- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Home Theater Forum recently had the chance to sit down with actor Clark Duke, the young comedic actor with a growing list of fine roles in film and television, including Kick-Ass, The Office, Greek, and Two and a Half Men. Clark appears in the sequel to the surprise time-travel comedy, Hot Tub Time Machine, along with Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, and Adam Scott.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 comes to home video on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital from Paramount on May 19.
HTF: It’s good to be able to talk to you. I’ve been a bit of a fan of your work having seen you in Kick-Ass and of course you were in the last season of The Office. So tell me what the hardest part of being a comedic actor is today.
Clark Duke: I think the hardest part of being an actor in general is the transient nature of your employment. You’re sort of on one job and then you’re sort of unemployed again. And that can be something, and even from older actors I’ve talked to, you kind of never get used to.
HTF: So how do you deal with that?
Clark Duke: I mean I think that’s what everybody’s always trying to figure out, I’m not sure. (Chuckles). Any hobbies I guess, friends, family, that sort of thing.
HTF: And you’re also a bit of a go-getter. I mean you worked with Michael Cera on your show, Clark and Michael, which is very funny by the way, acting, directing, writing, and making that happen.
Clark Duke: Thanks. Yeah, I write. I’ve always been kind of self-generating to a big extent. And I think that is more and more common especially among guys that came up the same age as me, a lot more people write, direct, act, all the above.
HTF: Is that something that you naturally do, or that a product of recognizing that it’s a harder scene out there, harder to break out, harder to get noticed, and so having a lot of skills in your arsenal works in your favor.
Clark Duke: It wasn’t a conscious decision to try to do multiple things. I went to school for film production and I enjoy all the different aspects of it. I enjoy doing all of it and I’m probably just kind of like a control freak too but I like being involved with everything.
HTF: (Chuckles.) You’ve shown some great comedic timing, and one of the joys of watching fine comedic performers is watching the timing. And timing is about the moment, finding the funny in that a scene or a specific moment, and when you find it – that’s truly where the nectar is. So you’ve got the comedic side down, are you interested in the other types of roles? Do you have a desire to explore drama or romantic comedy, for example?
Clark Duke: Yeah. I mean I would like to do everything at some point. I mean it’s just sort of worked out that I’ve only done comedy to this point. But I think for the most part really good comedic actors are also just really good actors, period, because comedy is by far the hardest thing to do. And this thing that you touched on, the timing, that’s sort of the one thing that’s not teachable. You can almost teach someone to be a dramatic actor, you know what I mean? But it’s not a learnable skill to be funny.
HTF: I think you’re right. I think we encounter drama in our lives more readily than we do the ability to make other people laugh.
Clark Duke: Yeah. It’s almost a more relatable thing too, I think. So yeah, I’d like to try everything. And I don’t just watch comedy. In all honestly I probably watch more drama than anything. So it’s definitely something that I’d like to do down the road.
HTF: So when you’re doing a film like Hot Tub Time Machine 2 which is a comedy of complete abandon, they usually have plots that hang loosely together, just enough in order to be able to put your actors in scenes and create the funny…
Clark Duke: Just a thread (laughs)
HTF: And I’m a sci-fi fan, a comic book fan, and I love complex stories, and watching Hot Tub 2, there seemed to be a genuine attempt to try and do something a little more complex – and maybe that is just circumstantial in coming up with a sequel idea - but it’s always fun when you have stories that are just playfully absurd but then also have really good conceptual ideas running as a current throughout. So is that of interest to you, that kind of complex story
Clark Duke: Yeah, I think specifically for Hot Tub 2 we were just trying to make the funniest thing possible because it’s really easy to fall into one of those awful circular conversations and we had a bunch of them on set all the time of trying to explain the science or the logic behind the time travel or whatever specific circumstance it might have. And at a certain point one of us was just kind of you just kind of have to throw your hands up and say, “Fuck it, just do what’s funny.” At a certain point it doesn’t make sense, like the time travel does not really make sense.
HTF: Right, despite the references to Terminator.
Clark Duke: (Chuckles). Right.
HTF: And I got to say, the scene where you guys first arrive in the future and you see yourselves in the mirror and the ribbing that you give each other, was hilarious. Is that scripted? Is that riffing? Is that both?
Clark Duke: It was both…I mean there were scripted lines but 90% of it is just riffing. I mean there’s one line written down in the script, like there’s one line for each of us, and then it was just riffing after that. The writer, Josh Heald, who wrote the script is on set too. So it’s a lot of everybody’s just sort of yelling out lines. I mean we would pitch lines to each other and just kind of go on runs. But, yeah that’s a lot of improv which I think is the most fun thing about Hot Tub 2. It’s just the loosest movie you’ve ever seen. (Laughter)
HTF: Well, I think that comedy in general has the greatest collaborative atmosphere
Clark Duke: For sure.
HTF: And you can do small indie films, or experimental films like Terrence Malick. But you find that collaboration more common in comedies where the performer is there to generate as much a presence in a film as it is the unique comedic talent that they have - and how they bounce off other comedy talent. I’m sure that gets to what you’re speaking about being a relatively loose set where you sort of just do whatever’s funny that day around the scene that you’re framed in.
Clark Duke: Yeah, and a lot of it just comes down the difference between, like you said, an indie film or even like a TV show. A lot of it is just time and money. On a bigger movie you just have more time you don’t have to shoot as many pages that day, so you just kind of have the time to play around and reflect whereas, in my experience anyway, on TV or the couple of indies I’ve done, you’re still strapped for time that you really don’t have as big an opportunity to cut loose like that and kind of find the scene.
HTF: So what did you learn from your fellow comedic actors? In the film, Rob Corddry is just utterly fearless, and Craig Robinson’s seems to have a really astute, level-headed sense of comedy so it’s funny to watch him sort of be out of control. But talk about what you get from your co-stars, especially coming back to work with them again.
Clark Duke: I think you pick stuff up from everybody. I definitely had a lot of long conversations with Chevy Chase picking his brain about everything. But I mean the nicest thing working with those guys is that it makes your job a lot easier. There’s nothing worse than trying to riff or improv with somebody and they can’t do it or they just freeze up. I mean not everybody does it and some people just want to memorize the lines on the page and rehearse it that way, and then do it, and they follow these different processes. But for me the most fun you can have at work is when you get other people that can really go.
HTF: Let me ask you about what makes you laugh. Over the last 10 years, what’s the funniest movie you’ve seen? And then thinking back even further, who are the one or two comedians out there that really stick out to you - whether they’re stage comedians, stand-up comedians or comedic actors in films? Who stands out?
Clark Duke: Seinfeld to me probably looms larger than anything else, as like a show and as a performer, actor, and writer. To me nothing’s funnier than Seinfeld. And I mean Curbed (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is equally genius, but I still prefer Seinfeld the show.
HTF: So what about film? What’s that one thing that stood out and made you say “That is funny! I wish I was in it.”
Clark Duke: That’s a hard question! The funniest movie in the last 10 years, well, I really love The Trip. I thought that was really, really awesome.
HTF: With Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon…
Clark Duke: Yes. And I love Steve Coogan in general… He’s next level. He’s pretty genius. But if we’re talking about the last 10 years, the funniest movie – the movie I’ve actually laughed the most at, was the first time I saw Borat. I don’t recall laughing more than I did at that in the movie theatre. I mean now it’s such like part of the culture and kind of cliché and overdone, but the first time that I saw Borat was pretty mind-blowing.
HTF: Well, great pleasure speaking with you, Clark, and I wish you all the best in the future.
Clark Duke: Thanks, Neil.