Two important facts to remember about Childrens Hospital: 1. It’s the funniest show about doctors currently on air (2nd was the now defunct Off the Map) 2. Practically nobody has ever heard of it. The latter is rather hard to understand given the show features a who’s who lineup of comic personalities: Rob Corddry (The Daily Show), Rob Huebel (Human Giant), Henry Winkler (Happy Days), Megan Mullally (Will and Grace), Ken Marino (Party Down), David Wain (The State) and the voice of Michael Cera (Arrested Development) to name just a few.
At UCLA Tuesday Night, select cast and crew (Huebel, Corddry, Mullaly, Marino, Wain, Nick Kroll (The League), Malin Akerman (The Comeback), Erin Hayes (Kitchen Confidential) and writer/producer Jon Stern screened the opening third season episode and then held a Q&A, wherein they discussed “special” guest stars for the upcoming season, the deference to non-continuity on the show, casting, endometrial cancer and their favorite porn stars, among many other topics of conversation. For more, hit the jump.
First and foremost – for those unfamiliar – Childrens Hospital, the brainchild of Rob Corddry, is a parody of network medical procedurals (e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, E.R., House etc…) in which the “doctors” are more concerned with sleeping with one another than actually, you know, saving the lives of their patients. Corddry stars as Dr. Blake Downs, who believes laughter to be a more powerful alternative than medicine in saving his child patients’ lives. Caked in clown makeup and splattered with fake blood on his scrubs, Dr. Blake forgoes any scalpels or monitors during surgery instead opting to crack jokes and make funny faces at his comatose patients. In a related matter, all his patients die. The show is filled with these anarchic satirical touches whether it be Rob Huebel’s House-like doctor attempting to figure out what’s “really” wrong with a patient with a knife stuck in his chest or Malin Akerman’s rambling-non-sequitur-often-times-irrelevant internal monologuing (alla Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy). The show’s also not afraid to break the fourth wall and address that these silly incompetent doctors working in a barely functioning hospital are in fact actually silly incompetent actors working on a barely functioning TV show about silly incompetent doctors…(see the great season two finale “live show” for a prime example on meta done right (link here).
The UTLA screening and subsequent Q&A was emblematic of the show’s often times irreverent and chaotic nature. The proceedings started innocently enough with the actors and creators coming up onto the stage in front of the screen to intro the third season premiere (which by the time you read this will have already aired). After doing so, Corddry remarked to no one in particular – whether or not they (the cast and crew) were in the screen’s way and if they should move. No one answered and the episode just started up with them sitting right in front of the screen blocking their own show. Corddry and co. quickly rushed off the stage into the audience lest they continue to hinder the viewing. However the 18X4 ft table set up for them still remained on stage obstructing an eighth of the screen.
The premiere episode focuses on the ill-competent doctors’ foray to the night shift (Corddry would later remark this to be one of the more expensive episodes simply due to shooting at night versus day) and ensuing discovery of its seedy underbelly (SPOILER: the hospital at night doubles as a porn shoot). I can’t speak much to the episode’s merit as about five minutes in, the picture began to suddenly cut out, freeze frame, jump from place to place prompting Corddry to just give up, come up on stage and tell whoever the projectionist was to cut the picture. He had to ask five times before the request was obliged. Nick Kroll would later joke that this impromptu aesthetic was an actual artistic choice paying roots to the show’s origin as a web series (i.e. the constant frame jumping/freezing as mirroring a slow web browser stream).
The following Q&A was not immune to these preceding hiccups – microphones would go in and out, often times distorting the speakers voice to what Kroll would describe “as if I’m speaking to you from space”. Most of the questions from the UTLA audience ranged from the sycophantic (multiple requests for autographs mostly to Mullally) to just plain awkward (multiple requests for a job – mostly by people seemingly under the influence of some heavy narcotics, which – if were being honest – made their beggarly anti-questions more than a little awesome). The questions were so dreary it caused David Wain, already a curmudgeonly sort of fellow to begin with (hilariously so, mind you), to seemingly just give up on the round table and begin drawing something on the back of his name-card. Midway through a particularly awful question on whether or not Michael Cera is “really” on the show, Wain flipped his name card around revealing on the back he had written in big bold black letters: NEXT. Throughout the remaining portion of the Q&A, he would flash the sign sometimes before the addresser had even finished spouting his or her question.
However through all this chaos, there were snippets of info about the forthcoming season and the filming/creative process behind the show (caveat: it’s hard to ever know just how serious/sincere any of the cast’s/creator’s answers are given their penchant for sarcasm and their noticeable frustration at the way the screening was handled. In fact, I’m not even sure if the whole not working episode, inept setup and idiot questions were really in actuality some sort of elaborate art performance piece.) Below I’ve included a bullet point list on some of the upcoming scoop/intriguing information from the Childrens Hospital Q&A.
— Corddry on the growing cult following to Childrens Hospital remarked when he first started the show only a handful of people would show up to screenings and Q&As, now though –pointing out to the audience – he can fill out “five, even tens of rows of people.” Even I was shocked at the relatively low turn out to the UTLA event (the auditorium was filled to approximately one tenth capacity) – one would think a show of Childrens Hospitals’ nature would be right in line with a college atmosphere. Corddry would later opine that the show was born out of his utter “fucking hatred” of clowns. “Clowns”, he said, “are literally the least funny people on the earth.”
— Corddry stated that the upcoming season will feature a slew of “special” guest stars: Nick Offerman will reprise his role as Detective Briggs for two episodes, John Hamm will return once again as Malin Ackerman and newcomers (to the show, that is) Sarah Silverman, Michael McKean, Alicia Silverstone, Bruce Davison and Marlon Wayans will all appear. Corddry also stated that there would be a Party Down reunion on the show.
— David Wain’s favorite porn star = Jaclyn Smith
— Corddry stated that in order to get such a great cast of respected comic talents, they have to shoot in December when most actors/comedians aren’t very busy. A typical episode takes two days to shoot so the whole series is wrapped up in the span of two to three weeks.
— A common motif on the show, Corddry stated, is that many of the doctors diagnose their patients with endometrial cancer (a nod to House’s constant attribution or denial of lupus to his patients’ conditions). However Corddry didn’t realize that endometrial cancer only ever happens to women (as it is a cancer that occurs in the lining of the uterus), prompting the show to unintentionally and hilariously attribute the disease to many sick young boys.
— Finally Corddry stated that when writing the show, he preaches the need for non-continuity. One episode should have no bearing on the preceding episode and in fact, may even counter and distort the episode’s preceding events. He stated that this is why no two character’s relationship ever lasts more than one episode.
Childrens Hospital airs Thursdays at Midnight on Adult Swim. It is well worth staying up past your bedtime for.