Interview: Ryan Phillippe Reveals That He’s a Secret Comedy Nerd

Last week, Celebuzz spent five days on a cross-country college tour with Ryan Phillippe, Will Forte, Jorma Taccone, and John Solomon: the cast and filmmakers behind the new movie MacGruber (opening May 21st). Of the many things we discovered (such as how to drink beer through your eyeballs and nostrils at the same time!), perhaps nothing was more pleasantly surprising than the fact that Ryan Phillippe is a huge comedy nerd, just like us.

In our exclusive Q&A, Phillippe — best known for his turns in acclaimed dramatic films such as Crash and Stop-Loss — dorks out with us about his eclectic comedy tastes, the music that inspires him (and his kids), and the stuff he likes (and does not like) to read on the Internet.

MacGruber seems like a bit of a departure for you. What initially drew you to the world of comedy?

My first memories of comedy as a kid were seeing George Carlin, Eddie Murphy’s Raw and Delirious. I went to Catholic school and my family was sort of pseudo-religious, so I wasn’t allowed to watch those movies. I remember sneaking down to the basement at my friend R.T.’s house to watch Raw when we were like fifteen and just how secretive it felt, like we were getting a glimpse into this adult world that was so wild and unknown to us. And I think that’s always stayed with me.

Who are some of the more contemporary comedians that you’re interested in?

Aziz Ansari’s new special, his new DVD is just hilarious. That whole bit he does on Kanye West kills me. And I’m a big, big Louis CK fan. It’s funny how, as you age, the comedians you tend to relate to change. One of the big points of connection for me with Louis CK’s stuff is the fact that he’s now a parent. So when he talks about his daughter coming up to tell him a secret, then just sneezing his face; you really have those experiences as a parent. I’m also now a big fan of Mitch Hedberg, though he really just went too soon. I would have loved to see what he did as he matured as a comedian.

What kind of stuff do you like to watch on TV?

I’m a huge fan of Tim & Eric (Heidecker & Wareheim, of Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show: Great Job!), huge fan of South Park. I have such reverence for Matt & Trey. More than any other people in the entertainment industry, they’re just completely fearless. And that’s one of the things I’ve loved about working on this movie with Will Forte is, you’ll see the guy naked, and he’s just totally fearless, he does not care. And Kristen Wiig, too. She cares way more about getting a laugh than how she looks superficially on the screen, and that’s something I think I can really incorporate into my dramatic career. Just being able to take risks like that. I really applaud that kind of fearlessness, and that’s what I love about South Park, they just don’t care. They will take on any and all comers. I’m also a huge fan of The Office. I think everyone on that show is amazing, even the smaller roles. The woman who plays Meredith, or Creed Bratton, they’re just incredible. I watch every episode of The Office and 30 Rock at least two times.

The Internet is becoming a major new platform for comedy as well. Are there any particular blogs or websites you really love?

Funny or Die, definitely. I love the “Between Two Ferns” stuff. I’m a big Zach Galifianakis fan.

Would you be into doing a guest spot on that?

Oh, I’d love to, yeah. I’ve seen every one he’s done. The Michael Cera one kills me. He’s a genius, too. I love his work. I think Superbad was brilliant, and will really last a long time.

Do you ever read celebrity or entertainment blogs?

There are a couple of entertainment blogs I’ll check out once in awhile. I like What Would Tyler Durden Do. I think he’s really witty, and it always makes me laugh. But I usually tend to avoid those things because if you’re mentioned, then you read the comments, you kind of end up wanting to kill yourself. I don’t spend nearly as much time on the Internet as the average person. I think I’m the only person under 40 who doesn’t have a Facebook at this point.

You also seem like a pretty big music fan. What kind of stuff are you listening to?

There’s this band out of South Africa called Die Antwoord that I’m just obsessed with right now. I think they’re the next big thing. They have such a wild energy and such a diverse musical palette. I also love some of the obvious gangstery rap stuff. I love Lil’ Wayne, I love Drake, I’m a huge Nas fan. I’ve often said, the three voices I’ve heard most in my life are Thom Yorke, Jay-Z, and Howard Stern. Those are three people I’ve listened to the most, and so that’s kind of who I am. If you mixed it all up together, more than parents or any woman I’ve ever been with, I’ve listened to those three voices.

I also love exposing my kids to new stuff, educating them to the point where if they hear Sinatra, or Elvis, or even Nas, they’ll know who it is. When I download hip-hop now, I always buy both the explicit and clean versions so I can play it in the car with the kids, because I want them to have a little bit of that experience as well. My son’s six years old now and he wants to take breakdancing classes and learn how to beatbox.

Did you enjoy the experience of making MacGruber, as different as it is from some of the more dramatic work you’ve done?

Oh yeah. It’s nice to go to work every day with really funny people and just have fun. What I want the most for this film, in some way, is I feel like Will Forte deserves to break out. It’s kind of his time, he’s the right guy for now because he’s got that blend of sweetness, but serious edge and fearlessness, and I’d love to see this film make him the next Will Ferrell or Mike Meyers. I’d always heard that, with some comedians, there was a dark side or they could be unpleasant to be around, or were constantly “on”. I remember one time I did an audition with Robin Williams and it was horrible because he was ‘performing’ for the people in the room. He was deviating from what was on the page, and I was like a nineteen-year-old kid or whatever, and there was just no off switch. I feel like that kind of thing could be off-putting to be around after awhile, but with Will and Kristen, they’re just regular, decent, cool people.

So we can expect more comedy from you in the future?

Absolutely. I’m getting more requests to comedic stuff, like a thing for Funny or Die, and I’m in the premiere episode of Nick Swardson’s new show on Comedy Central. Between hosting SNL and appearing on WWE Raw with MacGruber, it’s llike my 13 year-old self is living out his dreams, so I’d love to keep doing this stuff.

For more on the movie, check out our adventures over at Mission: MacGruber.