In the world of comedy, Craig Robinson is one of the genre’s most eclectic voices. With his unique blend of humor and musicality, the Chicago native is a one-of-a-kind comedic actor on the scene today.
Over the course of his career, Robinson has played several roles on TV including Darryl Philbin on the iconic sitcom The Office for eight seasons, voiced LeVar “Freight Train” Brown on The Cleveland Show, and played Doug “the Pontiac Bandit” Judy on Brooklyn Nine-Nine .
On the big screen, he has appeared in numerous films such as Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Peebles, Hot Tub Time Machine, This Is the End, Get On Up, Dolemite Is My Name, and many more. In 2016, he was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in the film Morris from America.
Robinson’s latest project is a new comedy series on Peacock, Killing It, which is unlike anything he’s ever been in before.
According to the synopsis of the show, Robinson plays a down on his luck, would-be entrepreneur who teams up with his Uber driver (Claudia O’Doherty) to enter a snake-hunting contest so he can win the prize money to launch his business. In this hilarious series, Robinson is taking on one adventure after another in pursuit of his dream and attempting keep restore his family.
“Killing It is about the pursuing American dream and going to whatever links you have to to get it,” Robinson said.
EBONY caught up with Craig Robinson and spoke about his journey as a comedian, his new show Killing It and why using music is an important aspect of his work.
EBONY: One of your greatest attributes as a comedian is how you blend comedy and music. Do you come from a musical family?
Craig Robinson: I come from a very musical family. My household was like a rehearsal studio. We had an organ, pianos, a saxophone, a trumpet, and a clarinet. I’ve tried my hand at most of them but I stuck with the piano.
When you first started as a stand-up comedian, did you incorporate music into your act?
Not at first, but it wasn’t until my fourth time going up to perform that I did. The first time I went up to perform, my cousin that also did comedy put me on the show. I did okay with a couple of jokes. Then, I did an open mic and I didn’t do well at all. I probably shouldn’t have kept doing comedy after that. But there was this place in Chicago called Heckler’s Heaven at the Q Club where they would throw rubber chickens on stage. If you got three rubber chickens during your set, it was over. One time I got two chickens and I was like” I’m out.” The following week, I brought the keyboard up and it was all she wrote. I never looked back.
For three seasons, you’ve hosted Hulu’s Your Attention Please, which highlights numerous Black innovators who are impacting the world. Why is it important for you to give a platform to these creatives?
Brandon Pierce is the head of that and when he brought it to me. I thought was the most beautiful idea because these Black creatives get to shine. People get to know who they are and it’s going to inspire others. You know how it’s said, “If it inspires one?” It’s inspiring more than one because I hear it from people all the time.
Tell us what were your initial thoughts when you came across the concept of Killing It?
So Luke Del Tredici and Dan Goor were writers on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After playing Doug Judy for some time, my manager and I met with Dan Goor. He was like, “I want to be in business with you. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is ending and we want to do something with you.”
So Dan, Luke, my manager, and I began having meetings in Hollywood and they came up with three ideas. One was a music idea, there was another one, and Killing It was the third idea but with a different name originally. When I read that it was about people in Florida who hunt snakes for the government —because drug dealers and whoever else is buying them, let them loose, and now the area is overrun with snakes— I thought that it was weird. I haven’t seen anything like this but I knew some comedy could come out of it and that’s how it happened.
While the show is unlike anything out, the overarching theme is extremely relatable. At the end of the day, Craig is simply trying to raise his daughter and he has a dream about doing something beyond his current situation. Would you say that you saw yourself and your journey in the character?
Yes, sir. You know, the character is relentless in the show. He believes in his dream and he believes in himself but he finds himself at the point of frustration and begins to question himself and that’s exactly what happened to me.
I remember when I was working out on a treadmill or something and I stopped to look at the TV. I said to myself, “Are you trying to fit in that box? What’s wrong with you?” I shook it off and got back on it to try to make it happen in comedy.
Lastly, what do you want viewers to take away from Killing It?
You know, you actually kind of touched on it when you alluded to music and my comedy. Music is my partner and I’ve always had it so there’s a rhythm whenever I do anything, even if it’s not there. But I want people to see me be funny without the keyboard you know?
But what I really want people to take away from Killing It is that you have to be relentless about your dream. You have to go after your dream from the moment you wake up. I’m very happy and I’m really honored to be a part of this man. I think we have something good.