If there ever was a case of the right actor in the wrong part, it was when the NBC overlords cast Paul Rudd as the boyfriend of Phoebe Buffet, Lisa Kudrow's character on Friends. By then the once-hilarious cash cow Friends had turned into a brightly colored satire of the original show, and Rudd's vast comedic skills were tragically under-utilized. Rudd will try to avenge that travesty on tonight's Saturday Night Live. Fortunately, the star of David Wain's surprise hit Role Models has plenty of sketch expertise to fall back on. In clips from the early days of Wain's Comedy Central series Stella, HBO's Little Britain USA, and the classic Michael Showalter parody of director David O. Russell, Rudd brings it the way he should live tonight:Unlike most of the actors in the Apatow milieu, Rudd didn't start out in sketch comedy or stand-up, as he explains in an interview:
This has been a strange trajectory for me. I’ve always been a comedy fan, but I never did sketch comedy, I never studied improvisation, never did stand-up, that was never my goal. I went to college and studied theater, I went to a theater conservatory, I live in New York because I wanted to do plays and still do plays. I love dramatic films and wanted to do everything. I still do want to go back and forth between different things. How I got started in comedies, with the comedies I’m doing now, I think a turning point for me was Wet Hot American Summer. It was not a standard Hollywood comedy— even Clueless, which I think is very funny and clever, more people will have liked Clueless than Wet Hot American Summer, but Wet Hot American Summer I really thought spoke to a specific part of my sense of humor. That’s how I became such good friends with David and Ken and a lot of that group. As a result I think it helped me get cast in Anchorman because Adam McKay loved Wet Hot American Summer. Within the alternative comedy scene and comedy writers, a lot of people like that movie, Adam McKay being one of them. It helped me get that part in Anchorman, which was the script I read that I had the strongest desire to be in since Wet Hot. I don’t have that kind of reaction to most things.No longer just a cult movie, Wet Hot was directed by Wain as well, and was way funnier than his follow-up, The Ten. Rudd plays the most amazing asshole boyfriend: It's too bad Rudd doesn't do more sketch, as he's the anti-thesis of Jimmy Fallon: a total stage pro. He still shows up in the format from time to time, though. This video short was a key part of the VHS tape that the Stella comedy troupe — Michael Ian Black, David Wain, and Michael Showalter — would screen and sell on the road, and eventually formed the basis of the Comedy Central series Stella. Click to view Here's Rudd on a recent ep of Little Britain USA playing the French president. Click to view Then there's the legendary parody of David O. Russell's tantrum on the set of I Heart Huckabees: Click to view Fuckabees!