Corddry co-stars with wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in HBO’s Ballers, a show positioned as a kind of Entourage with professional athletes.
When Corddry met BBC Autos at New York’s Classic Car Club – a membership-based car-hire enterprise in Manhattan – he was expected to discuss all the high-ticket vehicles driven in Miami, Florida, during the filming of Ballers. What resulted instead was a drive around the city in the club’s 1966 Ford Mustang convertible, from which Corddry held forth on rusty Ford Pinto wagons, questionable ministerial parking passes and his profound obsession with the 1987 Buick Regal Grand National GNX.
Brett Berk: Where did you grow up, and what was it like to drive there?
Rob Corddry: Boston. Driving was a rite of passage. It was like: puberty, license, lose your virginity, graduate high school. I learned on a blue 1980s Chevy wagon, the first edition of not-woody wagons. My mother also had ‘79 Buick LeSabre that she bought for $300. We found disco boots in the trunk.
Did you have a car of your own?
Yes. My grandmother lived in Maryland, and we’d go down there every summer. Her best friend, Arnold Lott, who was an author of naval histories, gave me his rusty old 1975 Ford Pinto wagon. There were big holes in the floor, so water would come in if you went over a puddle. In the back, there was a pillow and a blanket, and this 86-year-old man said to me, not even with a wink, ‘Just in case you want to pull over and have a nap or something.’ It was garbage but I loved it.
Freedom on four wheels, then?
I can still smell it. We drove it up from Annapolis, and it died in the Bronx. Me and my mother, stuck in the worst part of the Bronx. We pulled over to a mechanic, and he totally took us for a ride. But he fixed it. So I drove that for a while and when my sister got her license, my dad got us a yellow 1985 Honda Civic hatchback. And it was a stick. I hadn’t learned how to drive stick yet, but I would always watch my friends who did – my friend Jeff, who was a real gear-head, had a ‘64 Mustang with a “Megashifter”, whatever that was. My dad was like, ‘Wait until I get home and I’ll teach you.’ But I just got in the car, and drove it.
Related: Why stick shifts stick around.
Fast-forward to your becoming a hugely successful comedian and actor.
I went to New York. I started off doing a lot of dumb theatre, and transitioned into comedy. I got involved with the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre, and got The Daily Show from that in 2001, and was on that for about five years. My girlfriend at the time, her father died, and we got his car. And I drove that car to The Daily Show every day. I was living in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and I had a parking pass, because I filled out a form online to be a minister for the Universal Life Church. I did it for the parking pass. I got a placard, a rearview mirror tag and ID. I parked for five years in the city for free. I just had to park within two blocks of a church.
I left The Daily Show for a job in LA, and I bring my wife and my six-month-old daughter to a show that’s only been picked up for 13 episodes. And we only ended up doing six before the show was canceled. And then came the writer’s strike [in 2007].
I was more afraid than I’d even been in my life, about money. I leased a bunch of different cars over the years since then, but I fantasized about getting an old crappy truck and fitting it to run on biodiesel. Sadly, that trend dried up. And then I had fantasies about a late ‘60s Mustang. But, when I got to LA, everyone’s got perfect Mustangs, and it was no longer something special to me. So I kind of abandoned that.
But my real dream car – and it’s on the horizon, I swear – is a 1987 Buick Grand National GNX.
What is it about a mid-‘80s Buick that speaks to you?
It’s a childhood thing. I remember my friend saying, ‘You see that car over there? That’s a Grand National. That is the fastest car in the world right now.’ That just created this myth in my imagination. It made it one of those dreams cars. Also, it is just [awesome]-looking.
So what’s stopping you from getting one?
When I make a purchase that threatens to become a hobby, I have a tendency to go crazy.
I have an Apple Watch. Computers and technology is a hobby of mine. Another is vinyl records. I bought a $200 system, nice, easy, nothin’. Thousands and thousands of dollars poured in after. I now have a pre-amp for my turntable with, like, tubes in it. These things, they’re not really made anymore, the good ones, so you’ve got to buy the old German ones, made in the 1930s. So I’ll lose a whole afternoon ordering this stuff because I’m obsessed. That’s what I’m afraid of.
You’re worried that you’ll get the GNX and, what? That you'll then buy the Buick Grand National jacket, the trousers, the keychain...
If I give myself permission to buy a tool that I don’t need, then where does that stop? I would love to learn how to work on cars more. Old cars. But it’s a slippery slope. I have two kids, and I’m in my mid-40s now, so I tend to be a little more conservative about where I throw my obsession money. This one is a little – I mean, it’s not the most expensive classic car. But the ‘87 GNX will get up there in price.
So why not go for it?
I get nervous about buying one because I don’t really know enough about what I’m buying. Then again, my dad did it. He retired and bought a 1980s Corvette. He’s had it for 15 years. It’s his baby. Won’t even let me drive it. Which is insane.
How old are your kids?
Eight and six.
Do they have any interest in cars?
No. They’re not into cars. They’re not into Star Wars. None of the stuff I like.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you in a car?
I’m a very good driver. Let’s start with that. I’m a very good driver, and I was in my parking garage. I’m still getting used to this parking garage at our new offices. It’s really tight, and I was backing into a space – I forget exactly what I was doing, maybe just straightening out. And I backed right into a pole, one of those big poles. And one of the producers that works in our office was standing right there, this beautiful woman, so that’s embarrassing.
But the bright side is that I was in the worst mood that morning. The worst, worst mood. Nothing could save this day. And I did that, just backed into this thing, and I just started laughing. I got out and I looked at her, and she was smiling like, ‘are you alright?’ And it just, it made my day. I was in the best mood.
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