Most people know him from "The Daily Show," "21 Jump Street," or "NTSF:SD:SUV," but a select few know him first and foremost as a Marine. Rob Riggle spent over 20 years in the United States Marine Corps and has shown that the military can provide stability while helping pave the way to success. Riggle spent most of his early years in Kansas – he attended high school in Overland Park and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Theater and Film.
Riggle's first military ambition was to be a pilot, but subsequently left flight school to peruse comedy. He served for nine years on active duty before going into the reserves. He became a Public Affairs Officer and was usually attached to Command Elements. Due to his occupational specialty, Riggle served with a number of different units including the 2/2, 3/8, 24th MEU SOC, 2nd MAW, CENTCOM, MTU-17, HQPA, 3rd Bat., and 5th Special Forces Group.
While serving, Riggle visited Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. "My military service definitely helped me understand what the military was up against in Iraq and what they were trying to accomplish. Having served in Afghanistan, I understand how difficult the mission can be," he said in a public interview set up by the Washington Post.
Many celebrity veterans left their service behind once they'd found their stride, but Riggle maintained strong ties to the Marine Corps for many years. In fact, he was still a reservist while his career in entertainment gained traction. While he was acting, performing stand-up comedy, and pitching ideas to Hollywood, Riggle managed to put in the requisite time to the Marine Corps Reserves. However, on January 1, 2013, Riggle announced his retirement from the USMC.
Riggle's success in entertainment hasn't diminished his standing with fellow Marines. Marines Mag, the official magazine of the USMC, conducted an interview with him that covered his time on active duty as well as his acting career:
Why did you choose to serve in the Marines?
I joined when I was in college, April 25, 1990. I had my pilot's license when I was in college at the University of Kansas and was able to attain a guaranteed flight contract. Along with my flight contract, I chose the Marine Corps because I believed they offered the greatest challenge. They had such a proud and amazing history… I wanted to see if I had what it took to become a Marine.
How was your experience during your earlier days as a lieutenant?
I went to flight school and trained as a student pilot. I was getting close to getting my wings when I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life – I decided to quit flying so I could have a chance to pursue comedy. If I had continued flying I didn't see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy. I left flight school and became a public affairs officer. I completed my ground contract and commitment and then began to pursue my dream of becoming a comedian and actor.
How has your experience in the Corps shaped your comedian and acting career?
It made me mentally tough, which is what you have to be in show business. Show business is brutal. For seven years I worked every day and night to catch a break. I heard "no" at least 5,000 times – literally. That can be very difficult on your self-esteem. I watched as a lot of my peers quit the business.
Are there any similarities between being a comedian and being a Marine?
You have to want both… really bad!
What are the biggest differences between the Marine Corps and the acting world?
People in show business rarely say what they're really thinking. Marines usually shoot straight with you.
Have there been any Marines that really didn't connect well with your comedic personality?
Nope. EVERYBODY loves my comedy. No exceptions… ever… EVER!
Do your peers in show business understand your Marine Corps lingo?
You mean like when I tell them to "pound sand" and they just stare at me like I just asked them a math question?
What do you enjoy most about being a Marine?
One – I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me. I'll be proud of that as long as I'm alive. Two – Marines are loyal to each other. I like loyalty. Three – Marine Corps history and tradition is something to be proud of, and I've been part of that history for the last 19 years. And four – honor, courage and commitment. Those words really do mean something.
What do you enjoy most about show business?
I get to hang out with funny people and laugh almost every day! The pay is better too…
What's your most rewarding experience as a Marine?
Many rewarding experiences… Leading Marines, educating Marines, serving my country, working on the "Bucket Brigades" at ground zero immediately following the 9/11 attacks, helping evacuate and secure the embassy in Liberia, helping the refugees in Albania, restoring and enforcing peace in Kosovo and liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban rule.
Do you have any future goals as an actor?
There's no finish line in show business. I just want to keep working. I'm shooting a movie right now with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and then after that we'll see.
Caddy Shack … I grew up on it.
Who are your favorite comedians?
George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Sam Kinison, Denis Leary…too many to mention here…