NEW YORK (Reuters) - If sarcasm were a drug, Rob Corddry would be one of the entertainment world’s biggest dealers.
TV viewers first encountered Corddry’s biting wit when he signed on as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” riffing with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. He has since gone on to big-screen hits like “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and currently stars on HBO’s “Ballers” with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock).
When the cameras are off, Corddry’s high-grade cynicism turns into something more earnest. For the latest in Reuters’ Life Lessons series, he talked about the fearlessness and focus that helped him achieve success in Hollywood.
Q: Since you and your brother Nate are both in the comedy business, did you get that sense of humor from your parents?
A: Mainly it came from growing up in Boston. When you spend eight months of the year in freezing cold weather, it tends to make you pretty sarcastic and cynical. But I remember our family meals together, the late afternoon Sunday suppers, were always very funny – usually at someone else’s expense.
Q: I understand you were a Scout growing up, something most people might not have predicted.
A: More than anything that taught me self-reliance. I don’t get lost in the woods. Plus it gave me a great appreciation for the outdoors: Walking in the woods has a way of quieting all distractions and clearing your mind. The more remote the location, the faster the track to wisdom.
Q: Starting out in show business, did you have some lean times?
A: Very much so. I had a lot of weird jobs in New York, but with my last one before acting I was making a pretty good living: I was assistant to the assistant of the general counsel for Goldman Sachs.
My trick was that I would only work exactly a year at each of these jobs, and then I would get myself fired, so I could collect unemployment and look for acting gigs. At Goldman Sachs, my boss was very proper, and one day when I knew he was looking at me, I put my feet up on the desk. That day I got home, and they called and said I was fired.
Q: Did you have a financial plan if show business didn’t work out?
A: I always believed that if I did what I loved, the money would come, and luckily it turned out to be true. I had no Plan B. I was only going to be an actor or a writer – that was it for me. You kind of have to put blinders on, in terms of achieving success.
Q: Do you and your wife Sandra make a good money team?
A: We are very different people. I’m an artist type with my head in the clouds. I can barely remember what happened to me this morning. But she is a very practical person with common sense to burn. So we balance each other out nicely, in terms of thinking about what to spend money on.
Q: Your current co-star on HBO’s “Ballers” is The Rock, so do you guys swap success tips?
A: We usually talk about parenting. He has a couple of kids, and I have two kids age 12 and 9, so basically it’s just two dudes talking shop about how to be a good dad.
Q: How do you and your wife allocate your charitable time and money?
A: We don’t attach ourselves to just one thing, because we don’t want our giving to feel like it’s just about us. But generally our focus is on women’s causes, human trafficking and literacy. Thanks to Stephen Colbert I have become a big fan of Donors Choose, where if a school somewhere needs books, you can just go online and chip in. I have become really enamored with that idea.
Q: What lessons do you try to pass along to your kids?
A: One good tidbit was from my late Aunt Doris, who was married to my Uncle Bill for a million years. We asked her the secret to a long, happy marriage, and she shrugged and said, ‘Just be kind to each other.’ It’s that easy – not just marriage, but everything in life. Just be kind.
The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.
Editing by Beth Pinsker and Matthew Lewis