Alex Moffat displays his comedic skills in ‘The Cottage,’ an uproarious Broadway comedy.
Alex Moffat has mastered the unforgettable entrance.
He proved to be superb at farcical comedy in his six years on Saturday Night Live, so it comes as no surprise that he phenomenally bursts with gusto onto the stage at the Helen Hayes Theater.
He is making his Broadway debut in Sandy Rustin’s The Cottage, a non-stop laughfest directed by Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame).
The story is a riotous tale of sex, betrayal and love, all centered around Sylvia (Laura Bell Bundy) and her illustrious affair with Beau (Eric McCormack). Moffat’s Clarke (Beau’s brother), contributes his own sexcapades to the non-stop action and hilarity, stealing most every scene with his penchant for physicality and comedic charm.
Moffat, who can also be seen in FX’s The Bear and in the upcoming Apple TV+ series Bad Monkey, spoke with The New York Independent about the road leading to Broadway’s Cottage, his earliest snafus on stag, and the injury that made his previews extra challenging.
NYI: What is your earliest memory of yourself as a performer?
Moffat: I grew up in a house with three older sisters. I was kind of hammy from an early age. We would watch movies and I would do impressions of whoever was in them. My impressions after Beverly Hills Cop would crack up my sisters. I also remember a time in kindergarten; the school was trying to sell merch at an event, so they had me put on a polo shirt with the school’s logo, go up on a stage in an auditorium, and twirl around. Everyone clapped, and I just kind of stood there for a second, thinking it was fun.
My older sisters did community theater in Chicago called the “Winnetka Children’s Hour.” My mom would do props for it. Since I was the baby, she somehow got me in to do it a year before the usual age limit. I was about five years old. I was in a couple of skits where we would sing songs, and literally in both skits I peed my pants on stage. I was out there in jeans wearing sunglasses and playing a tennis racket like a guitar, and I peed. I was wearing light jeans which immediately turned to dark jeans. I truly thought no one could tell. In the next skit I thought I had gotten it out of my system, but there was more. These were formative, core memories!
NYI: Were you surrounded by a lot of plays and musicals as you grew up?
Moffat: We had VHS tapes of my sisters doing community theatre in previous years, and I would watch them thinking, ‘Holy shit! My sister is singing about pizza on my TV screen? Somebody filmed this?’ I wouldn’t say we were a quote-on-quote theatre family, but living in Chicago, when tours would come through, we always went. Phantom blew my mind. We saw Miss Saigon, and I still remember a guy jumping at a Cadillac and sort of humping it during this epic dance number and thinking it was incredible.
NYI: The drive for being on stage often takes hold in high school when there are plays and musicals for which you can audition. Was that the case for you?
Moffat: I went to a tiny high school that kind of let everybody do everything. I got to play three sports, but I also got to be in plays. There was always the spring musical, and I did it three out of my four years. There’s a tradition at the school that every four years they did a Gilbert and Sullivan piece. Why?! I had a decent role in that but I think I didn’t exactly crush it because our director kept saying, ‘Alex, this is a melodrama,‘ trying to squeeze something out of me, but I didn’t know what that meant. All I heard was ‘drama’ so I kept playing it more and more seriously, and I think I didn’t give him the performance he wanted. So, the following year, I was Pirate Number 7 in Peter Pan. I was nowhere close to a theatre standout.
The cast of ‘The Cottage,’ with Alex Moffat second from left.
Moffat: I guess the jury’s still out. I’m learning a lot from this cast. Every day in rehearsal felt like a little master class watching people like Lilli [Cooper] and Laura Bell Bundy, Nehal [Joshi], Dana [Steingold] and Eric. They’re such pros and so specific and have such work ethic that I’ve just been trying to learn on the fly. Back in Chicago, before I ever got hired to do anything on a screen, I was always doing improv or sketch, so you sort of develop an ability to at least like going out in front of crowds. It seems like half the battle.
NYI: If ever there was a show that demonstrates your incredible comedic timing and penchant for physical comedy, it is The Cottage. The rehearsal process must have been interesting.
Moffat: We had a long rehearsal process. It helped because each day you’d start out lacking certain things, and then the next moment you’d realize what you can do in those places. A good number of those physical bits are in the script, like Clarke falling down the stairs twice. It was Lilli’s idea that perhaps we allude to something that has been going on upstairs. One of my favorite moments wasn’t discovered until we got into the theater; it involves a chair, and a “horse moment” when I’m sitting with Lilli. It’s very physical, and we developed that on the fly because I realized sometime during the rehearsal process that I could use it to my advantage. The most challenging part of the show was figuring out the blocking because there is a lot of movement. There is a rhythm to things, so it’s a little bit like ice skating with five partners-but it’s a blast!
NYI: Being a performer with a comedy background, when did you first pinch yourself about working with “George Costanza” and “Will Truman” [Alexander and McCormack’s characters on Seinfeld and Will & Grace]?
Moffat: The first time meeting them, Jason was nice enough to host the cast at the apartment that he and his wife were renting while in town. We had some food, we read the script, and it was a really nice ‘get to know you.’ I’m a lifelong Seinfeld-head, so a lot of it was pinch-me moments. I thought, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been watching this guy since I was 10 years old and he’s a comedy legend!’ It was pretty heavy stuff to then start a rehearsal process. With Eric, we immediately felt brotherly with each other. He’s the best. To get to become good friends with the guy over this process has become one long pinch-me moment.
NYI: What have you learned about yourself through working on the show?
Moffat: I like a challenge. I already knew that, but it has been reinforced. I like to get out of my comfort zone. I’m nervous before every performance. These 600 people have not seen the play and I really want it to be fun for them. I like to try something new and I like the feeling of being a little bit nervous. Sandy wrote a really fun part that I am so thankful to play. Clarke does get to have a little bit of an entrance every time, and he’s certainly not lacking volume, so you know when he’s coming.
NYI: How does Sandy’s writing style complement your style?
Moffat: She’s so smart. The Cottage is so funny, but it’s also such a smart play underneath. It’s an elevated style, but we’re still playing the truth of the emotions.
NYI: What would you like to see yourself take on theatrically in the future? Are you a song and dance man?
Moffat: I am by no means a Broadway belter, but I do enjoy singing. I would like to try that as another challenge if somebody needs someone for a musical. That seems like a blast. I grew up loving musicals and still do. Jason was talking about Me and My Girl and said that might be a good one for me.
NYI: What would your fans be most surprised to learn about you?
Moffat: Right before the pandemic, I got the opportunity of a lifetime to play in the NBA All-Star Celebrity game. It was in Chicago so my entire family and all my friends came, and guess who tore his calf two days before the game? It was the last event before the world shutdown. I took fifteen Advil because I wanted to get out there so badly. I had 40 people there to see me. The coach said, “I can’t play you!” I said, “I have my entire family and everybody I’ve ever known here!” He agreed to let me play, but said he would pull me if I looked like I was in pain. I went in for thirty seconds and he took me out. I’m hoping for a little redemption game.
Moffat: I apparently have a penchant for injuries in big moments. On the 4th of July, I accidentally sliced my foot open in a lake upstate, had to go to the ER, and I had the first preview of The Cottage three days later. I got a tetanus shot and three stitches, so when we had our first preview I had three stitches in my foot and had to have them in for nine days. If you saw those first eight shows, I was flying around in stitches!
Visit TheCottageonBroadway.com or Telecharge.com for more information about how to purchase tickets.