Guest of Honor

How Accents Are Like Pork Buns to Comedian Nick Kroll

Comedian Nick Kroll who, in addition to his stand-up routines, writes and stars in the hit FX television series "The League." For the last few years, he has also starred in his own show on Comedy Central, aptly titled "Kroll Show." That show consists largely of parodies of television shows, in which he portrays dozens of characters from confused Canadian teenagers to idiot gigolos. The show's third and final season began this week.

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Sarjoun Faour Photography/Getty Images
Sarjoun Faour Photography/Getty Images

Rico Gagliano: Do you plan to spin any of your “Kroll Show” sketches out into another new show?

Nick Kroll: Fortunately or unfortunately, I have no game plan.

Rico Gagliano: Really?

Nick Kroll: Yeah. I mean, I have a game plan that I want to go make more stuff.

Rico Gagliano: I hope so.

Nick Kroll: That’s about it.

Rico Gagliano: Because it’s your job.

Nick Kroll: Right. That is because it’s proven to be the only thing that I can do.

Rico Gagliano: I’m sure you’ll figure something out. Something that I really love about this show is you’re so gifted at mimicking these obscure accents. There’s a recurring sketch on the show that takes place in Ontario, Canada. You do an Ontario accent. You are very adept at the Southern California Publicist Accent. That would be the subset of Valley Girl that you do. First of all, is that where some of these sketches come from? Does it start with language, for you?

Nick Kroll: It does. Sometimes, like, we do a sketch called “Pawnsylvania,” where I play a guy from Philadelphia, and John Daley plays a guy from Pittsburgh. John is from Pittsburgh, and a bunch of our writers were from Philadelphia. I find that accent so bizarre, and weirdly hard to do. It’s weirdly hard to do. It’s weirdly caught in-between, Pennsylvania, caught in between North and South. It’s the Gettysburg of accents. It’s just carnage.

Rico Gagliano: I’m glad you bring this up, by the way. I’m from Pittsburgh, as well.

Nick Kroll: Oh, wow.

Rico Gagliano: And, I kind of have a beef with you, because the Pittsburgh accent was kind of my secret. There aren’t that many people that go to Pittsburgh, and not many people ever hear it, and I will put it on, occasionally, and people are like, “What are you doing?”

Nick Kroll: It’s so weird. Yeah, I hope you take this as a compliment. It’s one of the ugliest accents I’ve ever heard. But, the Philly one is also really, weirdly tough. So, that started as, we had a bunch of writers from the Philly area, and Pittsburgh. It was so specific. They had so many specifics to it, that seemed like an interesting world. But really, it was the idea of mastering that accent, which was the hardest for me to learn, because it’s so specific and so caught between different spaces.

Rico Gagliano: What was the lynchpin for you?

Nick Kroll: To me, it’s that Ls turn into Ws. There is that. There is like, hoem run. The H-O, that O thing is the Poconos. And then, Phillaelphia. That is, there is, the L gets lost in there. And then, I didn’t have to do the Pittsburgh one. John Daley does it. “Yinz guys, yer comin oer there, jag, bunch of jagoffs”. Like, it’s the weirdest, it’s so weird.

Rico Gagliano: Imagine growing up with it.krollpillow

Nick Kroll: I can’t even. But, I’ve grown to love it, and now can hear it on people, and in people. This year, we go, “Pawnsylvania”, they go to a wedding down a shore, in Oceanside, Maryland. So then, we have Derek Waters from “Drunk History” as a Baltimore guy, and Neil Casey, one of the other writers, as a Delaware guy, passing as a guy from Baltimore.

Rico Gagliano: The thing that’s amazing all these is that they’re not accents anybody ever hears. You don’t think about a Baltimore accent. Are you seeking out the next big accent?

Nick Kroll: We’re always on. It’s like the new pork bun. Do you know what I mean? I’m on the search for the arepa of comedy. For me, part of the goal of the show is always that we are nailing the specifics. Within specifics, I believe, is universality. So, whether you understand the specifics of the references we’re making in “Pawnsylvania”, or the references that we’re making — or making up — in Canada. It’s like, people, whether you get it or not, you know that it’s specific, and there’s something enjoyable about hearing them.

Rico Gagliano: Speaking of specifics, actually, something that you nail, uncannily, is reality TV shows, to the point where I can’t figure out whether you love them or really hate them.

Nick Kroll: I can’t, either! The way I watch television is I flip through channels. I watch about five minutes of everything.

Rico Gagliano: Kind of like the show, actually.

Nick Kroll: Exactly. The show kind of reflects that. So, I’ll go from like five minutes of “Millionaire Matchmaker” to five minutes of a weird South Korean melodrama, to five minutes of a Time-Life yacht rock CD sale. I kind of like to, especially, living in L.A., you have less opportunity. You run into people less, or you have less ability to observe people. So, television does become a way to absorb accents, aesthetics, the way people dress, that kind of stuff. Look, the things that people talk about — people talk about great dramas, they talk about some good comedy stuff — but a lot of people, a lot of Americans, spend their time, their leisure time, watching these reality shows. They’re the most popular shows in the country, really.

Rico Gagliano: Do you think of it as a satire, what you’re doing? Are you pointing out to people, “Look at what you’re watching, for god’s sake?”

Nick Kroll: I think it’s a combination of things. This coming week, on the show, Casey Wilson plays a character that is, like, “The Millionaire Matchmaker”. Dr. Armand is looking for love after he’s murdered his wife, and they have a got a “Millionaire Matchmaker” show, but it’s called “The Loser’s Bracket.”

Rico Gagliano: Yeah. That’s a little dark.

Nick Kroll: Right. So, there are things that are sort of a tip of the hat, an homage. There are certain things that we’re making fun of. But, reality shows, there’s a reason they’re popular, and there’s a reason people make them. They’re cheap to make. It’s effective storytelling, and it can also be reshaped in post.

Rico Gagliano: Right. You can just shoot it quick and make it actually dramatic with editing, afterwards.

Let us get to our two standard questions, which we ask everyone on the show. The first one is: What’s the question you’re tired of being asked in interviews?

Nick Kroll: Well, people ask me why I’m stopping the show, and the answer is, it was a creative decision, feeling like we brought whatever we were doing to the extent of where we could bring it, but also, underlying that, is people wondering whether the show was canceled.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, no no no. The reason why I would ask you that question, I believe that you ended the show for creative reasons, I just can’t imagine what other creative endeavor could be better? You can do anything you want.

Nick Kroll: I know, and I just am now realizing that.

Rico Gagliano: Can you take it back?

Nick Kroll: No, I don’t think so.

Rico Gagliano: On second thought.

Nick Kroll: Once you give a scoop to Vulture, which is where I said that we were putting the show to bed, you can’t go back from that. I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and now that the first episode has come out, and it’s really fun seeing people responding to it and all that stuff, I really am enjoying that aspect of it. But, I also think, like, I’m also very excited that I’m not now also writing the next season as all of this is going on.

Rico Gagliano: Vacations are nice.

Nick Kroll: Yes.

Rico Gagliano: Our second question is: Tell us something we don’t know.

Nick Kroll: I talk in my sleep, which I don’t think people would know that. I talk in my sleep a lot, and a couple of years ago, I was sharing a room with my friend Murray Miller, who was a writer for “Girls.” He told me, in the morning, that in the middle of the night, I have very clearly and crisply said “I shall retrieve it for you, this I promise. No. This I swear to thee.”

Rico Gagliano: So, basically, you’re in a Shakespearean play.

Nick Kroll: What I like about that is, in my dreams, I’m valiant. I’m a gentleman.