Nick Kroll is excited to be back in DC for this year’s Bentzen Ball comedy festival. The Georgetown University graduate, star of FX’s The League and Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, thinks Washingtonians are a “smart, comedy-literate audience.” The multi-venue festival runs Thursday through Sunday, and the complete lineup, curated by Tig Notaro, includes other headliners such as Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace/Parks and Recreation), Kate Flannery (The Office), and even Ira Glass (This American Life). Kroll takes the stage Saturday night; we talked with him about DC, his characters, and, of course, fantasy football.
You juggle a lot of different projects at once, including shooting two shows. What motivates you to set aside time for things like Bentzen Ball?
First and foremost, Tig Notaro asked me to do it, and she’s one of my oldest and best friends in comedy. She did it three or four years ago; I was unable to go because of work, and was really jealous because it sounded like a great festival with a lot of fun comedians. And second, I went to Georgetown so I still have a lot of friends who live in the DC area, and I love being able to come back. It’s like being able to go back and sleep with a girlfriend whom things ended amicably with.
When you come back to the area is there anything in particular you like to do?
It’s fun and sort of weird, but I enjoy walking around Georgetown back on campus and just walking down Prospect and Wisconsin. DC has really evolved and become a more lively and interesting place since I was there.
Is there anyone else performing at Bentzen Ball that audiences should be particularly excited about?
Each show has folks that I know, or know of, and love and admire. On my show, there are a lot of funny comedians. Moshe Kasher is a guy I think is super funny and who in the next year or two is really going to pop off in a big way. The Ira Glass show I’m sure is going to be amazing. Each show that I saw lineups for just looked like a show that I would love to watch. And that’s the ideal scenario: that you get to go to these festivals and be surrounded by shows that you’re like, “I want to go see that show—as a fan.”
What’s most fun for you at this point between The League, Kroll Show, and standup?
Honestly, it’s doing all of it. The beauty of doing the kind of stuff I do is that you have the opportunity to do all types of things. I work on [Kroll Show] and it’s very gratifying, the whole process from pre-production to editing. Versus The League, which I get to go in and act on and then kind of walk away from. Versus standup, which I can do when I have free nights, but then go out on the road and travel to fun cities like DC or Austin or Portland. Honestly, the best part is that keeping all the different balls in the air keeps all the different projects fun and interesting. It makes you not get sick of any of them.
You’ve done live performances as different characters a few times in the past. Should DC audiences expect you as you, or maybe as Kroll Show characters Bobby Bottleservice or Fabrice Fabrice?
Usually if I’m part of a larger show I tend to just do standup. I love doing the characters. But now that I’ve got the Kroll Show it’s such a great venue to showcase the characters and to keep that there, and do standup as a separate entity.
How long does it take to develop those characters?
It kind of all depends. Obviously some of the characters on Kroll Show have been around the Web for many years. And then some were developed for the show. There’s this character named Caesar who was brought into season one, and we did it once just for this little bit that we were going to do. Once we edited it, the editors just loved him, and it was like, “All right, let’s keep him.” We wrote more for him for the end of season one, and then for season two we just kept writing. And the most fun thing about Kroll Show is that all the characters continue to evolve.
As for The League, who’s going to win this year?
Great question. I don’t know, to be totally honest with you. We don’t really get told until the episode of. None of us know. I wish I were being sly with you. I just truly don’t know.
I was actually a fantasy football holdout for a long time, and the show finally inspired me to start playing this year.
Well, you’re welcome, and I’m sorry.
Nick Kroll performs in the Stand-Up Showcase on Saturday, October 12, at the Lincoln Theatre; doors open at 6 PM. Tickets ($20) are available via BYT’s website.