Most Emmy-nominated comedies have as much gravitas as dramas, in terms of the subjects they tackle. Modern Family’s American melting pot household and Veep’s more-accurate-than-House-of-Cards’ take on Capitol Hill are prime examples.
But if voters want some anarchism in their comedy, they’ll have to look to short-format live-action entertainment, where they’ll find Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital, an anything–goes, 15-minute comedy series that has been the category champ with two Emmy wins in a row.
“There’s no meaning going on in the series, no messages or lessons to be learned,” explains series creator Rob Corddry, who plays the clown-faced Dr. Blake, and hatched the idea to lampoon a children’s hospital after checking his daughter into one.
“My daughter is fine now,” he adds. “After visiting the hospital, I thought ‘This is the least funniest place. There’s no comedy to be had here.’ Then I thought, ‘What if one of those sexy hospital shows took place in a children’s hospital?’ ” That eureka moment spawned a series about nurses, doctors and a walker-bound figurehead named Chief (Megan Mullally) who are too overly self-indulgent to be working as caregivers.
This year’s Emmy submission “Spoiler Alert: Owen Gets a Perm” exhibits what a week-to-week Childrens Hospital episode is like “without getting too conceptual” says Corddry. Directed by series actress and Sundance Film Festival award winner Lake Bell, Chief and Dr. Cat Black (Bell) are so appalled by Dr. Owen’s (Rob Huebel) perm, they trick him and ruin his hair by pouring hot tea on it.
Hospital is facing some stiff competition in its Creative Emmy category including Zach Galafianakis’ Between Two Ferns interview with President Barack Obama, NBC.com’s Parks and Rec in Europe, E!’s The Soup: True Detective and Fox’s Super Bowl Halftime Show. Corddry generously gives props to Ferns, saying “We’ll look back on it as history in the making: The episode sets the new bar in terms of what a president can do (comically).”
While Hospital typically competes against web shorts, it stands out from the fray with its polished, cable network look, all-star cast and, as Corrdry points out, its “cool, hip vote” factor. Not to mention few shows serve up off-beat moments where a deaf woman gets murdered and a couple has sex on a toilet.
“There’s ridiculous comedy and absurdist comedy,” he says, in explaining the show’s appeal. “Absurdity lives and dies in being grounded. Our scenes follow specific rules: Our characters don’t know they’re in a comedy.”