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‘Childrens Hospital’ Emmy Nominations: How Rob Corddry’s Web Experiment Turned Into an Awards Contender

“Luckily, we were allowed to do Internet stuff during the strike,” said the "Childrens Hospital" creator and star.

Childrens Hospital

Adult Swim

In May 2007, Rob Corddry was out of a job for the first time in years. He had just left a plum correspondent role on “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” to headline Seth MacFarlane’s first live action comedy, “The Winner.” But that sitcom was cancelled after six episodes. Then, the television writer’s strike hit.

“I had nothing to do and no money and a baby,” Corddry told IndieWire. “Luckily, we were allowed to do Internet stuff during the strike.”

That led Corddry to create “Childrens Hospital,” the absurdist hospital drama satire that began as a web series on the now-defunct TheWB.com in 2008. Adult Swim then picked it up, and “Childrens Hospital” ran for seven seasons and 86 episodes before wrapping up in April.

“Children’s Hospital” received four Emmy nominations this year, the most of any show in the expanded short form programming categories. “It always just seemed beyond a possibility to me, so I can’t quite understand it. It hits me in flashes,” Corddry said. The actor was calling from the balcony of his Miami hotel room, where he was trying to stay sweat-free before attending the premiere of the second season of “Ballers,” the HBO comedy he co-stars in with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

READ MORE: Short Form Emmy Nominations: ‘Childrens Hospital’ Leads, Few Independents Honored

“Childrens Hospital” received nominations for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series, as well as Best Actor and Actress nods for Corddry and co-stars Rob Huebel (“Transparent”) and Erinn Hayes (“It’s a Disaster”). IndieWire’s Anne Thompson commended The Television Academy for recognizing women and minorities, in stark comparison to this year’s Oscars So White controversy. Its recognition of short form content is yet more proof of the Television Academy ‘s savvy.

This is the fifth year in a row that “Childrens Hospital” has been nominated by the TV Academy, which has continued to redefine how it honors short form programming. “Childrens Hospital” won the Primetime Emmy in 2012 and 2013 in the category that was then called “Outstanding Special Class – Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs.”

“The Academy has been really cool about staying on the front lines of all this,” said Corddry, adding: “All the change that’s happening in television right now, they’re really working hard to stay with it. This category is evidence of that.”

Childrens Hospital

L to R: Erinn Hayes, Rob Huebel, and Lake Bell

Corddry, of course, was at the front lines much earlier. When “Childrens Hospital” originally aired on TheWB.com, it stood above and beyond anything else on the web, and still does. With star comedy talent, sharp writing, and high production values, “Childrens Hospital” quickly developed a devoted following, which only expanded with the move to Adult Swim.

“I’m very fond of calling Adult Swim the Internet of television,” said Corddry, who went with Adult Swim over Comedy Central because they offered him a choice between thirty- or fifteen-minute episodes. That turned out to be the right choice for the show’s tone, as well as for its short-form Emmy eligibility, though Corddry could not have known that at the time.

Corddry created the series with David Wain (Creator of the cult comedy “Wet Hot American Summer”), and Jonathan Stern, all three of whom write and produce as well. Corddry and Wain also direct and appear in the show. In addition to the three nominated stars, the “Childrens Hospital” cast boasts heavy-hitting regulars Megan Mulally, Lake Bell, Michael Cera, Henry Winkler, and Ken Marino. In its eight-year run, illustrious guests have included Jon Hamm, Eva Longoria, Jason Sudeikis, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Molly Shannon and Sarah Silverman.

How does one get a spot on the show? “My only requirement is that you can’t be a dick,” said Corddry.

READ MORE: Brad Neely’s Adult Swim Show: How An Internet Pioneer Found New Audiences on Vine and TV

As creator and executive producer, Corddry is thrilled about his two co-stars’ nominations, even his now-competitor Rob Huebel’s. “That guy, I don’t know if he understands what’s going on, I think he thinks he’s won. He’s taunting me a lot. Frankly he’s just not a bright guy. But I keep trying to congratulate him anyway.” The two comedians met doing improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade in 1997, and have been friends for ten years, at least, according to Corddry. Huebel made his feelings on Corddry perfectly clear in a statement about the nomination: “I am especially honored to be in a category with so many great actors. Except of course my arch-nemesis Rob Corddry. Never Corddry!!!”

With its decisive lead in the short form nominations, “Childrens Hospital” fans will likely have lots to celebrate when the statues are doled out this fall. But it won’t ease the pain of the seventh season being its last. However, Corddry has schemes on some thirty-minute specials in the next year, and admits to spinoff talks with Adult Swim.

But there’s no rush. “I’m going to let the idea dictate when and how that happens. I’m not just going to say it’s time.” Corddry may have to follow up on that offer if “Childrens Hospital” sweeps the awards.

With the success of “Ballers,” Corddry has come a long way from the dark days of the writer’s strike, when he was jobless in LA with a baby. The success of “Childrens Hospital” is a reminder that necessity is the mother of all invention. To young creators, Corddry had this to say: “Don’t spend valuable creative energy worrying about money. If you just do good work, money will come.” Forget the money, Corddry is finally receiving long-deserved recognition as one of comedy’s most innovative auteurs.

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