Rob Riggle: A funny, flying, jet-skiing life

My Television Critics Association has wrapped up now, after 18 busy days of interviews. The stories, however, will go on semi-forever. Mostly, I wait until shortly before a show is coming on; here's one I sent to papers, keyed to Aug. 23:

By Mike Hughes

world rarely gives us funny pilots or clever military officers.

When we hear “This
is your captain,” we don't expect levity. That may be just as well.

But Rob Riggle
provides an exception. “I always wanted to fly,” he said, but he
also grew up on Bill Murray movies -- “Stripes,” “Caddyshack”
and “Ghostbusters.” He eventually straddled both; he's:

-- Done a little
flying, privately. He left the Navy's flight school, but is now a
retired lieutenant colonel with 23 years in the Marines Corps

-- Done a lot of
comedy. That's ranged from “The Daily Show” to the new “Ski
Master Academy.”

Ski master? “I
just always thought it would be funny to have a jet ski academy,”
he said.

So he assembled his
comedy friends, some obscure and some not. Paul Scheer, from “Human
Giant” and “The League,” is there; so is Eliza Coupe, the
former “Happy Endings” and “Scrubs” star.

She's juggling two
series: On “Future Man,” she's a superhero; in this one, she's a
townie called Preggo.

“My (character's)
mother got the name when she was pregnant with me,” Coupe
semi-explained. “They call me Preggo, too, even though I'm not

Her role requires
what Riggle calls “a big, Dogpatch accent.” That may seem like a
stretch for a college grad from New Hampshire, but Coupe said she
savors big characters. “I did a one-person show, to show what I can
do .... I don't like to do boring characters.”

That show won her
the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival award for break-out performer and
put her alongside other comedy souls, including Riggle.

He grew up in
Kansas, the son of an insurance guy. Riggle was a frat guy at the
University of Kansas and added a Master of Public Administration
degree from Webster University.

He was still in
college when he got his pilot's license. He thought about being a
pilot in the military, but ended up as a public affairs officer in
Albania, Afghanistan, Liberia, Kosovo and New York.

The military people
rarely saw his comedy side, he said ... but the comedy people often
heard about his military side. On “The Daily Show,” he was, among
other things, the “military analyst.”

And yes, he said,
one world feeds the other. “Arrogance is wonderful to see in
athletes or the military.”

So he plays a guy
who buys a jet-ski academy to break out of a mid-life crisis. It's an
iffy dream, approached with ample arrogance.

-- “Ski Master
Academy.” debuts Aug. 23 on Crackle, an ad-supported streaming

-- See