From The Daily Show and The Hangover to 21 Jump Street and Modern Family, Rob Riggle has established himself as a reliable overbearing comic doofus. Which did not exactly come in handy when we crossed paths with him at Craftsman’s MAKEcation—a whirlwind of expert instruction in powerful pursuits like woodworking and metalsmithing—last weekend.
“I got some great skills in the Marines,” he says. “I learned survival techniques, combat techniques, all kinds of things that guys might think are cool, and they are cool. But do it yourself? I got nothing. So that’s why I like working on it.”
And it turns out, he has loads of knowledge to offer the modern man, as we learned when we asked him about everything from home improvement to Drunk History. Read on.
“Get a job. Pay your bills. Live up to your responsibilities. That’s all you have to do. If you’ve done that, you’ve done eighty percent of the work. The rest of it’s fluff.”
First off, how’d you get involved with Craftsman?
They were kind enough to ask me. They said, “We want to offer this event where we just work on man skills.” And I cut them off. I said, “I’m in.” I love the idea because like most men of my generation or younger, we have lost the skills of our fathers. In my teenage years my dad was like, “Now here son, here’s why I’m doing what I’m doing, you know this is the manifold and this is the carburetor” and…. I resisted it so much, and now I find myself so desperate for my dad’s lessons that any time I’m home I’m hitting him up. Now that I have a son, I’m feeling naked, because someday he’s going to look to me and I need to know what to do. I need to at least have an answer. Even if that answer is, “Let’s call a professional.”
This event is empowering people to make stuff. What’s the most impressive thing you’ve ever made?
Oh my God. I mean, I made some speaker stands in eighth grade. Back then your stereo was a big deal. My speakers were basically sitting on the boxes they came in. My dad was like, “Those look terrible. Why don’t you make some speaker stands?” I was like, “Yeah. I’m going to make some speaker stands.” And everything was perfect. I really did a nice job cutting and, I don’t even know the name, when you carve out notches, it begins with an L…
Lathe. So anyway, I made these speaker stands and they were really nice and I sanded them, varnished and polished them and everything. That’s about as good as it got.
What is your number-one tool-handling or home improvement tip?
I’ll be honest. I don’t do jack squat around my house. Hanging Christmas lights is like the biggest chore on earth. But when you assemble your children’s toys, when you have simple home repairs, you have to have tools. So when I first moved to this new house that I’m in, I just assembled a toolbox. I got a claw hammer, I got a screwdriver set with Phillips and flatheads in different sizes, I got a tape measure, I got an X-Acto knife, I got some needle-nose pliers. I just remembered the tools I end up using the most and put them in a toolbox, and I have used that so much for the small things I do around the house.
At MAKEcation, Riggle tried out a circular saw—and the protective properties of Oakley shades.
Making stuff and doing home improvements can be considered manly qualities. What else can any man do to become more manly?
Get a job. Alright? Get a job. Pay your bills. Live up to your responsibilities. That’s all you have to do. If you’ve done that, you’ve done eighty percent of the work. The rest of it’s fluff.
Do you think the definition of manliness is different in 2014 versus our fathers’ generation?
I think our dads’ generation had a lot more pride in themselves and their work. I don’t think my dad would ever pay anybody to do what he could do. “Why would I need someone to mow my lawn? I can mow my lawn.” But our parents had a 30-, 40-hour workweek. Now you’ve got two-income families where both people are working 50 hours a week minimum. When they get home, they don’t want to start a second job. Their time is worth more than their money. They’d rather hire the neighborhood kid to mow the lawn, because they could spend those two hours playing with their kids.
I think that manhood hasn’t changed. There’s still some core, principle fundamentals. The way I look at myself is, I need to hold up my end of the contract. My end of the contract as I see it is to provide. Not only a home, food, clothing, all the basics, but mentorship, leadership, a vision for where you want yourself to go, your family to go, opportunities for your kids, a happy home, be present when you are home, all that stuff.
OK, couple entertainment questions. You’re great as J. Edgar Hoover in Drunk History. How do they get the lip-syncing so right on that show? Do you have the sound…
They have the sound. And you listen to it, you get the cadence of all the stammering and the “what?” You listen to it over and over, and then they play it while you’re saying it. So you can match up. It’s a lot of mimicking, and if you’re off a hair here or there it can be fixed in post, you know.
Little trade secret there. Last but not least, you play a handyman and his unstable twin in Dumb and Dumber To. What was that like?
That was a dream come true. I’m a huge Dumb and Dumber fan, and I remember seeing it as a very young man. My first day of shooting, I’m in a car with Jeff Daniels, Jim Carrey, as Harry and Lloyd, just the three of us, and we’re rolling down the highway and we’re improvising, we’re having fun, it’s a funny scene. It’s Harry and Lloyd, for Christ’s sake, and I’m in the scene with them, and it was surreal. All I wanted to do was call somebody and say, “Dude, you wouldn’t believe what I’m doing right now.” And I couldn’t do that. I had to focus up, because I’m a contributor here, I’m in this scene. So that was how it started, and it was a great experience the whole way through…