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Childrens Hospital: Rob Corddry reveals his 7 favorite gags from 7 seasons

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Adult Swim

Like all human lives, all goofy things must come to an end, which is why Childrens Hospital, which is totally in Brazil, will be closing tonight for good*. (*Or at least for the foreseeable future.) That’s right, Adult Swim will unveil the Emmy-winning, beloved cult comedy’s two-part series finale at 11 p.m. ET/PT, leaving fans with several hours to vomit-cry into their pillows before passing out from exhaustion/elation/ dehydration.

What began as a weird little webseries blossomed into a weird little TV series, one that put the meta in medical comedy while leaving no medical-drama (or pop culture) cliché unskewered. The laughs came fast and delirious and from an alt-sensibility gamely embraced by a cast that included Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Megan Mullally, Rob Huebel, Lake Bell, Malin Akerman, Henry Winkler, and Erinn Hayes, and boasted such frequently returning guests as Jon Hamm, Jordan Peele, Nick Offerman, Nick Kroll, Ed Helms, and David Wain. For seven seasons, Childrens Hospital inappropriately tickled America’s funny bone with its ambitious and absurdist look at a group of daffy doctors who journeyed so far up their own butts, they never came close to healing themselves, let alone their patients. Marino’s Glenn, though, was once fastidious enough to declare a patient’s time of death as “10 p.m, 9 central.”

Speaking of time, it wasn’t that the show had run out of the thing we mentioned back at the beginning of this sentence. “There’s no limit to the number of jokes you can tell in an absurd comedy,” says Corddry, who played the deluded, clownfaced Blake Downs while serving as the Childrens Hospital creator and executive producer. “We’re like an animated show that way. So there really isn’t a creative reason to ever end the show.” But the former Daily Show correspondent and Hot Tub Time Machine alum who also stars in HBO comedy Ballers notes that running Childrens was a labor of love requiring a sizable time commitment, and it was robbing him of the energy to pursue other projects. So after finishing work on this current batch of episodes, he decided that he was ready to pull the plug on his all-grown-up baby, reasoning, “Yeah, we did it.” He adds: “There’s also something about seven seasons. Once we hit seven seasons, people started asking me how long I was going to do it for, because that’s kind of like a magic number in television. A lot of shows go about seven seasons. So that at least got me thinking about it and I really weighed it. Then if I thought about it enough, I realized that there were voices in my head that were telling me perhaps it was time, that were perhaps looking for an excuse to end it.” (Not that it is gone forever: Corddry vows that he will revive Childrens, likely for a half-hour special or two: “We will do it when the idea hits us, when the time is right and when the idea is right. And that could be sooner than later.”)

In the meantime, what can you expect from the swan song, titled “The Grid”? “It’s exactly like Childrens Hospital in that it is not like anything we’ve ever done before,” teases Corddry. “It’s an accidental series finale: I didn’t know we were ending the show when I wrote this. But I think it’s a perfect one and I could not have written a better series finale if I had tried. I think I’d be swinging too hard. This is a big swing, but I think audiences will be satisfied that all the burning mysteries are tied up…. It explains in a very indirect way a lot of the weirdness that happens at Childrens Hospital — some of the incongruities, the way that time moves and physics. And I love the very final moment. It made me cry the first time I watched it, knowing it was the series finale.”

Before the show’s grand goodbye, EW asked Corddry to crack open his cranium and rifle through all the junk inside to find his seven favorite gags from seven seasons of silliness. After a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, TV’s finest clown came up with his personal list of essential laughs.

7. Owen (Huebel) shocks the docs by emerging from the dead — and from a box — to reveal that he’d faked his demise as part of elaborate magic trick and replaced his corpse with the 10 of diamonds

(Season 3, “The Night Shift”)

“It relies somewhat on a callback from one bit that runs throughout the episode, which is, as they’re being forced to do the night shift at Childrens, they run into the kind of denizens of the night you’d find at a children’s hospital after hours. He’s always trying to do magic tricks. He’s like, ‘Is this your card?’ And somebody will say, ‘No.’ And so then in the end all this stuff happens: He ODs, he dies as the sun is coming up, they’re carrying him outside. And there’s a delivery and he jumps out of a box! [Laughs] And by the way the delivery woman is played by Kate Freund, Rob Schrab’s wife, the director’s wife. And she’s excellent… Childrens Hospital, at its best, it comes together in the end, and we don’t care too much how forced it is. Or we don’t also give ourselves the burden of having to do it. So that was just one of those, like, ‘Wow, this is this is actually really good. The way it ties it up here and saves this character from death. Yeah, we’re pretty pleased with ourselves with that one, I guess you’d say.”

6. Barging into his family’s Shabbat dinner, Glenn (Marino) delivers an entire heartfelt, highly constipated, most ineloquent speech, which featured such lines as “I can’t with the everything” and “And if I have to do whatever it is that I have to do to do it…then so be it”

(Season 6,  “Home Life of a Doctor”)

“That moment to me is the quintessential come-to-Jesus moment, with all apologies to the Jews portrayed in those kinds of movies. He’s saying literally nothing and Ken’s performance — there’s levels to it. In his mind, he really gets somewhere with that speech. He starts off and then he singles them out and then he explains his reasons, and then he wipes his hand of it. He does little things every once and awhile that blow me away. He makes me a better actor because sometimes I ask myself, ‘What would Ken do in this moment?’ And the thing where he literally wipes his hand and does this other little gesture — he’s done, he can’t do it anymore — before he walks out is one of my favorite quote-unquote honest moments in Childrens. […] That kind of joke, you can write that stuff all day long. It’s so fun. And it’s another example of one of those kind of jokes that gets hammered. You’re wondering: How many ways he can say nothing? Is he going to run out of ways to not say anything?

5. Little Nicky (Kroll), a 6-year-old boy suffering from dementia and advanced aging disease, tries to prove that he can read lips without his hearing aids and translates a conversation between his girlfriend, Cat (Bell), and Chief (Mullally)

(Season 2, “No One Can Replace Her”)

“I don’t know what to say about this moment beyond ‘Nick Kroll,’ period. [Laughs]. A lot of that was written, I believe, but I would not be surprised if there was some improv thrown in there. But his performance, it’s masterful the way that he just stares at Chief’s mouth because he really wants to get it right, and then just gets it so wrong. Chief says, ‘That makes good sense.’ Then he translates that as, ‘Hats make good tents.’ And that was what we would say on set for years, for seasons, like if someone made a good point we’d say, ‘Hats make good tents.’ It was an indelible moment.”

4. In this self-aware showcase for creepy secondary character Chet (Brian Huskey), our paramedic truly gets the job done… if the job was to ruin a perfectly good batch of human hearts that were ready for transplant

(Season 3, “The Chet Episode”)

“Poor Chet can’t win. I like to think that our universe of comedians are some of the funniest people in the world. And I would say that Brian Huskey is one of the funniest people of those comedians. So, I mean, it’s only good science to say that Brian Huskey is one of the funniest people in the world. That’s a sound argument… That [scene] is just one of those times when you just write like half a sentence, ‘Chet slips on the hearts,’ and you just know that Huskey is going to kill it. But I wasn’t quite ready for a performance like that. That’s a world-class physical comedy performance, and when I was putting these gags together [for this list], I mentioned that to him as one of my favorites and he’s like, ‘Oh God, you know those were sheep hearts.’ And I didn’t remember that. And he goes, ‘It was so gross, I can still feel the texture of them under my boots.’ I like the moment when he says — I don’t know if it’s in that episode but I always place it in that episode — where he’s got a patient in there and he just screams right in the guy’s face, ‘I’m the guy that’s gonna save your life!!!‘ There is no one like Brian Huskey.

3. Owen and Glenn discuss a plot to take down plastic surgeon Tug Spano (Seth Morris) while walking through a series of stereotypical scenes undeniably shot in Rio (boy playing soccer! cocaine vendor! Christ the Redeemer statue!), a wink at the show’s long-running joke that the hospital was in Brazil

(Season 3, “Nip/Tug”)

“It’s like the origin of many of our gags: completely random. In the first season I have a scene with Megan Mullally and she’s feeling a little insecure and I’m saying, ‘Listen, you’re the best damn administrator in this hospital.’ And just as an afterthought, David Wain [the Childrens executive producer who ran the show with Corddry and Jonathan Stern] suggested we add, ‘You’re the best damn administrator in all of Brazil.’ And then we just decided to expound on that: ‘Which is where we are right now. We are in Brazil.’ And that became a running joke… It was one of those things that everybody on the crew laughed at. And then all of a sudden the next day, in the nurses’ station, little pictures of Pele would start popping up. And we’d be like, ‘Okay guys, let us choose where the Brazil jokes are.’ We had been joking about [filming in Brazil] since we started doing the show, since Brazil came up as a random joke that stuck. And that season we put aside, like, 15 grand that we really needed for other things in the budget to do this trip and shoot this scene. And by the time that we were ready to shoot the scene, we had already edited the rest of the episode. It was not necessary, we did not need it, it was not pushing the story along whatsoever, and we didn’t care. [laughs] It was an excuse to go to Brazil for four days with a bunch of your buddies.

“That season we did little clips after the credits, just a scene we didn’t use or 10 seconds we thought was funny that didn’t make it in. And one of them was them walking by the favelas in Rio and some guy is sitting there in scrubs smoking who was our Adult Swim exec Nick Weidenfeld, and when they pass him, he gets kidnapped by gunman and thrown in the back of a car. We shot that scene as a full scene to be in the show and we shot it from many different angles, one of them being that long shot you see from way up on a hill. And after shooting it about two or three times — they’re trying to clean those things up; those were the most dangerous ghettos in the world a couple years before — the police showed up. And when I say police, I’m not talking like your neighborhood policeman, your beat cop. SWAT teams showed up and they surrounded us and they were like, “What the f— is going on?” Luckily my partner Jon Stern had the forethought to take the card out of the camera and pocket it, so if they took the camera we’d still have the footage. But once they realized what we were doing, they took pictures with us, they were super cool.”

2. The doctors “Fight the Power” in a dance montage outside the hospital

(Season 2, “Hot Enough for You?”)

“Oh my God… so many things. It was really late, people had been working all day and they were tired, and everybody just kicked ass. That was one of those things where when somebody is not in a scene, they’d be dragged out of their dressing room to go rehearse their part or talk to the choreographer, Kathyrn Burns, who has done all of choreography through the years whenever we’ve had a dance, which is not infrequently. And I hate dancing on camera. I hate dancing when I’m sober; I just get so nervous. So I never went down [there], I was like, ‘No, no. Too busy, too busy. Writing. I’ve got to go over these costumes.’ And so we never worked out a dance for me, so it’s one of those times where being a producer, I really kind of abused my power. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think he’d dance now. I’m not going to do it.’ And then I just did that weird little shaky-head thing while I’m staring at the camera which I can picture in my head and I’m glad it worked. Beth Dover — who knew? Who knew? She plays Nurse Beth. Just a brief flash of her dancing around me shaking like a weirdo and everybody was like ‘Whoa.’ It went beyond the normal like woman who can dance into like, ‘Have you done this professionally?’ […] I learned a lot writing this episode because I had written more of a direct parody of Do The Right Thing. This is where I’ve learned so much from David Wain over the years because he’s made so much more TV than I have, and he taught me something and he set a standard for the show with that episode that we carried on into the future, which was like: We know where we are going. Take your time. Don’t hit it directly. Don’t do the obvious. And by the end it can become what everyone is hoping it will become. For instance, I had written a script with three guys sitting on a stoop in the hospital yelling at somebody for getting dirt on their sneakers, and David really pulled it back, and it was the right choice. It was a huge moment in my writing development.

1. Owen is brought to his breaking point while trying to break the news to a young patient that Blake (Corddry) is dead

(Season 4, “Eulogy”)

“It’s the quintessential Huebel bit because a third of that was written, and Huebel brought the rest. And the kid [played by Aidin Miner] actually brought a lot to it as well. We rarely got children to do anything of note on our show [laughs], but this kid gives a hilarious and, for a second, heartbreaking performance. You think he finally gets it at the end, he looks like he’s crumbling. And then I also remember that shooting it was really funny because when we’re on Huebel, if you look closely at the kid’s mouth, he can’t help but smile. He’s smiling the whole time, and it’s almost impossible to hide. We just had to keep telling him, “You got to keep a straight face because we can see it moving back here.” But he was so good. And Huebel — I think those two just have chemistry. I think they have a big future. My favorite line in it is, ‘We could sit here all day, bro. Keep going. Nope, he’s not coming back.’ During the exhausted stage, I think I’m most amused. It’s one of those classic not just Childrens Hospital but absurd jokes. It’s one that I’m particularly fond of. Just the beating of an idea into the ground until it can’t be funny anymore — and then just going that one tiny extra step past it — I’m just a sucker for it every time.”

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