David Koechner knows how to make people laugh. He’s done it as an anchorman named Champ Kind, as a traveling salesman named Todd Packer and now he displays his comedic gift weekly as Carl “Tush” Tushinski on CBS’s “Superior Donuts.” The Missouri native describes his character “Tush” as a survivor who works a different job every week. Koechner has been part of many hits shows and movies, but this one is different because of the presence of the show’s star Judd Hirsch.
Koechner talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about Hirsch, working with this week’s guest star Cedric The Entertainer and his career in entertainment.
DJ Sixsmith: You grew up in Missouri and your family was in the turkey coop manufacturing business. What were Thanksgivings like at the Koechner residence?
David Koechner: The turkey coop business is year round. Turkey coops are basically livestock transportation vehicles. You’re not housing one bird, its 188 cages on a 40 foot flatbed trailer. That’s the business we were in and it wasn’t seasonal because people like to eat that bird year round. Thanksgiving wasn’t different than any other week.
DS: What’s been the coolest part of your experience on “Superior Donuts” so far?
DK: The coolest thing is working with this cast, they are incredible. We’re a pretty deep cast. Judd Hirsch is a legend. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him on Broadway, but I had the opportunity years ago to see him in a show called “Conversations With My Father.” It was one of the greatest theatrical experiences I’ve ever witnessed personally. It blew me away. Every week, I get to work with this guy and do an acting clinic with a master. We’re so fortunate because we do our show in front of a live audience on our tape night, so it’s like we’re putting a play on. That is something that is fantastic to do. This job shoots 10 minutes from my house. I got it all going on.
DS: What can viewers expect on tonight’s episode called “Thanks For Nothing?”
DK: Tonight we have an extra special Thanksgiving episode with Cedric The Entertainer guest starring as Franco’s father, Reggie Wicks. That guy is unique and rare. I’ve worked with a lot of actors in my career, but Cedric has a specialness about him that I don’t see very often. He might be an angel. Cedric might be a comedy angel. Tonight, we have Thanksgiving in the donut shop and as most Thanksgivings go, it does not go well.
DS: Your show is a comedy about a small donut shop in Chicago. You spent a lot of time in your career in Chitown, what do you like the most about the city?
DK: I was there for nine years and at the iO and Second City, so Chicago is always a special place for me. I spent the majority of my time on stage and I always dig going back and seeing shows. The whole city is a great place, it was like grad school to me. I moved there when I was 24 and that was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was an eye opening experience and it is unlike any other city in the country.
DS: You mentioned your improv experience in Chicago. You also were on Saturday Night Live for one year. What were the biggest differences between Second City and SNL?
DK: The similarities are that you are doing a live show every week. At Second City, you are doing a live show almost every night and it was great training for Saturday Night Live because it is also sketch comedy and you’re in front of a live audience. SNL is more intense because you don’t know what you are going to be on week to week. You could write a piece that may not get on the air. The other part is you work with a new star and new band every week. It was an interesting and intense experience.
DS: You’ve done over 160 television shows and films in your career. How do you approach a character like Tush in Superior Donuts versus a role in a movie?
DK: Well, movies are different because it is a one time experience. You have one shot to do this and everyone is coming together for this unique experience, which is cool. Often times in movies, you get more latitude in developing the character. In TV, it’s a writers medium. They are the driving force week to week. You work together to shape their vision. In television, you do it for a week and then it is gone. You develop a character over the course of the season.
DS: How did your career shift from just paying the bills with acting to making a career out of being an actor and comedian?
DK: It happened when I got hired as a company member at Second City because then I had a job. Before that, I was working as a bartender and a waiter. Once I got to Second City, I got a job as an actor and it’s an equity job too. Not only do you have a job, but you also have a job that pays your insurance. That’s the only thing you have to do then and that’s when I became a working actor. That was the tipping point. Being on Saturday Night Live introduced me to the rest of the entertainment world.
DS: How would you describe your character Carl “Tush” Tushinski to people who haven’t seen “Superior Donuts?”
DK: Tush is a survivor. Tush had a job at a factory for years and then it closed and now he literally gets a new job every week just to survive.
“Superior Donuts” airs Monday nights at 9pm EST/PST on CBS.