These days, you might know Scott Adsit best as overworked and under-appreciated producer Pete Hornberger on NBC's “30 Rock,” but, if you're old enough (or just a nerd about these things), you may also remember him from his days performing in iconic mid-’90s Second City shows like “Pinata Full of Bees” and “Paradigm Lost.” We caught up with Adsit during his break from “30 Rock” to reminisce about his days in Chicago, get his thoughts on “30 Rock” and Pete Hornberger's final season and talk about pizza.
You're on off-time with “30 Rock” right now. What are your summer plans? What are you up to?
I'm working on an Adult Swim show called “Moral Orel,” which I did for three years a while ago. We're doing a special now. And we just finished wrapping picture on that, and I'm working on music and sound effects now. Do you know Moral Orel?
Yeah, it's like claymation?
And it was on Adult Swim but it got cancelled, right?
It got cancelled, yeah. It turned into a drama, so they took it off the air. But they still liked it, and three or four years later now they've asked for a special, so we've just finished that.
And where are you working on that? In LA? New York?
Yeah, it's happening at Starburns Industries, a studio in LA. My partner is the guy who plays Starburns on Community.
How did you guys meet?
We met in college. I think in a comedy class. At Columbia, in Chicago. We've known each other since like ’86.
You're from the Chicago area originally, right?
When did you decide you wanted to do comedy? How did you get involved in stuff here in Chicago?
Well I did a lot of theater in high school, and then when I went to college, I went to a liberal arts college in Indiana. But only for a semester because I didn't find anything I was interested in there. So I quit there and I went to Columbia to be a filmmaker, which I'd been dabbling in in high school. And I spent a year or two in the film program at Columbia. And then just to [laughing] stay happy I took some acting classes. Eventually the acting took over from the filmmaking, and I left one department and majored in the other. So I stayed in the theater department and did a lot of plays there. And that got me hooked up with Second City because there were a lot of teachers at Columbia who also taught at Second City. I had seen Second City as a kid and seen just amazing stuff onstage, from like George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky, Mary Gross, people like that, and they really inspired me. I never planned to be a comedian. I don't consider myself one now. But I started making money – being funny, I guess, at Second City.
So do you consider yourself an actor more than a comedian?
Yeah, hopefully I'm an actor who can do whatever's needed. But it's just been a lot of comedy because it's the focus at Second City and that's where I kind of began to get noticed. People just associate me with comedy – not that I mind. I don't mind that at all.
What are some serious roles you've done?
I did a movie a little while ago called “The Music Never Stops.” I played a neurosurgeon who has to explain the news that this kid has a brain tumor and what it's doing to him. That was withJ.K. Simmons.
What about in Chicago? Did you ever do some, like, really arty, pretentious plays while you were in Chicago?
Yeah, it was all before Second City though because Second City took up all my time. But I did a staged version of the Hollywood Ten Trial, the McCarthy hearings, called “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been.” That was very serious and a little pretentious. But it was directed by Anna Shapiro, who's at Steppenwolf. And what else? I did “Three Sisters” and “The Homecoming.”
So you went into comedy at Second City. How long were you there before you were performing mainstage shows?
Let me see. I got hired for Touring Company in, like, '87? And I took some time off and I did “The Homecoming.” I understudied “The Homecoming” at Steppenwolf. And then when I came back to Second City I did the Tour Company for like a year-and-a half or so. So I toured for like two years, and then I did the full ladder. I did Northwest, which doesn't exist anymore, in Rolling Meadows. Did a show there. And then I did three E.T.C.s, and I did four Mainstage [shows]. So I got to Mainstage in ’94.
So you were making money from Second City that whole time? Did you have a day job or anything at that point?
I worked, I think as a clerk at a video store at that time, just trying to make ends meet. Touring didn't really pay the bills as much as you'd want. So yeah, I worked in a video store, I delivered pizzas.
Who did you deliver pizzas for?
I delivered pizzas for Ranalli's, on Lincoln.