- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The pitch meeting must have elicited quizzical looks from Paramount Pictures executives: Four grown men in a hot tub in 2010 go back to the mid-1980s to try to do things better the second time around.

And, in the epitome of truth in advertising, the gimmick was revealed in the title: “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

Five years later, the cast (minus John Cusack) returns for another go-round in the mystical Jacuzzi in “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” which opens Friday.

“We would have done it earlier, [it’s] just [that] no one asked,” said Rob Corddry, who reprises the role of the foul-mouthed, cynical Lou in “2.”

Mr. Corddry recalled his first encounter with the script for the original film, which prominently featured on the title page “Hot Tub Time Machine: Based on the Incredibly True Story.”

“I was like, ‘Oohhhh, I think you got me,’” he said. “I meant to read the rest of [the script] at that point. Still haven’t.”

He brings his singular wit to the sequel, which reunites him with returning co-stars Craig Robinson and Clark Duke.

Mr. Corddry said that even though Mr. Cusack is not part of the sequel, the experience of filming “2” was perhaps even more fun than the original, if for no other reason than production set up shop in New Orleans.

“You can’t really beat that,” he said. “[Also], we already knew the material. We didn’t have a let’s-figure-out-what-this-is moment. There’s no learning curve anymore.”

Even attempting to describe the ludicrous plot would take away the pleasure of going along with the gag. All logic aside, Mr. Corddry said, he and the filmmakers were conscientious to avoid rehashing the previous film’s jokes — a pitfall endemic to comedy sequels, sometimes “even right down to the same jokes and that was just something we didn’t want to do.”

“And, you know, like those poor guys from ‘The Hangover’ — those ‘poor guys from “The Hangover,”’ that’s like the dumbest thing anyone’s ever said — I watched [‘The Hangover’] as a writer and an actor, [thinking], ‘That would be the hardest movie to make a sequel to because you have got the strictest formula.’ But we don’t. We have to get in a time machine and go somewhere — that’s it. So we are able to do a completely different movie that stands on its own. I think that the best sequels are like that.”

Still, Mr. Cusack was undoubtedly the biggest star of the first film. Asked whether his absence in “2” was an “elephant in the room,” Mr. Corddry replied that Mr. Cusack “[hates] being called an elephant. Maybe elephant-size talent, but I just want to make it clear, John, I didn’t call you an elephant, man.”

Mr. Corddry said the only noticeable production difference between the original and the sequel was that the cast trailers were smaller.

“John carries a lot of clout,” Mr. Corddry said of Mr. Cusack, “and he’s also a nice guy. [He] said, ‘If I’m going to get this big trailer, I want these guys to get a big trailer too.’ That was the only thing [new cast member] Adam Scott didn’t bring to the picture.”

Although Mr. Scott had some big shoes to fill as the new guy, Mr. Corddry said his addition to the “Hot Tub” cast felt natural to the second film’s chemistry.

“The great thing is that all of us have known Adam for a long time,” he said, “and he’s like kind of one of us anyway. There was no adjustment period.”

Mr. Corddry was a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” for a decade. While he insists he is not even in the running to replace the retiring Jon Stewart, he said he is looking forward to discovering the eventual nominee.

“I was relieved to hear that he’s leaving,” he said of Mr. Stewart. “That is the hardest job in show business, and I was only surprised by the fact that he didn’t leave earlier. I was relieved for his sanity and for his family’s sake. It takes a pretty special guy to be able to do that job at that level for that long, so hats off.”

An earlier notable film appearance by Mr. Corddry was his portrayal of White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone’s “W.,” a loosely based biopic of President George W. Bush. Mr. Corddry even called Mr. Fleischer to discuss the “character.”

“I can’t really say that it helped me in huge ways,” he said of discussions with the former press secretary. “I just thought that’s something you’re supposed to do. If you’re playing a cop, you go do a ride along. If you’re playing Ari Fleischer, you talk to him, right?”

On the “W.” set, Mr. Corddry bragged of his research to star Josh Brolin, cast as Mr. Bush. He said Mr. Brolin “looked at me and went, ‘Why?’ And he’s totally right. He [gave] an Oscar-worthy performance as George W. Bush, and he didn’t have to speak to him.

“He probably talked to him. He probably prank calls him all the time. He loves prank calling,” Mr. Corddry said.

Contemporary comedies often go for broke, relying on gross-out humor and the slaughter of all sacred cows. (To wit, “Hot Tub Time Machine 2,” like its predecessor, is rated R for “crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nudity, drug use and some violence.”)

However, Mr. Corddry insists this is a new golden age, with comedy troupes like the Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade — of which Mr. Corddry is an alum — developing talent among performers.

“We’re just taught to make your partner look good, and you will look good by default,” Mr. Corddry said, attributing the aphorism to fellow alum Amy Poehler. “And so that creates an atmosphere, a giving atmosphere rather than a receiving atmosphere that’s sort of very contagious. It’s a great time to be doing comedy.”

Such conviviality was palpable in the first film, and Mr. Corddry insists it is reprised in the sequel.

“I’ll probably always be the ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ guy,” he said.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

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