Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

Nick Kroll’s Walk In the Park

Comics work their whole careers to land their own successful, acclaimed, eponymous Comedy Central sketch show. But after three seasons, and with his show at its creative and commercial peak, Nick Kroll is leaving it all behind for destinations unknown — because he can.

When Nick Kroll starts his Subaru, the sound of his girlfriend’s voice fills the car. It’s instantly recognizable because it happens to be the voice of Amy Poehler — star of Parks and Recreation, co-host of the Golden Globes, feminist idol. Kroll has evidently been playing the audiobook of her recent memoir, Yes Please.

Amy Poehler with Kroll, 2014 John Shearer/Invision for the Television Academy / AP Images

“Well that’s embarrassing,” Kroll flushes, quickly turning it off. “Neither was it a plant nor was I actually listening to it. Not that I haven’t, I just haven’t recently; I was listening to this podcast of This American Life about William Burroughs. This is, like, the only CD I’ve ever had in my car…”

The flush might be from the slight allergic reaction he’d told me about moments ago. Or it’s legitimate embarrassment: Kroll’s comedy hinges on his keen observational skills — his Comedy Central sketch show is essentially a collection of precisely realized satires of social types — and no one, especially himself, is safe from his incisive eye.

It’s a quick drive from Kroll’s house to the trailhead. “Look at that,” he exclaims triumphantly, pulling into the lot. “Shade spot!” He’s dressed in a plain white T-shirt and the sort of minimalist Nike sneakers capable of transitioning into casual cool-guy wear. “Hiking continues to be a very useful tool for me in a lot of ways,” he explains as we set off. He walks with a slightly splayed foot that, especially in shorts, makes the 36-year-old seem endearingly boyish. “We drove five minutes, and we’re not on a mountain hike, but we’re climbing a hill amongst nature.”

Earlier this year, Kroll unexpectedly announced that he was ending Kroll Show after its third season, explaining that a number of characters’ arcs had been brought “to their natural conclusion.” At the same time, The League, the FX comedy on which Kroll has played ultimate asshole Rodney Ruxin for the last six years, is also wrapping its final season. He has a smattering of acting and voice roles lined up over the next two years: a small part in the next Terrence Malick film that, like any part in a Terrence Malick film, may end up on the cutting room floor, but also a supporting role in the National Lampoon’s Vacation reboot. And then there’s the darling low-budget dramedy Adult Beginners — with Kroll as a selfish douche turned decent nanny — which he developed and produced and will hit theaters in April.

But mostly, Kroll has made a conscious decision to take stock before moving forward: a rare gift in the current world of celebrity and its vortex of brand management. It’s one of many instances of relative ease that characterize Kroll’s childhood and present — instances that have coalesced into a palpable ease: about his life, his career, his future.

“There’s another hike that I do near my place that has the 5 in the distance,” he says. “I like seeing the functions of humanity while I’m escaping it.”

On his show, in his stand-up, and in the press, Kroll has proven himself to be incredibly industrious and wickedly intelligent. But he also seems to operate without the existential fear of eventual destitution and ruin that animates many comedians. The lack of angst, the absence of neuroses, the freedom from financial concerns — he could’ve been precisely the sort of “Rich Dick” he satirizes so unmercilessly on the show.

Instead, he’s become analytical, charismatic, incredibly likable: Rather than curdling his ambition, comfort seems to have expanded his capacity for self-critique. For most comedians, this moment between major projects would be pivotal, overdetermined with potential and meaning. Most would cling to the opportunity to star in and design a show with their own name in the title — a show that’s pushed the boundaries of the form to tremendous acclaim.

But Nick Kroll is walking away.

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

It’s February in Los Angeles and 85 degrees, so as we wind up through the exposed, dusty trails, Kroll is sweating; I’m sweating; everyone we pass is sweating. Kroll grew up in Westchester County, New York, an area redolent with Waspishness, wealth, and potential douchery. Kroll’s family weren’t WASPs — Seth Rogen has said that Kroll “has the scary Jewish face Mel Gibson runs from in his dreams every night” — but he went to all the right and best schools, not because he was a model student, but because, as he explains, his sisters had been “smart, and good, and involved with the community,” and paved the way for him.

Kroll wouldn’t start his biography, or his Wikipedia page, that way: “Wikipedia is a strange thing,” he says. “Whoever gets there first, you know, they decide. Like the picture: You can’t choose it! You can’t be like, ‘You know, I hate that picture of me doing stand-up from 2005 — that doesn’t exemplify who I am.’ You take it down, and someone puts it back up. Or, you know, my page starts with ‘Nick Kroll grew up Jewish in Westchester County.’ Now, I openly admit and understand that that’s an aspect of my personality, but it’s not the central theme of my existence.”

Nor, to Kroll’s mind, was his father’s profession. Jules Kroll started the securities investigations firm Kroll Inc. in 1972. Over the course of Nick’s life, the firm earned renown as “Wall Street’s Private Eye,” entrusted with everything from vetting potential investors to tracking down Saddam Hussein’s hidden assets. But apart from some police posted at his house during the height of the Hussein investigation (and his family’s expanding wealth), Kroll says his father’s work rarely affected his life. He was an average student, developed a reputation as the funny kid, and spent hours re-creating Wayne’s World bits.

After we scramble up a bald, steep patch of dirt, Griffith Observatory appears before us, a marvel of art deco and lush greenery against the potato-soup backdrop of smogged-in Los Angeles. “It’s particularly bad today,” Kroll remarks, and walks me around to the other edge of the grounds. He points to the far distance where, if you squint and move a few land masses, you could almost see Ojai — which, in his words, “feels like a real mountain town.”

Kroll’s long been drawn to that feeling: During his junior year in high school, he spent a semester at The Mountain School, a program where 45 students from across the country come together, run a farm, and go full Vermont hippie. He spent four days out on a “solo,” reading The Dharma Bums and coming to love the rhythms of hiking. Back in Rye, New York, for his senior year at prep school, he was elected as a graduation speaker (“not because I was valedictorian”). Instead of giving the joke-studded speech his peers expected, he called out the administration for its suspension of a kid who stood up to a “gang” of Jewish kids who drove Ford Explorers and called themselves the Vatos Locos (a name that reappears in a Season 4 episode of The League affixed to a group of washed-up bullies who revel in their most disgusting selves).

But then it was back to the mountains, this time in DuBois, Wyoming — a town with a single street on the Wind River, its general store filled with postcards of jackalopes. His first summer, Kroll worked in a restaurant, living in the Whistling Winds Mobile Village “next to a guy who powered his television from his truck” and drinking underage at the local bar. After a year at Georgetown, he returned for a summer in a ranch kitchen, working the same 5 a.m.-wakeup, barely skimming, minimum-wage job.

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

“There’s very few public places in L.A. where people are just existing together,” he says as we decide on a path back down — something, he adds, that he misses about New York. A young woman approaches, and for a second, I think she’s going to ask for a selfie with Kroll, but she’s just flustered and lost: The trails of Griffith Park are complicated, and she has no idea how to make her way down. Kroll walks her through three different scenarios, and after several minutes, they settle on a route that’ll return her home.

Kroll readily concedes the advantages his upbringing afforded him — his admittance to Georgetown, for example, was because “[his] dad was on the board of the law school”; his family’s prominence and fortune continued to expand until, in 2004, Kroll Inc. was acquired for $1.9 billion. His comedy success, though, was of his own making. “The one thing,” he says, not a hint of sarcasm in his voice, “I’ve done completely on my own.”

During his freshman year, Kroll tried stand-up for a “Funniest Act on Campus” show and bombed hard. But Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk With Me) saw something like potential and asked him to audition for the campus improv group, which came to define his college experience. After graduating in 2001, he made a home in the New York comedy scene, paying rent by teaching improv at an after-school program. He booked commercials — he has a great radio voice — and got a choice gig playing Andy Roddick’s “mojo” in a series of American Express commercials meant to promote Roddick’s near-certain triumph in the U.S. Open, only to see Roddick lose in the first match. He performed regularly at Rififi in the East Village, where he ran in the same circles as Jenny Slate, Chelsea Peretti, Jon Daly, and John Mulaney (all of whom would later star in his show) and put in time with Upright Citizens Brigade.

Cavemen ABC Studios

Kroll’s break came in 2007, when he moved to Los Angeles for pilot season to star in the ABC series Cavemen, based on the Geico commercials. The show lasted only seven episodes; in full caveman makeup, Kroll is nearly unrecognizable. Still, he credits it as “the most important experience of my professional career” and refuses to ridicule it. During those early Hollywood months, there was no condo purchased by his parents, no bankroll for his own production company. He lived in the Oakwood Apartments, famous as the sad, pre-furnished home to the seasonal hopes and dreams that migrate west every pilot season. Only a couple years later, in 2009, he landed his supporting role on The League.

As we start our gradual shuffle down from the observatory, I ask whether someone who hadn’t grown up struggling — for money, for comfort, for success — could succeed in the comedy world. He turns suddenly serious: “I mean, look, we all suffer in our own way; like, life is miserable. And I’m not, ‘Oh, I’m a stand-up who’s sad,’ but the reality is that just about everyone is quietly unhappy. I don’t think that pertains to comedians specifically. I think most people look at themselves in the mirror and are not happy with what they see.”

And yet Kroll hasn’t really been scrutinized for his status in the way someone like Lena Dunham has been. As for the stray allegations sprinkled across internet comment sections claiming Jules Kroll wielded his influence to advance his son’s career, Kroll’s rebuttal is characteristically frank: “My father has not paid for my show to be on Comedy Central,” he says. “Although it would’ve been so fucking chill if he did.”

Even Marc Maron, who’s often flummoxed by comics who’ve taken a path to success less fraught than his own, accepted the story of Kroll’s self-described “easy ride” in stride during their 2009 WTF podcast interview. Perhaps (probably) it’s because Kroll’s a guy, and well-ensconced within the protective armor of the comedy nerd fandom. Or maybe it’s because, unlike Dunham, it’s impossible to mistake Kroll’s characters, which at first punctuated and then gradually consumed his stand-up, for Kroll himself.

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

In his 2011 Comedy Central hour-long stand-up special Thank You Very Cool, these characters each show up for between two and 20 minutes. There’s Bobby Bottleservice, a Jersey Shore knockoff with a made-up language of superlatives. There’s craft-services worker Fabrice Fabrice, whose sexuality remains dubious, and there’s Latino shock jock El Chupacabra — all whirling dervishes of performative masculinity. Their energy is so intense that when Kroll returns to the stage not in character, a visceral mix of relief and disappointment seems to wash over the audience. He effectively steals the show from himself.

While the Bottleservice, Fabrice, and El Chupacabra characters made guest appearances on podcasts and Comedy Bang Bang, the “Rich Dicks” — a collaboration with fellow Rififi alum Jon Daly — carved a presence on Funny or Die. The sketches skewer The Hills-style reality opulence that came to dominate cable television in the late 2000s. Wendall “Wendy” Shawn IV (Daly) and Aspen Bruckenheimer (Kroll) spend their days sexting celebutantes, snorting “schneef,” and making statements like “I hope this is, like, a white-person Kanye concert not, like, a black-person Kanye concert.”

Rich Dicks: Kroll and Jon Daly as Aspen Bruckenheimer and Wendy Comedy Central

When Kroll first started talks with Comedy Central about a potential show, it was for an expanded version of “Rich Dicks.” But the network wanted something broader, and Kroll set to work with “Dicks” director Jonathan Krisel to develop a sketch pilot that would unite, however tenuously, his various characters. According to Krisel, the original plan was to call it Nick Show Kroll — a name that would crystallize the sketch’s absurdist humor. But Krisel, who had previously worked on Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job, was tired of explaining bizarre titles, “so we just sorta ended on Kroll Show.”

PubLizity: Kroll as Big Liz and Jenny Slate as Pretty Liz Greg Gayne / Comedy Central

For the show, Kroll expanded existing characters (Bottleservice, the Rich Dicks, and Oh Hello, a bit with two Woody Allen-esque elderly leches he’d performed with John Mulaney since his time in New York) and developed new scenarios rooted in reality satire. There’s PubLizity, a takeoff on E! workplace reality programs, with Kroll and Jenny Slate as publicists Big Liz and Pretty Liz, respectively. There’s Wheels Ontario, a spin on the Canadian teen melodrama Degrassi, but with wheelchairs. There’s C-Czar’s Palace, a VH1-style reality show following the numbskullery of 17-year-old C-Czar, a punk kid with an infected lip ring, a lisp, a general disregard for civility, and a deep inner sadness.

Kroll says his goal for the show “was to make stuff that’s funny to us, that would help me work down the line with people I respect: Seth Rogen, or Craig Robinson, or Bill Burr — I want Bill Burr to think I’m funny.” According to editor and director Daniel Gray, they aimed for a mix of “the lowest of the lowbrow — just complete garbage,” and “the complete highbrow.” Watching the show is like channel-surfing, but also a commentary on that experience. It’s dizzying and hilarious and incites a sort of semi-nauseous glee.

Dr. Armond Danny Feld / Comedy Central

Sketches bash into each other; characters spill over from one to the next. A client on PubLizity, Dr. Armond, “California’s premier pet plastic surgeon,” becomes the star of his own show, Armond of the House, which, over the course of the season, becomes Armond About Town, and then Armond of the House Arrest after he’s suspected of murdering the Botox-filled wife he acquired after one dinner date.

Bobby Bottleservice and Jason Mantzoukas as Eagle Wing Jesse Grant / Comedy Central

Each character is placed in a fully realized replication of a particular television aesthetic, with the crew carefully studying everything from shooting locations to camera speed. For Dr. Armond’s trial, they slowed down the shooting speed to mimic the feel of CourtTV. For the recurring Toilet Dad bits featuring C-Czar and Pretty Liz’s attempt to parent a child, they exchanged industry-standard digital RED cameras for outdated HPX ones to more precisely evoke the cheap, grainy look of MTV’s Teen Mom. For Gigolo House, a reality competition show featuring Bobby Bottleservice and his guidette love interest Farley, played by Chelsea Peretti, they scouted the San Fernando Valley for the perfect “reality house” — exposed staircase, marble floors, incredible lighting.

“I can take credit for wanting certain things to look the right way,” Kroll says as we near the bottom of the trail, “but our editors, who are now our directors, and everybody involved is so fucking on point with all of the aesthetics.” At this point he’s speaking at a sprint, an excited kid. “Dan Longino is one of our editors, and his brother is an editor at Bad Girls Club, so they’re sharing secrets, like, ‘How would Bad Girls Club deal with this fight?’ Sound effects. So that’s what we use with someone like Armond, who is so expressionless and doesn’t modulate his voice, to keep it exciting. So once I saw that they were adding sound effects to Armond, that started to inform my performance, so that Armond started to pantomime the little bird flutter sound they were going to add.”

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Comedian Paul F. Tompkins has described the unifying theme of Kroll’s raft of personalities as “people who take themselves very seriously” and “assume the rest of the world thinks they’re great.” Bobby Bottleservice, the PubLizity Lizes, C-Zar, and the Rich Dicks are united by a belief in their own self-righteousness — a bravado that reality TV encourages and rewards.

Oh Hello: Kroll and John Mulaney as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland Comedy Central

Kroll often tells the story of the day he and Mulaney saw the two men on whom Oh, Hello is based: They were buying an Alan Alda biography at a bookstore in Manhattan, and the backstory of their particular type — Upper West Side divorcees “who are liberal, because they’re New York, but they’re also racists” — quickly animated itself. As Kroll told Tompkins, “There’s a certain hypocrisy to these kind of people who think that their world is entitled, or that they have a great sense of things, but the meekest observation shows that to be false.”

In its original Funny or Die form, Rich Dicks just expanded a collection of anecdotes about “real or aspiring rich dicks, which are usually worse” that Kroll and Daly had either heard or witnessed. These “crazy, moneyed, hollow ghosts of the yacht lifestyle,” as Daly describes them, used to be largely invisible; reality TV and the internet — and Instagram in particular — illuminated the dark corners of “the worst people in America, the ones who float on a cloud of luxury through life.”

Fabrice Fabrice Mike Yarish / Comedy Central

Kroll also uses his humor to reproduce and comment on worlds with which he is only marginally familiar: Pennsylvania pawnshop owners, for example, or disabled Canadian teenagers. He’s been repeatedly questioned about the fraught politics of playing characters of different races; his defense is that “as long as it’s not an easy, outdated stereotype and it comes from an interesting or emotionally driven place, then anyone can be made fun of.” Still, Kroll is wary of being accused of blackface (or “womanface”) and admits that they’ve been hesitant, as a writing staff, to take on black characters, which might explain the spare appearances of Fabrice Fabrice, whom Kroll has called “possibly Blatino.”

Working in his favor is the fullness with which he embodies these personas. “The show has always pushed for having a full 360-degree experience with each character,” Daly explains. “So someone like Bobby Bottleservice might have five or six catchphrases, but he also really loves his mom and burns for Farley.” According to Krisel, Kroll rarely writes specific dialogue; he’s able to improvise so effortlessly because he’s “so grounded in the characters, and he renders them so well — in part because he loves them.” The internal conflicts and existential sadness of each character is real, if cloaked: “Even the Rich Dicks,” Krisel adds, “are so lonely and vulnerable.”

“Nick and I aren’t interested in a blanket way of making fun of groups of people,” says Jenny Slate. She sees the show as a way to “take things that are defined as garbage,” replicate their aesthetics, form, and production values, and turn them into something else entirely. In this way, Kroll “gives you another option” when it comes to watching the content that dominates television: “It shows you the points of pleasure and joy in what seems like a joyless system. That’s what’s so avant-garde about Nick.”

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

Beneath the live oaks at the bottom of Griffith Park, there’s a dark-wooded, old-school snack shack that feels like it’s been plucked out of a ‘70s Adirondacks resort. We’ve been hiking for a good 90 minutes with only a bottle of water, and Kroll makes a beeline for the ordering window, where two teenage girls are harvesting their tips from a Mason jar. Kroll scans the menu and starts chanting, “Y’all got that pie, gotta have that pieeeeeee.”

Kroll stuffs a $5 bill into the jar and scans the surrounding picnic tables, half of which are occupied with hikers in various states of occupied conversation. Kroll bypasses a few obvious choices, pauses, scans again, and apologizes: He’s just trying to find the place farthest from everyone else. No one’s recognized him or approached him yet, but he’s still wary of being overheard.

Most dudes of a certain age, especially the type of dude whose media diet consists mostly of sports and Comedy Central, know exactly who he is. But his stardom remains niche: He’s less famous than many of the reality-star characters he indirectly lampoons.

Kroll is conflicted about this. When I call him a “demi-star,” he chuckles and asks, “Is that what I am?”

“It’s constant combinations of things,” he explains, forking the enormous slice of pie — vegan strawberry-rhubarb, with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. We discuss an academic theory of stardom — that to be an Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt/Reese Witherspoon type of star, you have to have a “textual” persona (the way your characters all seem on-screen) and an “extra-textual” (real life) one that seem to complement each other. Celebrity analysis comes easily to Kroll, even as he insists, “I don’t particularly like talking about other people’s careers.” We set off on trip two into the park as a busload of teen girls rolls by.

“Take Chris Pratt versus Michael Cera,” Kroll riffs. “Michael Cera was, like, the nerd king of 2008; he could be the star of any movie he wanted, and he dips out and quote-unquote makes the wrong choices, or nerd culture doesn’t actually translate that easily into who [people] want as their central protagonist, and then you’ve got Chris Pratt, who’s like a hulking American man, who’s sweet and funny and charming.” As Kroll continues, “You could argue that some version of that is that Cera, at the end of the Bush administration, is someone you want to root for, this little hipster; whereas now, coming to the end of the Obama administration, everyone’s thirsty for a red-blooded American male.”

Could we ever be thirsty for Kroll? Would Kroll ever want us to be? The closest he has to a textual persona is Ruxin on The League, but his Kroll characters disassemble any sense of coherency. And all those seem a far cry from Kroll’s real-life image, at least as gleaned through Poehler’s description: “I have a boyfriend who knows how to settle me,” she writes in Yes Please. “He puts his hand on my chest and tells me boring stories. On one of our first nights together I woke up apologizing for my snoring and he pulled out his two earplugs he had worn to bed so he could hear what I was saying. It was one of the most romantic gestures I have ever seen.”

But that incoherency is part of Kroll’s implicit goal. Unlike a comic like Louis CK, “I’ve ended up doing a lot of characters partly because I’m like, what level do I want to talk about my personal life? I won’t share everything, both in my act or in interviews. Some of the people who become the most famous are the most self-revelatory, and I’m like, no, it’s just not worth it to me.”

By the time we make it back down from the second trip up the hill, Kroll is hungry or antsy or both, so we get back in his Subaru and drive into Los Feliz. The conversation winds toward a recent trip to Mexico “with my family and girlfriend,” after which he took four days to go to Mexico City on his own.

“I was like, I just want to go remember what it was like to be on my own and also — this sounds cheesy — not at all famous.” So he arrived in Mexico City, where he serendipitously ran into a woman who once lived down the street from him. “I was glad because we hung out and went to museums together,” Kroll says. “I ended up hating being alone-alone. I was reading The Goldfinch, and it’s about an orphan, alone in the world, and I had a very visceral experience. I was in a cold, rainy, largely outdoor hotel with nothing to do, and reading my book alone at dinner, and I was like, I feel it.”

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

Which isn’t to say that Kroll wants to jump back on the grueling touring and production schedule that filled his last five years. “If you talk to most ambitious people, people who are high achievers, they’re rarely at peace with what they’re doing because they need an engine to keep moving,” he tells me. “But people also get really famous and really rich and they realize how fucking meaningless and worthless they are. It’s a very healthy thing to remember that it’s all nothing.”

In the thick of Kroll Show and The League, he decided “it was the time in my career where I’m supposed to think of movies to make.” He came up with an idea centered on a douchey, self-centered tech bro who loses everything and is forced to move in with his sister and take care of her 3-year-old son. He went to Mark Duplass — “the guy if you want to make a movie like this” — whose trailer was just next door. Then he spent three years finding Jeff Cox and Liz Flahive, a husband-wife scriptwriter team to nail the complexities of early parenthood, casting real-life couple Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, gathering a bunch of his comedy friends for bit parts, and learning to act, quite convincingly, in a straight dramatic role.

“It wasn’t like other people were knocking down my door for these sorts of parts,” he says. “You make this movie to show people what you think you can do, so that maybe then they’ll let you do it for them.” That’s what Kroll ultimately wants in this post-Kroll Show landscape: “I see Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell, they get to make their own movies, be in other people’s movies, but they’re also producers — in film, on television, online. I’ve seen what Amy’s doing with her producing, and what Tina [Fey]’s doing, and I’m really impressed. That’s the beauty of comedy: the writing, the collaborating, but you also get to help really funny, talented people go and make their art.”

Kroll drives us to a Los Feliz juice bar replete with light and enthusiastic employees offering samples of something mysterious and filled with acai. Kroll decides on a green drink with an ingredient list that encompasses the totality of the produce section.

When all 24 ounces of it, hulking and baby-diarrhea green, pops up on the counter five minutes later, Kroll giggles.

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

The next night, Friday, Nick Kroll performs a stand-up set at Largo, a stubbornly unfancy club just blocks from the Kardashians’ Dash store on Melrose Avenue. Kroll is headlining and the show is sold out, but tonight Kroll won’t be playing any of the characters that ostensibly packed the club. Those men (and one glorious woman), like the Kroll Show, have been put away. For this set, there’s no makeup, padding, or costumes. Just Kroll.

But unlike his 2011 special, when every bit of Kroll-as-Kroll seemed to wilt in contrast with his alter egos, this Kroll is all confidence. His question of “Ladies, how do we feel about the beard?” is met with wild screaming. In a green army coat and the sort of expansive man-jeans that do wonders, he looks svelte, hot, maybe even leading man. (Daly: “Nick Kroll is gorgeous, and his beard is the frosting on the cake of a beautifully styled man.”)

Our hike has given him a slight tan; he sips a tall glass of white wine, makes fun of himself for it, and seems preternaturally rested as he proceeds to slaughter his 20-minute set of practiced bits (“One of the things I’ve been doing recently is making up facts about animals”) and impromptu interaction with members of the crowd. The day before, he had told me, “For the first time in three years, stand-up is kind of exciting again,” and that is evident.

The comedic climax involves an elaborate bit comparing burger joints to types of women: “McDonald’s is the desperate girlfriend, In-N-Out Burger is the cool chick, Carl’s Jr. is like, ‘FUCK ME.’” McDonald’s only salvation, Kroll explains, is the elusive McRib, “which is like the Dylan McKay or Chad Michael Murray of sandwiches: ‘I don’t know if I can love you, I don’t even have ribs!’”

During the show, I sit in front of a pair of middingly handsome men paired with romper-and-heels dates; halfway through, one gets up and comes back squealing, “I SAW AMY POEHLER IN THE BATHROOM, OH MY GOD.” They’re clearly there for Kroll — I was ahead of them in line to get in, and they were doing excellent PubLizity impersonations — but a Poehler sighting is a true prize.

Backstage afterward, Kroll remains the calming, affable presence that Poehler describes and I observed the day before. He gives me a hug, introduces me to a cluster of Poehler’s visiting friends. “Can I get anyone something to drink?” he asks the group. “What time do you fly back?” he asks one guest. “What have you guys been doing in L.A.? Griffith Park, that’s a must.”

I tell the group how many steps Kroll and I took the day before (I’d tracked them on my phone): 14,997. Poehler teases him for dragging me so many miles, but Kroll has no shame: “I did it again today, to clear my head,” he explains. “This time, instead of pie, I had a grilled cheese.”

As I walk to the parking garage, a carful of rich dicks drives by in a white BMW. “Sup?” one shouts from the backseat before they disappear onto La Cienega Boulevard.

Photograph by Ramona Rosales for BuzzFeed News

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A previous version of this story stated that Kroll is shooting Vacation in Ojai; it’s something else, he won’t tell us what.

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Anne Helen Petersen is a senior culture writer for BuzzFeed News. Petersen has a Ph.D. from the University Of Texas and wrote her dissertation on the gossip industry.
Contact Anne Helen Petersen at anne.helen.petersen@buzzfeed.com.

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