The Daily Show it was like, “Wow, I finally did it. I’m on TV. I made it.” And then I got a movie and was able to have that experience all over again. Landing Top Gear was also one of those times. It was the largest TV property in the world, watched by a billion people at one point, and while on set I was like, “Wow. This is a very specific one, but I’ve made it.” It’s a really neat feeling.

But these days, everybody just wants to be famous. There’s a big obsession with fame, and it’s only grown recently, though it’s not something to strive for. Fame is only a symptom of [acting] well.

People want fame instead of figuring out what they themselves can to do well.

Rob Corddry: Fame by itself is a very empty goal. But we’ve commodified fame in such a way that there are so many shows on TV about people who are famous for being famous that fame has become a career. It’s weird and it bums me out. I try my hardest to dispel that in the kids I mentor, and sometimes rather harshly. I’ll say, “If all you want is fame, then get out right now because you’re not going to get it. You’re not devoted to the right thing. So get out and do something else that you love.” It’s a hard thing to hear, especially if it’s what you want, but I want what’s best for these kids.

In terms of love, have you always had an affinity for cars?

Rob Corddry: I grew up with a love for cars because one of my friends was a real gearhead mechanic. He used to have this awesome shitbox ‘64 Mustang that he would always be building something new into. We used to hang out every night and drive down to the beach where it was all car-centric. Everything was cars. He would show me all these different models, providing all this background information, and I got really into them.

When I got to college and subsequently New York, I no longer needed a car. It was no longer part of my life, and it wasn’t until Los Angeles that I got to indulge the car side of me again. But for years, I’d been planting in the media that my obsession was cars, because it got even bigger when I moved to LA. It took on a whole new dimension because now, it was no longer something I shared with my buddy in high school, it was something that I myself could actually do. I could actually afford one of these cars that I’d been obsessed with, so it was the freedom of cars that had increased exponentially.

I’d finally planted enough seeds in the media that Top Gear called one day and said, “Hey, we hear you’re a car guy.”

And your hobby became—quite literally—part of your job.

Rob Corddry: It’s come full circle. It’s really incredible. I still text with my friend Jeff, the kid from high school, and he’s watched the first few episodes of Top Gear America and loves it, which feels great. I felt a responsibility to him to make the show good.

Your “thank you” to him for all those trips to the beach.

Rob Corddry: Those trips to the beach were so sad. We used to go to Nantasket Beach on the south shore of Massachusetts and open up his hood and show off his engine, thinking that was going to attract girls. If anything, it repels them. I mean, it was a good looking engine, but we instead seemed to attract a bunch of ugly guys.

You’re also currently on the CBS show, The Unicorn. Anything fans should look out for this season?

Rob Corddry: I hope High Times readers watched the episode from a few weeks ago because ‘Forrest’—my character—goes to a happy hour after work but there are no drinks, just edibles. He takes way too many and then has to go to a dinner party to meet his best friend’s new girlfriend while he’s really stoned.

I was very careful not to play “the high guy,” since TV oftentimes portrays people being high in a totally unrealistic way. In real life, you’re not off, you’re still you. If anything, you’re just seeing things in a different way, from a different perspective. So that “other perspective” is what I love to lean into. It was so fucking fun to do that episode. I kind of felt high.

In terms of weed, how has your relationship with cannabis evolved throughout your life?

Rob Corddry: At UMass, I was getting high everyday. But I didn’t call it getting high, I called it “getting scared.” I’d be like, [whispers deviously] “You wanna go get scared?” [Laughs] I was just prone to terrible paranoia back then, but I liked it. It was a thrill.

When I got to New York and would buy weed from these dudes off of St. Marks Place, it would be the crappiest nugs. I don’t know what they were spraying on it, but I could hear my heart beating in the back of my throat. So I struggled with weed for a long time.

It wasn’t until the pandemic where I was like, “I’m going to get some dad weed,” the kind of weed that takes the edge off a little bit but still lets you go about your day. Luckily, here in California, weed’s not just legal, it’s practically encouraged, so I’ve got a couple nuggets in a drawer upstairs, a couple vape pens and I experiment here and there with different gummies.

The first time I purchased this one particular brand of gummy, my wife and I each took one 20mg. But as we were going about our day and got progressively super stoned, we realized we’d each taken a double dose. I realize 40mg for High Times readers might seem like breakfast, but for us it was a lot. We were high all day long, from noon until we went to sleep. It was fucking wild. But listen, our lives are enriched because of experiences like that and we learned a valuable lesson: always split the gummy.

Follow @robcorddry and check out the season two finale of The Unicorn, March 18th

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