Everyone has their favorite conversation starters in social situations, whether it’s “What do you do?,” “Where are you from?,” or “What show did you just binge?” Rob Huebel’s go-to line, however, seems more like a conversation stopper. “Whenever there’s a lull in conversations, and no one else can think of anything else to say, my joke is, ‘Do you want to see a dead body?'” the comedian and actor tells Yahoo Entertainment. That tactic has apparently proved so successful in his personal life that he’s spun it off into a new web series premiering Nov. 21 on YouTube Red.
Each episode of Do You Want to See a Dead Body? finds Huebel hanging out with a celebrity pal like Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, or Danny Pudi and inevitably inviting them to view a corpse. Asked whether the idea for the series (or his original conversation-starting one-liner) was at all inspired by the 1986 body-hunting classic Stand by Me, Huebel indicates that it’s mostly coincidental. “I do love that movie and the idea of having an adventure with your friends,” he says.
And Huebel gets up to some pretty crazy adventures in Do You Want to See a Dead Body? In one episode, he has to rescue John Cho from death by quicksand. In another, he and Alexandra Daddario crawl into the bowels of an airplane — via the in-flight bathroom, no less — to find a dead body. “It’s a little bit like a cartoon, really,” he says of the show’s crazy flights of fancy. “The idea is that everyone is some weirdo version of their real selves. That’s more fun than just going, ‘I’m an actor, and you’re an actor.'”
We spoke with Huebel about his hatred of long lines, filming ugly married sex on Season 4 of Transparent, and our shared awe of Nicolas Cage.
Yahoo Entertainment: One of the recurring gags in Do You Want to See a Dead Body? involves waiting in line. Is that a pet peeve of yours in real life?
Rob Huebel: For sure, that’s something I hate! [Laughs] No, I think that’s just a dumb way to run into someone; people always do that on TV. It’s like, “Here I am on line, and there you are!” It’s an easy starting point. But you’re right, there is a recurring thing of people getting ahead of me in line. Like the episode with Rob Corddry where we’re waiting at the Redbox kiosk. There’s a huge line for this thing and the joke is that they’re all waiting to rent John Wick: Chapter 2.
So do you pull the “Do you want to see a dead body?” joke when you’re waiting in line in real life?
I’ve definitely thrown it out loud enough for other people to hear just to f*** with them and get a reaction. If I see a friend of mine at the grocery store or something, I would definitely throw it out loud enough so that some mom would hear it and freak out. I think that would be pretty funny. [Laughs]
Did you decide on the 15-minute running time for each episode, or was that mandated by YouTube?
We originally made this as a pilot for Comedy Central a year ago, and we did it as a half-hour with two stories back-to-back. When we took a step back to look at it, we realized we could just easily break these up and make them 15 minutes long. And when we sold it to YouTube, that seemed like a better idea. We wanted it to be something totally binge-able. If you were on a train or plane or on the subway going to work, you can power through three or four of them. I didn’t want to make anything that was like, “You have to see this one to get this next one.” I like having stuff that’s totally evergreen and disconnected from each other.
There’s not a lot of pop culture riffing going on in the show. Is that something you wanted to avoid?
Not a lot. We wanted every episode to be totally different and feel totally different. Our main thing too was to write for the guest. Whether it’s Rob Corddry or Judy Greer or Michaela Watkins, we wanted to write specifically for that person. There are certain [pop culture] things, like in our Randall Park episode. He’s trying to solve a mystery that starts off with the body in a giant crater, and it’s a naked man who is totally unhurt. So Randall goes crazy trying to solve the mystery, and it becomes sort of like The X-Files. And there’s a nod to The Sandlot in Corddry’s episode. My friend, Nick Jasenovec, who directed a lot of these, threw that in there because he was obsessed with the baseball scenes. It comes out of nowhere and has no significance, but we put all this weight on it, and it pays off with the dog f***ing everything up.
You had a major storyline on the most recent season of Transparent, where Len joined Sarah and the Pfeffermans in Israel. Did you actually shoot on location?
No, we ended up having to do a lot of L.A. for Israel. I think Gaby Hoffman went over there and shot a bunch of stuff. Originally, the plan was for all of us to go, and then it just got very complicated. I was really looking forward to it, but maybe we’ll get to go again sometime. Like when The Brady Bunch went to Hawaii!
You were part of some risqué sexual sequences this season as well. Was it nerve-racking doing those scenes?
For sure. Amy Landecker is one of my favorite actors in the world, and she’s really good at making everybody else feel comfortable, which is good for those scenes because you’re pretty much naked and it can be very awkward. At the time, my wife and I had just had a baby, so I was getting no sleep at all! All of it was just a total blur to me. One cool thing that Transparent does is manage the set so that there’s nobody on there who doesn’t need to be there, so you feel really protected and safe. I’m mainly disappointed in myself, because I’m in such terrible shape! It’s so gross for me to watch. But the show really embraces the harsh reality of what life is, so I guess I did my part to show the ugly side of married sex, you know. [Laughs]
Since you’re a parent now, has that affected your opinion of the unorthodox way that Len and Sarah approach child-rearing?
There’s a running bit on Transparent that Sarah is this child expert now, because she cooked up this thing called “Kids on Top,” which is this really absurd parenting approach where the gist of it is that you let your kids do whatever they want, and somehow they’re going to learn to be well behaved. It seemed made up to me, but I’m told that it’s a real approach and people actually do this! To me, that’s hilarious because as a new parent, I would never, ever do it. There’s no way! We have a 1-year-old now, and if I let her do whatever she wanted, she’d stick her finger in an electrical socket or swallow butter knives, so that seems like a really foolish approach. But I think they’re going to keep this going next season, with Sarah having a lot of success with her books and website. So I’m eager to see how they write that.
The season ends on a cliffhanger with Len possibly impregnating Alia Shawkat’s character. Can you tease how that’s going to play out?
I’ll say this: I don’t know why they would put that in there if we weren’t going to pay that off in some way. It seems like it would be too disappointing to just say, “Well, she’ll just take Plan B.” So I think we’re going to have to deal with that in some shape or form.
Can you confirm or deny that you’re playing Nicolas Cage in a movie called Action #1?
A friend of mine, Alex Fernie, who directed a lot of Do You Want to See a Dead Body?, also directed this movie. It’s about Nic Cage’s copy of Action Comics No. 1 getting stolen, which happened in real life. As I understand the backstory of the movie, they were going to get Nic Cage to do it, but at the last minute he didn’t want to play himself. So they came up with this genius idea of every time you see Nic Cage in the movie, he’s played by a different actor. So I play Nic Cage, Rob Corddry plays Nic Cage, Missi Pyle plays Nic Cage — I think there are like about 10 different actors that play Nic Cage in the movie. I got to go and do my best Nic Cage impression for a few days. It was a dream come true!
So what makes your version of Cage distinct from the others?
I brought a certain level of Cage Rage. There’s a couple scenes where I do full-on rage mode with Nic Cage freaking out and going off on people. And that is my favorite version of Nic Cage, so to be able to do him not even at level 10, but level 11, is pretty exciting. I don’t know if he’s the best actor in the world, but he’s the best performer in the world. He is so fascinating, thrilling, repulsive, and endearing and incredible to watch.
I got the chance to meet him at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year. He had a cowboy hat on and everything.
Oh, my God, Nic Cage in a cowboy hat. You’re so lucky! That’s the very best Nic Cage. [Laughs]
Do You Want to See a Dead Body? premieres on Nov. 21 on YouTube Red. Transparent is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.