Chris Elliott has comedy in his genes, courtesy of his father, Bob Elliott (of the legendary comedy team Bob & Ray), and he’s passed his abilities on to the next generation, as his daughter Abby Elliott proves week after week on “Saturday Night Live,” but, geez, enough about his dad and kid already. Surely it’s time to shine the spotlight solely on Chris Elliott himself, who first won our hearts with his decidedly unique characters on “Late Night with David Letterman,” completely blew the minds of a generation of moviegoers with his film “Cabin Boy,” and has since gone on to appear in everything from “Manhunter” to “Everybody Loves Raymond.” On April 12, his current endeavor – Adult Swim’s “Eagleheart” – returns for its second season, just over a week after the DVD release of Season One, which hit stores on Tuesday. Bullz-Eye chatted with him…okay, fine, we geeked out…about the more eccentric side of his comedy, including his seminal TV series “Get A Life,” which, as you may have read elsewhere first (although it came from this interview), is coming to DVD in a complete-series set at long last.
Bullz-Eye: First off, let me just tell you what a pleasure it is to talk to you. I’ve been a fan for many years.
Chris Elliott: Oh, well, thank you. I just don’t hear that enough. [Laughs.]
BE: In my case, it’s no exaggeration: when I was in high school, I sent off for tickets for “Late Night with David Letterman.” Granted, I had graduated by the time I actually got them, but, hey, at least I got them.
CE: Oh, my gosh. That’s pretty funny. So did you actually wait four years for tickets?
BE: No, but it was more than a year: I sent them off during my senior year, and it was well after graduation when they finally arrived.
CE: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. But it proves that you were a hardcore fan. Do you remember who was on the show when you went?
BE: Absolutely: it was Jane Pauley and Bruno Kirby. I also remember that they did Shoe Removal Races that night, with a podiatrist squaring off against a shoe salesman.
CE: Ah, yes, that was an excellent episode. [Laughs.]
BE: You were actually just on Letterman’s show a few nights ago. It sounded like you may have taken a bit of flour into your lungs.
CE: [Laughs.] I started to smell like cookies after I was under the lights for a little while. But I thought it came off all right. It’s always fun to go back there, and I hate coming back on there as myself in any form. This interview is okay because I can’t see you. [Laughs.] But I don’t like coming on and just talking as myself, so I always come on with something.
BE: The “Downton Abbey” thing was great, too.
CE: Yeah, I thought that came out great.
BE: So let’s talk “Eagleheart.” One of the most surprising things about the series, at least to me, is that you don’t actually get a writing credit on the show. Not that you don’t have some input, given that you’re a consulting producer, but…
CE: I’d say these guys have my voice down. I knew that when I met with them. They were huge fans of mine, and, honestly, I didn’t want the extra work. [Laughs.] And at the same time, y’know, they changed the pilot quite a bit to suit me, and what I do – and Adam Resnick does this, also – is sort of take a pass at the scripts when they’re done with them and change a couple of jokes here and there, and if something’s not quite in my voice, I just kind of paraphrase what I would be saying, and that sort of thing. I’m sort of at the point in my career where writers that are working in the business sort of grew up knowing about me. At least the ones that are fans of mine, anyway. And they’re really capable of writing for me. It wasn’t always that case. Early on in my career, it was pretty much Adam and me just trying to establish this voice.
BE: Of course, it makes me wonder if people sometimes come to you with something utterly off the wall, saying, “Well, ‘Cabin Boy’ was so nuts that I figured you’d be into this.’
CE: Yeah, I think I get that a lot. It’s interesting: some people put anything weird in the “weird” category and think, “Oh, Chris’ll do that because it’s so weird.” But you’re right. Certain people, like yourself, get why certain things are funny-weird as opposed to just being strange. That’s a different breed. I think I do get lumped in a lot with “he’s just off the wall, he’s crazy.”
Tags: Abby Elliott, Adam Resnick, Adult Swim, Andrew Weinberg, AV Club, Ben Stiller, Blythe Danner, Bob and Ray, Bob Elliott, Breaking Bad, Bruno Kirby, Bud Cort, Cabin Boy, Chris Elliott, Conan, Conan O'Brien, Connie Chung, David Letterman, Dean Norris, Dilbert, Downton Abbey, Eagleheart, Everybody Loves Raymond, Get A Life, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Pauley, Jason Woliner, Late Night with David Letterman, Manhunter, Marlon Brando, Michael Koman, Mickey Rooney, Onion AV Club, Saturday Night Live, SNL, Stephen Collins, Tattinger's, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Light from the TV Shows, Walker: Texas Ranger, Will Harris, You've Reached the Elliotts