Rob Riggle had just left “Saturday Night Live” but hadn’t done much acting when he booked a gig on “The Office.” It was the show’s second season, and was just hitting its stride with fans, when Riggle landed the one-time role of “Captain Jack” on the now iconic episode “Booze Cruise.”
“It was very early,” Riggle recalled of the 2006 episode. “I was still very green, I had not done much work. My first job in show business [after leaving military active duty] was ‘Saturday Night Live.’ That ‘Office’ episode was between ‘SNL’ and ‘The Daily Show.’ I was just thrilled to be there. You could tell they all liked each other. They appreciated each other, they enjoyed each others’ work.”
Riggle remembers spending time with stars Steve Carell and John Krasinski, plus guest star Amy Adams, as they shot scenes on a boat in Long Beach. Yet, it’s not Riggle’s favorite TV episode of all time. That honor goes to a later “Office” installment, the Season 7 episode “Threat Level Midnight.”
IndieWire recently sat down with Riggle to discuss how he moved from a career in the military into comedy, his experiences on both “SNL” and “The Daily Show,” his stint as Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Col. Sanders, and how a joke turned into his new Sony Crackle comedy, “Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy.” But first, we talked about his favorite episode of TV of all time. Listen below!
Although Netflix doesn’t release data, rivals who have seen some data report that “The Office” remains one of, if not the, most popular programs on the streaming service. An entire new generation (including Riggle’s daughter) is now discovering the show, which ran for 201 episodes, over nine seasons, between 2005 and 2013.
“When you get that kind of synergy — where the actors understand their characters and play them very well, they know all the nuances, and then the writers understand the characters and know how to write and set them up to win — it takes a year or two to find it, but once you do it’s gold,” Riggle said. “They found it early and were able to go to town. It’s one of those shows I’ll always love.”
Riggle’s pick for favorite TV episode of all time, “Threat Level Midnight,” was the 17th episode of the show’s Season 7. Written by series star B.J. Novak and directed by Tucker Gates, the episode features a screening of Michael Scott’s (Carell) terrible homemade action thriller, first referenced five seasons earlier. Not only did the episode feature the return of previous guest stars, but the regular cast had to act and look like they did in Season 2 — in order to make it believable that the footage in Michael’s movie had been shot five years prior.
“It really is one of the most satisfying pleasing things you could ever hope to see,” Riggle said of the episode. “It rewards everybody. Every genre, every bad line, every stereotypical character, all of it. It’s hard to play dumb, you have to be really smart to play dumb. They showcased their abilities. The storylines stayed true, like Michael Scott’s hatred for Toby.”
As for “Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy,” Riggle plays Rob Riggle, a celebrity known for his legendary ski master movies. The faux Riggle has now invested all of his money and reputation into running an academy for personal watercraft riding. Rob, his stunt man Dirk Hamsteak (Billy Merritt) and their entire staff of instructors spend a semester defending their beloved Academy at all costs. Of course, there’s plenty of absurd death along the way.
Riggle stars along with a cast of regulars and guests including Dermot Mulroney, Noël Wells, David Arquette, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jamie Chung, Haley Joel Osment, Paul Scheer, “Cheech” Marin, Eliza Coupe, Dave (Gruber) Allen and Samm Levine.
Riggle said the idea for the joke came out of a ridiculous line he would recite when he was asked what he was working on. “They never say it nicely, it’s always accusatory. ‘What are you up to?’ I got tired of giving people my resume. That’s our life, you have five or six irons in the fire and you never know what’s going to go. You hope you find something. I just got tired of answering it, so I would say, ‘I’m thinking of opening a jet ski academy,’ with a very sincere face, and then I’d walk away.
“My comedian friends got it. They would laugh, and the name alone is so obnoxious and you could picture the world. I pitched it to my comedic friends and they liked it, I took it to Sony/Crackle and God bless them, they shared the vision.”
It’s the latest in a line of projects where Riggle plays a version of himself — “a little louder, more obnoxious, dumber. My favorite comedic game to play has always been arrogant ignorance. The guy large and in charge and completely ignorant. I’ve met people like that my whole life and they’re hilarious.”
Riggle has a busy fall lined up: He just shot a Fox comedy pilot with Kaitlin Olson and Leah Remini, written by Rob McElhenney and Rob Rosell. He also once again appears weekly on Fox NFL Sunday for his comedy segment. And he co-stars in this fall’s Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish film “Night School.”
“In show business, you eat what you kill,” Riggle said. “If you’re not out there all the time hunting and working on projects or developing a project, or seeking out work, no one’s coming to you. You’ve got to be out there working it.”
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