Rob Riggle on American Dreams
In this episode of the American Dream Show, host Alan Olsen sits down with actor and comedian Rob Riggle to discuss his journey from the Marine Corps to the world of comedy and acting. Riggle shares his background growing up in Kansas City and his experience serving in the Marine Corps, including his passion for flying and his time stationed all over the U.S. and overseas.
Riggle also talks about the long and difficult road to success in comedy and acting, the importance of perseverance and hard work, and the value of studying with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City. He shares his favorite films and memorable moments from his time on Saturday Night Live and other hit shows and movies.
But Riggle’s story isn’t just about entertainment. He’s also deeply committed to giving back, and discusses the charities he supports, including Children’s Mercy Hospital and veterans organizations. Ultimately, Riggle wants to be known for being a good father, husband, and friend, which he believes is good enough for him.
Join us for this inspiring conversation with one of the entertainment industry’s most beloved personalities.
Rob Riggle on the American Dreams Show, interview transcript, Alan Olsen:
Alan Olsen: Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today?
Rob Riggle: I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, I only lived there for two years, so I don’t remember anything about it. That’s where my dad was working at the time. And then we transferred to Kansas City, which is what he wanted because his extended family was in Kansas City. So that’s where I grew up. Kansas City, Overland Park, Kansas to be specific, and I had a wonderful childhood. My mom was a school teacher. She taught seventh and eighth grade English and reading my dad sold insurance for Washington National, group insurance to teachers unions and companies and things like that. And me and my sister, we had a wonderful life. My uncle had a lake house at the Ozarks, we used to go down there. Matter of fact, that’s probably where I did my first taste of of entertaining and show business. We go down the lake and me and my cousins would put on shows for the adults, sketch shows, you know, whatever, you know, silly stuff, like putting your arms out behind someone else’s face, you know, just goofy stuff, but we pass the hat after the shows. And you know, the adults would throw in quarters and stuff. And we did that every week into the summer and then at the end of the summer, we’d go down to Bagnell Dam, or Dogpatch. And we’d, spend all the money we had made on go karts and waterslides, miniature golf and whatever else. So that’s probably my first days to show business. But you know, I went to Shawnee Mission South High School, played sports. Back in the 80’s it was all seasonal. Sports. You know, you played football in the fall basketball in the winter baseball in the spring and golf in the summer. And that was it. Then I went to the University of Kansas, KU, after graduating from Shawnee Mission south and studied there and while I was in undergrad at KU, I had a friend who had joined the Marine Corps through the officer candidate program, the PLC program. And so I said, Okay, well, that’s that’s, that sounds interesting. And my grandfather, who owned farm down in mid Missouri, and was in the Eighth Army Air Corps during World War Two, He said, If you want to learn how to fly, I’ll help you do that. So I said, Sure. Yeah. So while I was in college, I got my pilot’s license now used to fly a little Cessna all over Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri… anywhere, you know, I’d just fly everywhere. And, and then I went in and got a guaranteed flight contract with the Marine Corps. So that’s kind of how I ended up going to the Marine Corps. Even though I was a theater and film major. I still was able to do that and I always wanted to do that I always wanted to serve. I’m kind of a patriotic guy. It was something that was an itch that I definitely wanted to scratch. I didn’t know when or how, and it unfolded itself before me.
Alan Olsen: Where were you stationed?
Rob Riggle: I was stationed everywhere in the U.S. Quantico, Virginia, Pensacola, Florida, Corpus Christi, Texas, briefly in Indianapolis and then on to North Carolina, Second Marine Airwing, Third Battalion, Eighth Marines, Second Battalion Second Marines. So I, you know, I got to serve on the east coast and ended up going to New York City- my last active duty station. And that’s when I started pursuing comedy and acting. I always wanted to do comedy and acting as well.
Alan Olsen: So how did you how did you transition into a paid gig?
Rob Riggle: Yeah, well, that’s a long painful grind. It really is. And when people come and ask me, you know, young actors, young people who are interested in comedy and acting, you know, they want to know the path and how did you do it? And I get that I understand it. I wanted to know, too, when I was starting out, they just don’t always like the answer. The answer is if you’re gonna choose a life in the arts, you got to count on 10 years of grinding 10 years of pain. 10 years of being told no, 10 years of being judged and not being judged. Well, it’s a little bit of a pain, but if it’s what you got to do, if you can’t imagine doing something else, if it’s a calling, if you will, you’ll do it. It took me seven years to get my first big break. But 10 is about the average. And in that 10 year window, right around 8 to 10 years, you’ll start to see opportunities if you have talent, if you’re you know, if you’re good at what you’re doing, and this is the good thing about comedy, people let you know right away if what you’re doing was working or not. If you got up for seven years in a row and just bombed every night, maybe you ought to look at that. Maybe that’s something to consider. But if you get up and you’re getting traction, and people are responding to you in a positive way, and people are liking what you’re doing. Well, maybe you’re on the right track, maybe you’re doing what you should be doing. And then like any anything you do in life, the more time and energy and passion you put into it, the better you’re going to get, the more you’re going to learn, the more opportunities you’re going to have. And so I was very fortunate, I studied at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City, and I had some of the best comedy and improv teachers in the world in my opinion. Amy Poehler, one of one of the great comedians on SNL, Parks and Rec and movies. And she’s just amazing. She was one of my teachers I eventually ended up teaching at the Upright Citizens Brigade as well as performing on their Herald teams and doing other shows for them- sketch shows. And then I got opportunities, the Saturday Night Live came down and watch the show that I was in and I got an invitation to audition, which is hard to get. And that year, I was the only guy hired. So it was it was quite an honor. Because the audition process is tough. I wasn’t there very long, but that’s okay. Because I had proved something to myself and that was very important to me.
Alan Olsen: Did that alumni group that open doors for you?
Rob Riggle: No, it didn’t open doors for me but being on the show, definitely did- not the individuals necessarily but, because right when I left Saturday Night Live, the Daily Show called me and said we’re having auditions because you know Corddry and Ed Helms have left the show. So we’re looking for two new correspondents. And they hired me and John Oliver in that time. I don’t know how I would have got that call, but for the fact that I had just been on Saturday Night Live, but I still had to go in and sing for my supper, I still had to go into an audition and get, you know, earn the gig, so to speak. And then once you’re on the show, it’s a six month probation, you know, you’re not, it’s not like you’re in is done. You know, I had to I had to prove myself for the first six months just to get another six month extension. So the first year I was on the show, I’d got an apartment off Craigslist-a little studio that I could stay in and kept the family back home, because I was like, no point moving out if I’m going to become moving back in six months, there’s no job security.
Alan Olsen: How would you compare the television & film, is it a fair comparison?
Rob Riggle: I don’t even know if it is a fair comparison because they are different. They’re different in many ways. Sure, it’s acting, sure it’s in front of a camera. But the, the scale is different. The the energy snd vibe are different. The stakes are a little higher with film because that’s going to last forever. I’ve done multiple episodes of multiple TV shows and unless you looked on my IMDB page you would know about them because if they’re a little more disposable, whereas film, you know, people come up to me Every day and quote lines that I’ve said in films to this day, and they really, you know, those are films like 12 years old.
Alan Olsen: What’s been your favorite film?
Rob Riggle: I had a lot of fun, like just fun on Stepbrothers. Because we all came from improv and sketch backgrounds. Will Ferrell’s an improv sketch guy. Adam McKay came from improv and sketch. John C. Reilly is a sketch comedian. Everybody just had that sketch and improv kind of energy. So we did a lot of improvising in the movie. And if you look at the deleted scenes, you’ll see how much stuff was left on the cutting room floor. We would do you always do it as scripted the first take because that’s what the studio paid for and you need to be able to deliver that. And then you do it once with notes from the director as scripted. And then we would do like five takes of improv- improvised scenes, so long as you stay on track, you know, go off the rails, if you keep the story moving forward. has a good chance to still be in it. And if it’s funny, funny funny, and so we would just crack each other up. We were laughing we were breaking a lot. And that’s rare. So that was a lot of good energy. Hangover and The Other Guys were also really fun, 21 Jump Street was a blast. Lots of be grateful for that in that area.
Alan Olsen: So I want to jump over to some of the causes in life have you hit you have some charity events that you do. Which areas are you working in to make a difference?
Rob Riggle: For me, I tried to do things that are very close to my heart. So I I hosted a charity event in Kansas City for Children’s Mercy Hospital. It was called the red hot nights. It’s their big winner of Valentine’s Day fundraiser. And it was great. We raised a lot of money, I was kind of telling corny jokes but it just didn’t fit that well for me. But they were very smart. They took me on a tour of the hospital. And at the time, I had a one year old and a five year old child of my own. And I met the doctors and the nurses and I saw the patients and I saw the parents of the patients. And it just it, it grabbed me by the heart. And I was like, Well, I’m in, you got me. But I’m going to come up with my own thing. You know, because I don’t want to I don’t necessarily want to host that thing again. Let me come up with my own thing. And but they were so smart to take me on a tour and just show me the good work they were doing. Because I saw them do an open heart surgery on a nine day old baby. You know, the heart was no bigger than my pinky nail. And yet with the new technology they have they were able to save this child’s life. And this child’s going to go on to have an amazing life whereas maybe two years prior to that, that child doesn’t live. Well, that’s all I had to hear and I’m like, well, then we got to do more, and they don’t turn any child away. And for a lot of families in rural Kansas, that’s a big deal. So I was in, because you got to do something if you can. And so that was it, And then being a veteran of the Marine Corps and serving overseas- you know, I served for 23 years, I retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Marines has served in Afghanistan twice as served in Liberia. I served in Kosovo. You know, I’ve been forward deployed and I have a lot of veterans organizations that I believe in that I support. So I do a veterans charity as well. So it’s got to be something that resonates with me something that I believe in for my charity stuff, but that’s also the good that we do in this life. And you’ve heard all these phrases, these are all the clichés but they’re there for a reason. If you have you been given much, much as expected. And it’s, you hear that and it resonates because it’s true. And it’s as it should be. So count me in.
Alan Olsen: What do you want to be known for in life?
Rob Riggle: A good father, a good husband, a good friend, that’s good enough for me.
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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.
Alan Olsen, is the Host of the American Dreams Show and the Managing Partner of GROCO.com. GROCO is a premier family office and tax advisory firm located in the San Francisco Bay area serving ultra-high net worth clients all over the world.