Glen Abbott, the title character of Fox's new sitcom The Winner (premiering Sunday at 8:30 pm/ET), is a 32-year-old schlub living with his parents. He can't cook for himself. He's never had sex. He's obsessed with Steven Weber's Wings. In short, this winner's a big loser.
Rob Corddry plays this man-child, and it's not an insult to say that he makes as convincing a TV loser as anyone in recent memory. Narrated from the present by a successful Glen, The Winner is set in 1994, the year when he decides to turn his life around. In order to impress Alison (Erinn Hayes), a divorced doctor who's the only person he's ever kissed, Glen befriends her 14-year-old son, Josh (Keir Gilchrist), and they get embroiled in high jinks involving a hot teacher, an aggressive prostitute and a ridiculous hairpiece. "This is The Wonder Years with vagina jokes," Corddry says.
It's the first major role for the 36-year-old Massachusetts native, who gained "that guy" status during a four-year stint on The Daily Show as a jerk who managed not to offend. "Rob has that rare ability to be incredibly obnoxious and still be likable," says Daily Show executive producer David Javerbaum.
During a conversation over beers at an Irish pub in Manhattan, Corddry oozes charm. He offers up amusing anecdotes about his wife, Sandy, and their 8-month-old daughter, Sloane. He humbly but energetically touts his upcoming projects, including a part in the Will Ferrell figure-skating flick Blades of Glory. And he looks embarrassed while describing his first weeks away from The Daily Show, which he left last summer to take on The Winner. "I never had the DTs," he says, "but I did miss it."
If The Winner mirrors Corddry's life, it's because 1994 was also a turning point for him: He moved from Boston to New York City, intent on a career in theater. "I fancied myself quite an important actor," he says. "The funny thing is, Shakespeare doesn't pay that well." After one year touring with the National Shakespeare Company, he started looking for more lucrative gigs — and eventually scored a commercial for 1-800-CALL-ATT with Carrot Top that was named one of 2001's worst ads.
Corddry's popularity on The Daily Show, which he joined in 2002, puts him in a prestigious club of the program's expatriates — including Ed Helms (The Office's newbie Andy) and Bush baiter Stephen Colbert. But as the star of a much-heralded sitcom, Corddry seems poised to battle Steve Carell for the title of Most Famous Daily Show Alum Ever.
Corddry's not buying it. "Carell has way more hair than I do," he says. "And he's got that lithe star's body. I don't know if I can fill those gym shorts." Then, channeling his Daily Show persona, he adds, "But I will try and take him down." May the best loser win.
Get acquainted with the cast of another "winning" sitcom, CBS' Rules of Engagement, in the March 5 issue of TV Guide.