Throughout 30 Rock’s time-slot shifts and low viewer ratings last year, we were rooting for the snappy, quick-witted freshman comedy to stick around for another season. We got our wish (and the series got an Emmy), which meant something very exciting: more Kenneth. Jack McBrayer, a 34-year-old veteran of Chicago’s improv machine, plays the golden-boy NBC page working to ensure that TGS with Tracy Jordan—a live sketch-comedy program at the heart of 30 Rock’s plot—goes off without a hitch. Whether he’s fake-macking on Jordan’s wife, Angie, (“I’m a real good sex person; I do it all the different ways”) or being used to bait a lusty NBC executive, Kenneth’s grin never vanishes. But what about McBrayer’s?
You seem to be smiling in every online photo I’ve found. What gives? What makes you so happy?
Well, it’s mainly all those beers. I think I’m a nervous laugher. Like, when you’re in a situation that you don’t know what’s going on, you go to laughter more than anything. I was just telling somebody earlier, “For all the photo shoots for 30 Rock, my character is always so grinny.” That’s pretty much all I know these days. We were doing a shoot the other day and [the photographer] was like, “Just tone it down a little bit.” And I was trying to force my mouth into not such a huge grin. I think it’s just permanently cramped my face into that.
What happens when you get angry? Do you get angry?
I do. I grin and then go write horrible things in my journal. It’s been weird; just this past season, I’ve been able to be a little more direct with people I have problems with or issues with, and that’s just a part of growing up.
Finally, I have hit maturity.
So what does get you fuming? How about the worst movie you’ve seen?
It was this movie called Troll 2. It’s something about these people that come to town, and then this witch turns people into plants. And then she drinks the plant juice and it makes her young, and I don’t know. It’s something stupid. But it’s just so grade-D that you’re sitting there and you think it’s a joke for most of it, and then you realize it’s not. And then you’re like, Oh no, this is embarrassing for all parties involved, including myself.
What about embarrassing improv shows? I’m sure you have a ton.
Oh, all the time. I did one touring show with Horatio Sanz. We went to, I think it was Iowa State University, and we were in this field house, so people were sitting on the floor. It started out with 2,500 people in there. We delivered the most mediocre improv, and it went from a crowd of 2,500 to 250 people in the course of 45 minutes. It was grim. But the good thing is, I’ve had humiliating experiences before then and, I’m sure, since. No worries.
Speaking of humiliating, been on any horrible, intimidating New York dates lately?
No. [Long pause]
Er, good. You’re bucking the trend. Anyway, does 30 Rock’s “Is he gay? Is he not gay?” Kenneth story line bother you?
Oh gosh no! For one, I’m just thrilled to have a job, and when you’re in the hands of someone like Tina Fey, I don’t care if they make me eat crap from a homeless man’s butt. I’m like, I’ll do it. Put it on paper and I’ll do it, Tina Fey.
Do you read blogs about the show?
I don’t really do too much of that. From being on the show, I have learned that I don’t like reading too much online subjective stuff because people can say some horrible things. Plus, I sometimes forget that a lot of these [bloggers] are 14 years old. They don’t necessarily think about the ramifications.
What’s something you read recently that made you think “That’s not so nice”?
Improv chatboards. People say hateful things; also, it’s improv. Technically, it’s a disposable show, so just let it exist for what it is instead of tearing it apart and criticizing the players and all that kind of crap. To me, it’s weird when people review improv at all.
By the way, I do that as part of my job as Comedy editor.
Oh no. I certainly didn’t mean to undermine what you do.
But you’re right. An improv show can change every night.
Oh my God, absolutely. And one little variable can affect whatever’s going on. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. I hope I didn’t offend you.
McBrayer lights up 30 Rock on NBC Thursdays at 7:30pm.