Nick Kroll has a brand-new sketch show on Comedy Central called the Kroll Show, which he writes, stars in, and executive produces. Additionally, the 34-year-old is a series regular on the FX hit The League. He also does voices for animated series, acts in films big and small, appears fairly often on various comedy-related podcasts, maintains his stand-up career, and the man tweets, too.
You might wonder how there are enough hours in a year to keep up with all these creative pursuits, but Kroll is part of a new generation of multitasking comics, who manage to build careers in approximately 47 different mediums simultaneously. Unlike comics 15 or 20 years ago who might spend years doing stand-up on the road exclusively, or who might end up on a sitcom and work at that for a decade, these ambitious up-and-comers are using new media to explore their comedy in every possible permutation.
Kroll’s college friend John Mulaney is another example of such a multitasker: He wrote for Saturday Night Live, does stand-up, tweets prolifically and hilariously, creates and writes shorts, and guests on podcasts, too. But you’ll find others like Kroll’s The League costar Paul Scheer, fellow Comedy Central newbie Amy Schumer, and filmmaker/storyteller Mike Birbiglia appearing in a staggering array of different projects.
We spoke to Kroll the night of the Kroll Show’s premiere about how he fits everything into his schedule, whether it takes different parts of his brain to work in different formats, and why this is the best time ever to be a comedian.
I think we exist in the most exciting time to be doing comedy, because there are so many mediums. Each medium requires a slightly different skill set, but at the bottom of it all, it’s just doing bits. So whether it’s guesting on a friend’s podcast, or writing, producing and acting in Kroll Show, or acting on The League, or guesting on Parks and Recreation or doing a stand-up set at Largo in L.A., or on the road in another city, or doing a friend’s web series or an animated show, or collaborating on writing a movie, it’s all serving the same goal, which is just messing around with other funny people.
We’re in this moment, a very specific new moment in time, where there are so many outlets to create comedy, and because the Internet consumes content at an insane, rapid pace, you can’t be as precious with your material. Whether you spend a year or a week on something, it will get passed around and consumed in a day or it will just disappear. You still have to be constantly putting out content.
The upside of so many outlets is a lot more people able to make a living; just fewer people are making a shit ton of money because there are so many outlets to create. People are getting a ton of experience they wouldn’t have had 10 years ago.
I don’t really have a typical day because my schedule doesn’t permit that. Right now I’m in my writer’s room; we’ve started writing season two of Kroll Show, so I’m in at 10 and we write and mess around all together and then we break into groups. What I have found personally about my process is I write better verbally. So whether it’s on my show, if I have a writer’s assistant assembling my thoughts into some version of outline that I can work off of, or it’s going on a hike with friends and talking through an idea, I accepted the idea that me sitting down in front of a computer wasn’t the best way for me to work.
I don’t think I realized that until my friend Jon Daly, who works on the Kroll Show and I, would go on a hike and come with idea for [a sketch like] Rich Dicks, and we’d write a few important bullet points on our iPhones. Me and John Mulaney would do the same thing, we’d just be walking around the city and talking about ideas. For stand-up, I’ll have an idea and then just talk it out on stage, and record the set, and then come back to it later and see what stuck, and see if I can come up for an alternate joke. I’m just more efficient and effective out loud.
I found, especially with stand-up, that if a premise works, you can make the joke work. If a premise doesn’t work, you can’t force it to. The one place I’ve seen something really come together is in editing. Sometimes you can save pieces in a way that you’re really shocked.