Life lessons are often learned when and where you least expect. My latest life lesson came to me in the form of one of the funniest people alive, Ken Marino. If you watch TV you know his incredible work on Veronica Mars, the Wet Hot American Summer franchise, The Other Two, and much more. On Party Down, Marino serves up laughs while serving food as the optimistic yet inept leader of the Party Down catering service, Ron Donald. Probably not the expected source for a life lesson, but life is strange.
The Starz series went on a long hiatus after – okay, let’s be honest – it was cancelled following some ridiculously low season two ratings. That was over twelve years ago, but it triumphantly returned for season 3 in 2023. For a cancelled series to come back at all is a challenge, to come back over a decade later is almost unheard of – especially for a ratings-challenged series. Party Down’s rise from the ashes is a testament to the quality of work they delivered, but also to the fans, the cast and crew and others who never let that Party Down bunsen burner in their hearts extinguish. That unending burning love for the series, brought back the original cast (Adam Scott, Martin Starr, Jane Lynch, Ryan Hansen, Megan Mullally) and some new additions (Jennifer Garner, Zoe Chao, Tyrel Jackson Williams) for a season which may be the best yet.
Awards Radar sat down to speak to Marino about his work on the series and more, including his acting origin story. Essentially, as a third grader he did a play at a camp where everybody laughed at his clowning around – he’s been chasing that feeling ever since. Our conversation was no exception. Which is one reason why I highly recommend you watch the delightful interview. It quickly became evident that Marino does not have an off button when it comes to making people laugh. He had me in stitches.
One place where Marino does remain serious is in his work… he’s serious about making us laugh with performances that he truly cares about. The actor puts a lot of development into crafting the characters and often throws his body into the mix, literally, through his physical comedy. While humorous when explaining his craft, he does not take it lightly and the results are consistently left on the screen.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation are below, where you can discover the life lesson he shared, but it is highly recommended you watch my conversation with Ken below, where his addictive energy and humor shines through. I do not throw the term around lightly, but he is a comedic genius and needs to be heard, not read. In addition we cover a deal with the devil, how he got the role of Ron Donald, his physical comedy, some Veronica Mars, and much more. Enjoy.
On the very unique (and funny) lesson learned when hoping for a Party Down follow-up:
“We were talking about doing something after an ending because nobody wanted it to end – we all love doing it. We understood why it ended. Not a lot of people were watching it at the time. So we kept talking about, ‘how can we do it again?’ Is there a movie? For a while there was talk of maybe Enbom (show creator/writer, John Enbom) can write a movie and we’ll do that. So that was floating around for a while. We were all optimistic. And, for a long time, I was talking about, ‘yeah, it’s gonna happen.’ it feels like it’s gonna happen. Years go by, and years would go by. And then finally, I gave up. Hope. It turns out that as soon as you give up hope things happen. So, I think that’s a life lesson. Just become hopeless. And then your dreams will come true. I have a tattoo on my back.”
On his knack for physical comedy:
“I’ve always found the physical-izing something or adding some physical comedy to any comedic scene, if there’s an opportunity to do that, to be very valuable. As a kid, I grew up watching Buster Keaton and Jerry Lewis, and like DickVan Dyke and people who were very physical. They were on the TV and so I would I enjoy physical comedy. You know, the Marx Brothers – just watching that stuff, I always felt I responded to it. I always wanted to do my version of it. So anytime in life, when I was around my friends, I would just do things over and over, physical things over and over again. Then in the back of my head, I’m like, ‘I’ll put that in something, when I if I have ever get a chance, I’ll put that into something.”
Bringing that physical comedy to his Ron Donald character:
“Ron is such a mess of a person that physically, I think, showing that with his body is important. When he’s dealing with food poisoning, or when he’s just miserable about something or when he’s excited about something, he’s going to bump into something he’s going to show his frustration by banging his head on something, he’s going to walk into a wall. All of those things are there in the script. So, you know, Enbom gave me these gifts. I want to do them justice as much as possible.”
How has Ron changed over the last decade:
“I think Ron’s goal has been pretty singular in its he wants success. He wants to be seen as a success. And he wants to climb that corporate ladder and have people respect him… and have some sort of successful business. I don’t think that changed over the 10 or 11 years that we didn’t see him. Much of Ron’s essence or much like the stories that we see of Ron, he takes one step forward and then he takes 17 steps backwards. He’s got this enormous black cloud over his head. He’s his own worst enemy. And so anytime there’s a little victory, there’s like 25 failures, Basically, the 10 years that we didn’t see him he was making a little progress, but also just terrible things were happening to him for a decade.”
You can watch all three hysterical seasons of Marino’s work as Ron Donald on Party Down on Starz.