See how far a little bit of encouragement goes? The Actor continued…
Riggle: That was enough to get me thinking that maybe I should give this a shot. That changed the trajectory of my life.
MAN’edged: At that point, you were at a bit of a crossroads?
Riggle: I was in flight school with the Marines down in Corpus Christi Texas. I just finished primary flight training and I was in intermediate flight training. I realized that when I pin those wings on, they would own me for another 8 years. I thought, if I don’t pin the wings on, they would only own me for about 3 more years. If I take the ground officer option, I could still pursue comedy and acting. I could at least give a shot. Kevin said all these things and I trust Kevin.
The well-versed actor then paused in thought before energetically continuing on.
Riggle: I was a theatre and film major in college and I had a dream…a passion for acting and comedy. I was like, yes! I want this more than I want the other. So, I made my decision.
MAN’edged: That phone call seemed to help.
Riggle: It did! It swung the pendulum.
MAN’edged: Is it true that at a certain point your boss ended up moving you to NYC?
Riggle: Yes, this was a bit later after having joined the ground side and was down in North Carolina doing my time. Going to night school. Got my masters.
Riggle: (grinning) it’s a good way to spend your time. Rather than being in the bars (chuckles). You know? It was good, but then I fulfilled my commitment. I was going to move to Chicago and study. My boss at the time asked me what it would take for me to stay in the marines.
Here, Riggle shares that he was hesitant to tell his boss he wanted to be a comedian and actor. He decided to go the route of telling his boss that he had some other plans and dreams. He ended up telling him that if he could move him to New York City or Los Angeles, that he would extend on active duty, not truly thinking he’d actually get transferred.
Riggle: Next morning, I got orders to New York City. He called my bluff. I was like, alright! It was fine with me because I was planning on being a waiter or bartender, ya know? I moved here and was still a Captain, getting paid Captain salary. I did marine corps during the day, but the nights were mine. I was like okay! This will actually work out. That’s what I did. Seven to five every day I was a marine officer. Every night, I would go do comedy. I tried stand up at first. Didn’t like it that much. I found the Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre. [I] went down there and they blew me away. I said, “This is it! This is what I want.” I started studying there and ended up teaching there.
MAN’edged: Did you know that was your goal when you first got to NYC? A lot of people move to a big city and think they just need to start somewhere.
Riggle: You always have to start somewhere. Just start. That’s the hardest part, but no [this wasn’t my goal]. When I quit flight school, I wrote down on the back of a book I was reading…
This is my “Oprah story”.
Riggle: But it’s true! I was a lieutenant in the marines. I knew nobody in show business. I just knew that I wanted to pursue comedy and acting. I wanted to try it because I could live with failure more than not knowing. If I tried comedy or acting and they said, ‘You suck” or I hated it, I would know. That’s clarity! If I never tried it, I would spend my whole life going “I could have done that”. I never wanted to live like that. I had never quit anything before up until this point, so I thought that if I quit, I have to make it count. I wrote what I needed to accomplish. One, I’m going to get on Saturday night live. I thought, “I don’t know how I’m going to do that. I don’t know anybody! I’m a lieutenant on the beach in Corpus Christi Texas. What the fuck do I know about show business?”
I just knew what I wanted to try to do it, so I wrote that down. Ten years later, almost to the day, I got a call from Lauren Michaels to do Saturday night live.
Riggle: Now, it took ten years to make that journey. Multiple states. I had to move multiple times. I had two wars I had to go over and serve in. I had all kinds of things. I got married. Things happen, but I never took my eyes off the prize. I kept most of my efforts geared towards that and I got there. I don’t know how. Just did. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize. That was the goal…Saturday Night Live. I had no idea how I was going to get there or how it was going to happen. I just knew I needed to work towards that. You can’t just leave harbor with no destination or you’re just endlessly in the sea.
MAN’edged: Once SNL ended, you landed another gig with the Daily Show after having already moved your entire family out to the West Coast. Did you rent a little studio apartment via Craigslist?
MAN’edged: Weren’t you afraid of the “crazies”, especially being such a big public name?
Riggle: (laughs) No…not really.
MAN’edged: You had uprooted your family already by this point?
Riggle: Yeah, when I was done with SNL
(he pauses and laughs saying) Riggle: Or, when they were done with me! Whatever you want to say. I moved to LA because that’s where work was. I had family out there. But, as soon as we got all settled in, I got the phone call about the Daily Show out here in New York. We didn’t have the money to come and neither did the show, so it didn’t make sense to move everyone back. So, I looked for a place to sleep and shower. My main focus was working.
MAN’edged: That commute must’ve been a killer!
Riggle: The commute was hard on the family. It was tough and when I did get home, I’d be in class all day. Then I’d have to come home at night and have to study, but then my daughter wanted to play while my wife wanted to have dinner. It was very hard, but no one said this was going to be easy. It was unusual circumstances. About three years into this, I had to go to John Stewart and say I can’t keep doing this. He was the nicest guy in the world. He said he didn’t know how I did this commute this long. At the beginning 2009, I moved back to LA.
MAN’edged: You’re also a dad, right?
Riggle: Yes, I have a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
MAN’edged: What do you hope your kids take away from your experiences and public career?
Riggle: When it comes to kids, it’s all about setting the example. They have to see you setting the example. When they see you helping mom or jumping in without any type of benefit to yourself, it’s the example that sinks in. They can smell a rat. MAN’edged: Do they know that their dad is a hilarious and famous actor/comedian? Riggle: They’re just now becoming aware of it. What happens is, they go to their friend’s house, whose older siblings have seen my movies. They see the movie and then word travels to the little ones that your dad is cursing (chuckles).