It takes 10 minutes for the greeter at the front door of a popular Beverly Hills eatery to acknowledge Rob Corddry. Once the 37-year-old actor is finally seated, though, he doesn't pitch a fit, or even throw out a can-you-believe-this-guy scowl. Instead, he apologizes for being late, scans the menu, and gleefully chirps, ''Ooh, turkey finger sandwiches!''
This is surprising for two reasons. One: You'd expect a foulmouthed outburst from Corddry, who spent four years perfecting the art of blowing hard as a correspondent on The Daily Show. And two: At this point, maître d's all over L.A. should recognize him. He's currently stealing every one of his scenes in What Happens in Vegas as Ashton Kutcher's borderline-incompetent lawyer and best friend. Last month, he played what he calls ''the most racist character ever put to film besides the Mississippi Burning guys'' in Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Since last year, his bad behavior has also enlivened Semi-Pro, The Heartbreak Kid, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and Blades of Glory. And he just landed a role in Project A, a Ben Stiller-produced comedy in which he'll play a man trained by the US government to become the world's biggest jerk. ''My manager says I'm 'creepy but accessible,''' chuckles Corddry, who's actually bright, funny, quick to smile, and even quicker to laugh at himself in person.
Of course, the Boston native was less focused on, say, parading around in his underwear (as he does in Vegas) and more interested in becoming a Serious Actor during his salad days. After college, he dove into the New York City theater scene with heavy roles like Horatio in Hamlet and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. ''I did a lot of quote-unquote very important downtown theater i.e., crappy,'' Corddry laughs. It wasn't until a chance audition for a costar's sketch comedy group in 1995 that Corddry became hooked on ''the instant gratification of the laugh''; two years later, he formed his own troupe. Then came The Daily Show in 2002. He may have won over audiences with his cocky attitude during segments like ''This Week in God,'' but Corddry claims he spent most of his four-year stint in awe of host Jon Stewart: ''He found exactly what he should be doing in life.... I aspire to that comfort.'' He adds with a rueful smile, ''I haven't really found the perfect thing [since then]. I haven't done anything yet that's been reviewed well.... I guess right now I'm seeing what sticks, what makes me the happiest.''
Which made his first big post-TDS experience, the 2007 sitcom The Winner, all the more bittersweet. The envelope-shoving show starred Corddry as a 32-year-old virgin still living with his parents a guy more innocent and lovable than any he's played before or since. The show was ''the most fun I've ever had,'' Corddry says, but Fox canceled it after six episodes. The stint soured Corddry on another network TV gig, and he's since returned to doing what he knows so well: playing the blowhard. ''Rob is a profoundly talented actor with an enormous range,'' says fellow Daily Show alum Ed Helms (The Office). ''I hope that for both of our sakes we'll just have more chances to stretch.''
Fortunately, Corddry is about to get that chance next month, he'll begin filming his role as former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone's W. (How does one audition for such a role? ''Wear a suit [and] a red tie, borrow somebody's glasses, be bald.'') But it's the tongue-in-cheek ''hospital drama'' he's creating for the Web that has him most excited. Working with several members from cult comedy troupe The State, Corddry hopes this project will capture the instant gratification that drew him to comedy in the first place. ''I can come up with an idea and be shooting it in a week,'' he marvels. ''That's awesome. If this new Internet world has legs, I'd be completely happy doing that for the rest of my life.''
Looking for a way to get yourself fired? Rob Corddry has some suggestions.
Like many struggling actors, Rob Corddry held more than his share of odd jobs to pay the bills. He did time as a security guard at the Met, performed in murder mysteries for corporate events, and even played ''Dreadworthy the Spooky Wisecracking Butler'' at New York's Jekyll and Hyde restaurant. But Corddry, as you might expect, kept to a quirky rule: ''If I was at a job for more than a year, I'd get myself fired so I kept my eye on the main goal.'' So how did he get himself fired? ''If you work in a restaurant, type the name of that restaurant and then put 'sucks' after it into the computer so that when somebody orders a chicken sandwich, it comes up 'Bodega sucks.''' And at Goldman Sachs, where he was the assistant to one of the general counsels? ''Put your feet up on the desk. That's all you have to do.''