Actor Jack McBrayer is perhaps best known for his role as “Kenneth the Page,” the cheerful Southern rube on the long-running NBC sitcom 30 Rock, which earned him an Emmy nomination. He also had a memorable part in the 2008 comedy flick Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which he played a hapless honeymooner, trying to find his mojo.
On this week’s episode of The Getaway, airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. EST, on Esquire Network, McBrayer returns to the scenic tropical setting of that film, the luxurious Turtle Bay Resort on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. There, he learns the hula (see video below), hangs ten with professional surfer Aaron Gold and boldly eats sea urchin, among other things.
What was it like returning to Hawaii?
MCBRAYER: It was fantastic. They say you can never go back, but you can! [Laughs] That was really my first experience with Hawaii ever, when we shot Forgetting Sarah Marshall there during, gosh, whenever that was. 2007? 2008? So, that was my first taste of Hawaii, and I’ll be damned, I would go back there every single time.
In this episode, you take surfing lessons. How did your surf instructor compare to Paul Rudd’s goofy surf instructor character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall?
[Laughs.] Well, Aaron Gold is the real deal, as a human being and as an instructor. Paul Rudd was hilarious, of course, but I wouldn’t trust him with my life out in the water. My God! There are animals out there that would eat me. I need all the help I can get.
What was it like filming The Getaway?
It was such a fun project. Being able to do all those activities in Hawaii — just through collaboration with me and the producers, we came up a whole list of stuff — it was really and truly just a dream vacation. It just happened to be entirely recorded. I mean, it is kind of weird having cameras pointed at you the whole time. But, you just take a step back, and you’re like, “Holy crap! I’m in Hawaii! This is my job! They are paying me right now to eat this crazy food on this beautiful movie set.” It was quite an adventure. I would happily do it again.
How was the food?
The food was all great. They really do just shovel the stuff down your gullet. So, after a while, you’re like, ‘Give me a break!’ There’s one meal that I had pretty early in the day, and it was an especially heavy meal, and that might have done me in. I think, in hindsight, I might have either gone for lighter fare or, if I had to eat it again, maybe just eat it later in the day.
The loco moco? [For the innocent, we’re talking about a Hawaiian take on the hamburger, served atop rice, covered in eggs and smothered in gravy.]
Yes. It was hea-vy.
And, you had chocolate pie, like, immediately after that, didn’t you?
Now, the chocolate pie, I would eat 24 hours a day. It would kill me. But that stuff is good, so good. Chocolate Haupia Pie.
Also, you’re in Hawaii. So, of course, you have Spam. You’re a comedy guy. Did you have the Monty Python song playing in your head the whole time?
You know what? I have to admit, I’m blanking on the skit you’re talking about.
On Monty Python’s Flying Circus way, way back, they had this skit in a restaurant where every dish has Spam in it and a choir of patrons who appear to be vikings are singing about Spam.
I do not recall that one. I will have to go back. And, I’m a comedy nerd!
I know! Come on, man.
But, with that being said, I grew up in Georgia, and we were broke, no joke. So, I was no stranger to Spam.
How did you have it, though, when you were growing up? You didn’t have Spam in sushi form, I bet.
Oh God no! In Georgia, we just had fried Spam, or Spam on bread.
In this episode, you even try sea urchin. I think that’s one of your best lines in the whole thing. You call it “fish pudding.”
I’d never had sea urchin before. There’s something very fresh about it. It has a very specific texture to it that I don’t think I was prepared for. But maybe, if I had to do it again, just knowing what I was getting into would be some reinforcement for me, would help me out.
In your normal life, are you pretty adventurous when it comes to food, or do we see you come out of your shell a bit on this show?
I was definitely getting out of my shell. A lot of it has to do with other people’s recommendations. I am adventurous when I’m with a buddy who’s like, ‘Hey, let’s go to this restaurant.’ Or, ‘Hey, let’s order this.’ That kind of thing. When I’m left to my own devices, I turn into an 85-year-old man who could eat Raisin Bran three meals a day. Growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot of money, so food was not a luxury. Food equaled fuel, like, the amount of energy we needed to get through our day. That was kind of engrained in me. Even after I grew up and had some jobs when I moved to New York, I still had very little money. Food has never been much of an art form to me, though I can appreciate it more in recent years. Sometimes, I take a little prodding. There’s only a small handful of things that I’m just like, ‘No thanks.’ Like, if you give me a plate of raw onions and beets, I might have to respectfully decline your invitation.
Your character on 30 Rock once ate squirrel, right?
That is correct.
Did you ever eat squirrel growing up?
Oh, no. I mean, Jack McBrayer didn’t; Kenneth the Page did. But, they did incorporate some of my dietary habits into Kenneth’s story. For example, when I was living in New York before 30 Rock happened, [the show’s creator] Tina [Fey] and her husband, Jeff Richmond, they knew that I didn’t have two dimes to rub together. So, sometimes, they’d swing by the house or something, and I’m sitting there eating a can of chickpeas over the sink, like some sort of homeless teen or something. And that was my lunch, and they thought that was ridiculous. I think Tina was able to incorporate that into some of Kenneth’s backstory.
Yeah, well, try it sometime!
I heard the 30 Rock crew was really into Peter Pan doughnuts. Are you a fan of Peter Pan?
I think the writers were into it. I don’t think I was around too much whenever the Peter Pan doughnuts came around. I tell you what, though, I got a new job and I’ll be heading back to New York in October. I’ll make sure to get out there.
New job? Cool! What’s the gig?
It’s an Adult Swim show. It’s a half-hour sitcom. Do you know the character Triumph the Insult Comic Dog?
It’s a sitcom where me and Triumph are roommates.
Does this mean you get to do racier material? Adult Swim is kind of racy.
Correct. And Triumph is racy. So, there are definitely going to be swear words and inappropriate situations. So, I’m very excited about that. And, I’m very excited to show my grandparents. [Laughs.]
Very Odd Couple.
I have to say it was a pretty easy pitch to the networks.
I’m pretty excited. We’ll shoot that through the fall. Then, I’ll be able to take my winter off, come back to Los Angeles. And, maybe, Hawaii!
What advice would you give folks who might be planning their own Hawaiian getaway?
I dunno. I think there are two different kinds of people who go to Hawaii. There are people who go to Hawaii and want to hike volcanos, go surfing and snorkeling and scuba diving. And then there are some people who go to Hawaii and want to live their lives like a Corona commercial where they just completely unwind on the beach. I might fall into that second category. But, there’s so much to do. I’ve only been to Oahu. But, I’m convinced, you’d be hard-pressed to find the crappy part of Hawaii.
Food Republic is the media sponsor of The Getaway , with new episodes every Wednesday on the Esquire Network.
Read more about Hawaii on Food Republic:
- 6 New And Exciting Places To Eat In Honolulu
- Make Hawaiian Ahi Poke At Home!
At The Honolulu Fish Auction, It’s Like Storage Wars But With Tuna