Today, the sight of Jack McBrayer belting out “There’s No Business Like Show Business” while holding a tropical fish and riding a stationary bike strapped to a flatbed truck rumbling through midtown Manhattan for a solid hour wouldn’t be shocking.
Which is saying a mouthful.
But that’s only because McBrayer has made such a strong impression on viewers of NBC’s “30 Rock” as Kenneth, the uberoptimistic Peacock page for whom no task is too outrageous to fulfill in the name of television.
As far as Kenneth is willing to go, McBrayer in many ways goes farther. Unlike his TV doppelganger, whom McBrayer says “is just very naive to this crazy stuff that happens around him,” McBrayer is aware of how his stunts look to outsiders.
That the aforementioned scenario took place before “30 Rock” was even on the air — meaning people had no idea who he was — speaks to McBrayer’s comic commitment.
“It was humiliating,” McBrayer says with a laugh. “It was like a one-man parade that no one cared about.”
It was hardly the first bold maneuver by McBrayer, who showed some Kenneth-like ingenuity to get the part by borrowing an NBC page jacket for his taped audition.
“I don’t know if I’m able to reveal my source, but I had a relationship with the page uniform-bearer, and they knew I was good for it,” McBrayer says. “I promised them a steak dinner.”
Still, despite having a strong improv background and go-for-broke mentality that inspired Will Ferrell and Adam McKay to create a part for him in “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby,” McBrayer has actually been as loyal to the script as Kenneth is to his 30 Rock bosses.
“I tell you what, the scripts are just so dead on that honestly I’m just putting on the page uniform and reading the lines on the page,” McBrayer says. “I just kind of do what they tell you to do. I’m a dancing monkey in their little game.”
Favorite scene: “Where Will Arnett tries to seduce Kenneth in his hotel room. He’s serving him fruit punch … and for the record I have not drunk fruit punch since.”
Where you’d like to see your character go next year: “I would like to play with some of the other characters in the show. I hardly had any scenes with Tina (Fey) and Jane Krakowski; most of my scenes were with Alec (Baldwin) and Tracy (Morgan) — which were great.”
TV guilty pleasure: “I like me some cartoons. I do like the Cartoon Network, (in particular) ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,’ but in my defense, it is very well written, it is very clever, it is very funny. And also as a kid, I think I wanted to be a cartoonist — an illustrator. That and ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ — I could watch that for days.”