Bwog Exclusive: The Todd from “Scrubs” Interview Spectacular!
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog correspondent and masthead editor Justin Vlasits spoke to Robert Maschio, CC ’88 and The Todd on Scrubs, about “The Todd Song”, the Writers’ Guild strike, his days at Columbia and In Rainbows.
Let’s start with the big news of the day. You’re debuting “The Todd Song” on your website and it seems to be the definitive statement on your character. (See below – Ed.)
This character that I’ve created is a total parody, the whole thing is a big gag. I came up with this larger than life character who thinks he’s God’s gift to women and the life of the party wherever he goes and he really just has no understanding of how people see him. That’s the funniest character for me to be, so I just keep trying to push that as far as I can and this song is the latest example of that. Sometimes when I listen to rap I listen to Will Smith sing about Will Smith or Queen Latifah or Diddy, they write songs about themselves. It’s so egocentric to me that I think that the Todd should have a song and it’s basically the Todd’s song about his penis, more or less. I think that your audience would really get that I, Robert, am just perpetuating this gag and that’s what “The Todd Song” is.
But you also seem to be creating a different kind of sexuality. It’s not homosexual or heterosexual.
I’m definitely trying to establish that because there was this whole running gag during the first four or five seasons of the show, “Is he straight or is he gay?” because I was constantly talking about women but you never saw me with a woman on the show. And then there was this episode called “My Lunch” in Season 5 where The Todd came out, so to speak but he really, in the end, used it as a way to get more women. But then we had a great little at the end of the episode the Janitor says to The Todd, “Well, what are you? Are you straight, are you gay?” And he just says, “I’m the Todd”. And you’re right, it is like his own thing, omnisexual. Anything that moves, ATM.
So why do you have all of those other people dressed up as The Todd in the video?
The last couple Halloweens, people emailed me saying “My friend dressed up as you for Halloween,” and I would see all these pictures, more and more, because it’s an easy character, an easy costume I guess. So I have dozens of these pictures of people dressed up as The Todd, I thought, “I’m writing this song for fans, I can’t use my likeness in the video because they own the character, so fuck ’em, I’ll just use every fan who dressed up as the Todd.” I thought that was a good way to get fans, people involved. I just said, “The Todd is bigger than me, it’s just a character. But people laugh at it, so why not use that in the actual video?”
How did your Columbia education prepare you for your acting career?
Week one I had to read The Iliad– I’ll never forget this freshman year– and week two I had to read The Odyssey so by week three I was already two books behind. Although I don’t know how directly it affected me although I feel like from time to time, even though I play a fairly dumb character on TV, I’m doing some stuff that the more discerning audience might pick up on. I know when I was at Columbia I met some really talented people who have done very well in the entertainment business, which you wouldn’t expect. I took an Eliot, Joyce and Pound class at the time with my buddy Danny Futterman, who wrote Capote, the screenplay, and he’s done really well as an actor– and Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls, we were friends in college. Some of the more talented people weren’t from drama school or from pounding the pavement in New York, they’re from my days at Columbia.
Do you think that this is an untold story of a lot of Columbia students, that everyone doesn’t just become an investment banker but tries to do something different with their lives?
I think that if you try to pursue happiness in some way that you’ll be rewarded. When I was at Columbia at the time, I was an American Politics major, I concentrated in American Literature and I was studying all these different things but I really was searching for what I was really, genuinely interested in. At the time we were there, my twin brother Patrick and I (he went to Columbia as well), the Columbia Film School was starting and it was getting momentum and we would borrow film equipment on the weekends and make these short films and we just fell into something that we really enjoyed doing and I thought that I could make a living out of this. In retrospect, having known what I know now, I most probably wouldn’t have pursued it just because it’s not a rational, sensible thing to do. So much of this business is luck, but, having said that, I’m glad I [pursued it].
Now when I walk down the street, fifteen-year olds come up to me, shyly, and they high-five me. And I went surfing yesterday with my brother and as I came out of the water, these three high school kids literally came up to me. And it was so crazy, they recognized me and it’s just weird to me because I’ve developed a specific comedic point of view with this character and there’s a really specific type of people, really like teenage guys.
Do you take some credit for the comeback of the high five?
Definitely, I’m totally going to take claim for it. Because not only did we do the high fives– the creator [Bill Lawrence] came up with that, me being the high five guy– but at the end of it I’d snap it and make it a ritual and then somewhere in the beginning of season two I started naming my high fives. Nobody wanted to high five me anymore I remember one scene so I had the Self Five, the next thing I had the Air Five and then Mental Five, Euphemism– and every time I got a high five thereafter I started naming them, which I thought was a nice variation on the high five. But I’ll tell you where I stole the high five from because I thought it was so funny: the character of Puddy on Seinfeld. There was a great Seinfeld episode where he would always makes jokes to say Elaine, his girlfriend, and he would always make these jokes and then be like, “high five.” And he would just do that to the nth degree.
You mentioned your relationship with Bill Lawrence. I understand that you guys are close and since he does a lot of the writing, how does that affect your character?
He knows me better than anybody. When I first came out to LA in my first incarnation, I was doing stand-up and I was like “I have to do a play” and I auditioned for this play and got the lead in this four character play and it was a play that he wrote. I knew him even before Scrubs started. We’ve known each other for a long time and as a writer, I would think, that when you know somebody, it’s easy to write for them because you know all their strengths and all their weaknesses and he developed this specific role for me to play on this show. If a scene needs a joke, he sticks me right in there.
How has the writing staff been affected by the WGA strikes?
The strike has shut down TV in this town completely. It’s so depressing. We are completely shut down right now. We shot 11 full episodes, five of which have aired so far. And we started shooting the first half of episode 12 and then we got shut down because the second half wasn’t done and once the strike started, the writers couldn’t keep rewriting. And we’re supposed to make 18 episodes this year, so we owe six and a half and this is like our final season of the show, it’s kind of like a goodbye, a final swan song, so to speak, end storylines and it’s really like the rug has been pulled out from under us a little bit. We knew it was coming, the strike, because the issues are major and there’s a lot of money at stake, and nobody can really figure out how to monetize the internet. It’s very hard, I think they need some accountants in the negotiating room, not lawyers, but it’s really frustrating because we really want to finish. It’s like a good book: it has a good beginning, the middle pages go fast, and you want a good ending. I feel like we’re getting robbed a little bit right now and the longer the strike goes on, the more worried I am about finishing those last six episodes.
Would it be possible to push back the show until next season if you can’t finish it this year?
I don’t think that would be an option. I think the strike needs to end before Christmas because a contract has to be ratified by the Writers Guild and then production could start up in January and we could have like two months to finish the show. But if this thing goes into January, and it could because I don’t think people understand, when you go on to the Internet, it’s a different way, people are making money off it in a different way than you do on network TV. And I don’t know how they are going to figure out that formula. And I know “The Todd Song” because I’m promoting the song on the Internet and basically the way that a lot of people get paid on the Internet is by how many hits your website gets. And based on those hits, you can get advertising dollars but historically, networks haven’t paid writers based on the ratings or advertising. They never get a percentage that way. So it’s a whole new template that they have to figure out and I don’t think they can figure it out and I don’t think that they want to share that kind of money. So anyway, I don’t think that Scrubs will get pushed back for a final season, I just think everyone will say, “Alright, we had a good run, next project”.
I understand you have campaign to become the 2008 commencement speaker?
I fully intend to be the class speaker at Columbia for the Class of ’08 and I want them to reignite the Campaign to Enlist Robert Maschio as Class Speaker. But my one caveat is that I have to do the commencement speech as The Todd. That’s the only way. I’m going to wear old scrubs and at the end I’m going to high five all of the faculty. I’m going to make a lot of sexually inappropriate jokes, again directed towards faculty and of course on underclassmen. And at the end, when it’s all over, I am going to literally take it down to the banana hammock. I’m going to strip so it’s just going to be my cap and my hammock. And that’s the way I’d like the Class of ’08 to go out into the world. So I’m hoping somebody picks up on that and starts a letter or petition on my behalf.
The internet seems to completely changing the entertainment industry. All of these major issues have been based on what the Internet has done to network TV.
Absolutely, I know there is going to be a time when network TV is completely superfluous, completely done. Those guys who are trying not to give the writers money now, they’re going to be out of the loop. There’s no need for them. At some point I won’t need NBC to reach an audience and they’re middlemen, they’re the distributors, they want to control all of the content and when they let it go, they’re not bringing anything to the table now that the Internet is here. And it’s a great democratizer, the internet, where you can just reach people, and it’s going to be the new delivery platform. The only thing they have to figure out is how do you link your computer to your TV. If it comes right up through your TV, all of these companies are out of business. So that’s why they’re fighting so hard to hold on. But I just want to go straight to the people, you know? If they think the Todd is almost too dirty for TV, I’ll just say “Fuck it.” If you lawyers don’t want to use it, there are millions of people out there that would love this song. And it’s just like the greatest thing in the world and it’s exciting for me and this song was just like a trial run for me in terms of how to connect to people and deliver stuff directly to them but this spring we’re going to let out another CD and its going to be like a saga of ten songs and we’re just going to do kind of like what Radiohead did and just put it on the website and let people come to it and pay what they want and there’s no TV company, no recording company, just you create something and you give it right to the audience.
So it’s going to be the In Rainbows of situation comedy?
Yeah, why not? Comedy rap. Comedy rap, that’s my new thing, comedy rap. I’m going to sing a song about my penis, about anal sex– givin’ it to her from behind, I’m just going to do total, all sex stuff, innuendos. I’m just going to put out a CD that the dudes would love. “Baby, baby, please, you gotta let me give it to you from behind.” But anyway, I’m excited about the song tonight and I’m excited about the show tonight’s episode. Maybe they will decide at the last minute to put a link on thetoddtime to promote the song. We’ll see.