The Hot Seat: Rob Riggle

The Daily Show's most intimidating interviewer himself gets interviewed.

Illustration: Rob Kelly

The Daily Show has a long and storied history of hilarious and slightly unhinged correspondents. Rob Riggle, who left the show at the end of 2008, was especially manic when going after the fake-news scoop. But the 39-year-old isn't merely a clown—he was recently promoted to lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. So yeah, he'll make you laugh—but cross him at your own peril. In his latest film, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, Riggle appears alongside the likes of Jeremy Piven and Tony Hale in a film about selling cars.

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Everything I know about conducting interviews I learned from you on The Daily Show.
Oh God! [Laughs] That's terrifying. I guess I'll get ready for a lot of screaming.

Just kidding. Tell us about your role in this film, Colonel Riggle.
Well, this is a tricky one. I play a ten-year-old boy with a pituitary problem [Laughs]. So, there you go.

Sounds like the role you were born for.
You know, it felt like it. Really jumped off the page at me. I was very grateful to get the role, and to figure out how I was gonna do it. You didn't want to come off as mentally challenged.

You're the new Clifford.
No! No, no, no. I would never try to reprise that role.

Congrats on the promotion to lieutenant colonel. And the new pay grade.
Thank you very much.

Are you enjoying your time away from The Daily Show?
Yeah, you know, I've been very busy, and very blessed in that sense. I miss the guys and gals at The Daily Show. I shared an office with John Oliver for two and a half years, and those were the best two and a half years I've had in my professional career. But I did get to reunite with them in Bonnaroo. We had been planning on meeting up before I left The Daily Show. And I left on good terms. It was all warm fuzzies all around with Jon and everybody.

Well, you know one day he's going to show up at your house in California, in a scene not unlike that one from Rambo II, and say, "Rob, we need you back."
[Laughs] If that day ever came, I would be there.

So is your war over?
Is Rambo II the one where he was with the monks and he was cleaning? That's probably not too much of a stretch from what will happen to me.

You'll be in the garden, and Jon will come over the hill.
And I'll say, "Yeah, my time is over." I'll even say it in the scruffy voice. And then he'll just leave a case on my doorstop, and when I open it, it'll be a microphone with a little Daily Show cube on it.

Who is your own personal Colonel Trautman?
Wow. Great question. In a comedic sense?

In whatever sense you want. You're the star here.
Oh yeah. And by star, you mean douche, right? Well, I have a lot of Trautmans in my life. I do. A multitude of Trautmans. Jon Stewart is definitely one of my Trautmans.

In more insecure moments, do you ever get the feeling that people are just laughing because they're afraid if they don't, you will disembowel them and strangle them with their own entrails?
I hope not! I sincerely hope not. Because wow, what a terrible, terrible experience that would be. No, I hope that's not the case.

You mentioned that you shared an office with John Oliver. When you were leaving the show, he described your interview style as "uniquely physical."
I always try to make sure that the subjects I interviewed knew that there was an element of danger involved. That at any given moment, something could snap, and there could be real trouble. Usually there was just something, like a little muscle spasm in my eye, that made them a little bit uneasy.

Maybe if I got a gun...
Right. If you do a phone interview, it's always important to start out super sweet and nice, and then go, "Hold on one second" and yell [Yells] "Put that down, motherfucker!!!" And then come back and say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Where were we?"

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard opens Aug 14.

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