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Q&A: Ken Marino Talks 'Wet Hot' Prequel, 'The State' Reunion and 'Burning Love'

'In our hearts we would all love to do' a reunion, he says

Ken Marino
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
October 19, 2012 1:00 PM ET

Over the past couple of years comedian Ken Marino has worked on everything from Party Down to Wanderlust to his own web series Burning Love, a hysterical spoof of The Bachelor and other dating shows. But to comedy fans of a certain age he'll always be thought of as Louie, an obnoxious character on The State who endlessly repeated the catchphrase "I wanna dip my balls in it."

We spoke to Marino about the changing comedy landscape, the possibility of a prequel to Wet Hot American Summer and what future projects (if any) The State has in store. 

What are you doing right now?
I'm calling from a room in my home and I'm eating some almond butter and honey.

What project are you working on at the moment?
I'm shooting a movie with the Duplass Brothers called Milo. It's about a monster that comes out of my ass and kills people.

Wow. I feel like I've seen you in a lot more projects during the past couple of years than any other time period during your whole career.
I've been working pretty consistently since I came out here to Los Angeles many, many years ago, but I think the things I happen to be working on are airing a little bit more, and the projects are a little cooler.

How do you think the Internet has changed your career?
I don't think it's changed my career much, but it certainly helped with Burning Love. It gave us an opportunity to shoot this whole thing we thought would be funny. I think we would have had a harder time getting something like this done on TV. We were able to shoot a whole season of the show under the radar and have complete creative control over it. That was exciting. I'm OK to live or die by something like that.

You've worked on some sitcoms for the big networks. That must have been a pain in the ass at times.
Well, they're not. Each one . . . sorry, sometimes I'm going to hesitate because almond butter is a little hard to swallow without anything around it. But I am hungry. Anyway, any project anywhere is different. Working on a sitcom for TV has pluses and negatives. But I certainly don't want to bash that process. It's a great way to make something, though it is harder when there are a lot more people and a lot more money involved in it. Sometimes there are just too many people waiting on different things, but sometimes it falls in place and the show is terrific.

It's interesting to think about how many more outlets there are for comedians now as compared to when you started your career.
It's unbelievable. I was just talking about that to somebody a day ago. In the mid-Nineties we shot The State in front of a live audience, and then we went out and did remote pieces with David Wain's video camera. Basically, we were shooting YouTube videos, web content, before there was a web. So we were kind of practicing doing that, without even realizing it. This kind of guerrilla short-format comedy is now very popular.

If you look back now, it's pretty unreal you landed a sketch series on MTV when you were all right out of college.
Back then, I didn't think about that. I was like, "Oh, we word hark and we're committed, and we think we have a funny voice. Great, we have a show. That's exactly what's supposed to be happening." But 18 or so years later, it's crazy to think we got that show right out of college on a network a lot of young people were watching, so we were able to kinda get into their heads. 

Definitely. To people my age, no matter how much you've done since, we'll always think about Louie from The State. Do you hear that often?
People still come up and say that, which is crazy, to think that people remember that stupid, ridiculous character that I love. It's ridiculous. The whole idea of that character was to create something that was a "fuck you" to recurring characters. We were like, "We're not gonna do that! That's the easy way, but we're not gonna do that!" But we wound up doing that anyway, so Louie was created as a one-off recurring character, but we wound up doing him five or six times. People still come up to me and say "Louie!" I love it.

I've been reading about a possible prequel to Wet Hot American Summer for years. Is that being discussed in a serious way?
I know they're talking about it. David just wrapped a movie that they wrote in hopes of getting it done after Wet Hot. But Wet Hot wasn't a financial success out of the gate. It sort of became a cult thing. I do know they're working on a prequel. I don't know how far they are into it.

Would you want to do it?
Me? Oh, hell yeah. I've worked with David and Mike [Showalter], and those are the guys I wanna work with forever.

Do you think playing a teenage camp counselor in your 40s will seem ridiculous, or somehow even funnier?
I think it's pretty ridiculous and funny. 

Do you think a project featuring all of The State is possible at some point in the future?
We always talk about it, but I think the only way for that to happen is for one of us to write something and invite everyone else in. There are 11 of us, and everyone's working on different things. We're all busy. Wanderlust had four-five members, and The Ten had every member in it in some way or another. But to do a Monty Python-type movie, I don't know. I hope that happens at some point, but the clocks starts ticking.

Do you think a stage tour would be possible at some point?
Yeah, that would be great, too. But it's 11 people. It's a lot of people. I would love for that to happen, but a lot of different schedules need to line up. But you know, I think in our hearts we would all love to do it. It's just a question of timing.

Are you shooting more Childrens Hospital soon?
Yeah. We just premiered season four on August 9th. We're getting back into breaking some new stories, new shows, and then we're going to shoot the new season in December.

Nice. I'm surprised it's lasted this long. Usually things like that come and go pretty quickly.
I think one of the reasons they keep asking us back, and we keep doing it, is that it's fun and easy to do. We shoot it in a really short amount of time. We shoot over the course of December into January, which is when there's nothing going on in this town. It's just a fun project for us. We all enjoy working together. It's like a holiday Christmas treat.

It's nice that you get to juggle movies, TV and web shows like that. It's gotta be great to flex all those muscles at once.
Yeah. There's so many different venues to work in, and I'm lucky enough to have the opportunity to work in them from time to time. If I can step outside myself, which I tend not to do, I value it and appreciate it. I feel lucky. 

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