Bryan Cranston Turned to Paul Rudd to Learn How to Be in a Dogshit Comedy
When Paul Rudd returns to Hot Ones, Sean Evans should ask him if it’s flattering or insulting that, the moment Bryan Cranston realized the comedy in which he was cast wasn’t funny, his first thought was, “Paul Rudd will know how to handle this.”
The Malcolm in the Middle star and supposed screenwriter appeared on last week’s episode of Hot Ones where he fearlessly feasted on the fiery flight of hot wings while sharing some revealing stories from a four-decade career in entertainment — specifically, he told a tidbit from his time making the mediocre 2016 comedy Why Him? co-starring James Franco, as if that casting alone wasn’t enough to doom the project. When Cranston received the script for Why Him?, he called Rudd to ask for advice on how to turn an awful script into a passably funny performance.
Cranston described the premise of Why Him? to his host as, “‘Midwestern dad doesn’t like the boyfriend of his cherished daughter.’ That’s it.” In 2023, a film about a father finding out his daughter is dating Franco would be even less funny — it would be a horror film.
“I talked to my publicist, and I said, ‘Is it possible I can get ahold of Paul Rudd?’” Cranston said of his realization that the script Why Him? was as weak as its simple premise. “So, I called Paul, and I said, 'Paul, you’ve worked on these movies before, the script seems just kind of… there. There’s some funny situations and such, but it doesn’t, like, wow.'”
Rudd’s ability to elevate his own performance in an otherwise unremarkable comedy was well-established in films like This is 40 and Wanderlust by the time Cranston realized that Why Him? should have been titled Why Watch? Rudd’s advise to Cranston was simple — improvise. According to Cranston, the Ant-Man star told him, “That’s kind of the nature of this kind of movie. It relies heavily on the ensemble cast to be able to punch it up and just play. So we will shoot scenes as it’s written, and then you go. Then you’re adding lines, and then it’s, ‘How about this?’ And then someone says something and you add on top, and it becomes something completely different.”
Cranston noted that many of his improvised lines did make the final cut of Why Him? but the Rudd-like banter couldn’t save the film from mediocrity. Rudd should have told Cranston that the other key to comedic success is to star in a lot of films written by Judd Apatow.