PLAYBOY: Did you have a plan B, in case acting didn’t work out?
HAMM: Not really. I came to L.A. when I was 25 and I made the decision that if I didn’t get a job that sustained me by the time I was 30 I would go back home. That’s five years, which at that point was 17 percent of my life. In my opinion that was more than enough time to give it a legitimate shot.
PLAYBOY: Did you make your deadline?
HAMM: I did it in three. By the time I was 30, I was getting regular jobs. On my 30th birthday I was working on a movie called We Were Soldiers, with Mel Gibson. I was at a hotel room in Columbus, Georgia.
PLAYBOY: How did you celebrate?
HAMM: My girlfriend, [actress] Jennifer Westfeldt, came down. She was in New York at the time, probably working on a play. She came to visit and flew down three of my good friends. It was a pretty great birthday. I thought, Yeah, man, this is it. This is the best of everything right here.
PLAYBOY: Were you comfortable enough with your acting career to quit waiting tables?
HAMM: I’d quit about a year earlier. It was weirdly hard to give up.
PLAYBOY: Why? Did you still need the money?
HAMM: No, but it was a part of my identity. To this day it’s the thing I’ve done the most in my life. It’s the job I’ve had the longest. I have no shame about that. It’s something I’m always ready to go back to. I’m comfortable behind a bar, and I’m comfortable wearing an apron. It doesn’t bum me out. I’m totally fine with it. There will always be restaurants and bars. There’s no possible way to wreck that with e-commerce. It will never be replaced by the internet. Restaurants and bars are some of the last truly safe businesses left. Video stores, clothing stores, record shops, newspapers and TV shows—everything disappears and ends up on the computer. But not restaurants. There are definitely worse day jobs to have.
PLAYBOY: What was the worst for you?
HAMM: I did set dressing on some soft-core porn films. That was hands down the worst. I was working on the crew from seven to seven, and it was horribly depressing.
PLAYBOY: Set dressing, as in props?
HAMM: Yeah, the props. I was essentially an extension of the prop department. I also did continuity, which means I had to make sure that if an ashtray was on the corner of a table in one scene, it was there in another. I’m sure there are more terrible day jobs in L.A., but it’s definitely on the lower end of the spectrum of the wonder of moviemaking. It wasn’t even that much money, but it was money. A friend of mine from college had done it and was too depressed to go back. She told me, “I literally cannot do this anymore.” I was like, “I’ll do it!” And I got the same way in about a month.
PLAYBOY: Your social life at the time consisted of going to comedy clubs and befriending comedians. How did you end up in that world?
HAMM: There’s a club in L.A. called Largo, and Mondays at Largo were the hottest nights in town for comedy, or at least for the particular brand of comedy that I liked. It was an underground, hipster comedy scene, with Sarah Silverman, Paul F. Tompkins and Patton Oswalt. And it was $5 to get in. It was cheaper than the nightclubs, which I hated anyway. The drinks at L.A. nightclubs were too expensive and the music was too loud. At Largo there was no drink minimum, and you got two and a half hours of great entertainment. I slowly ingratiated myself into that world by hanging around all the time.
PLAYBOY: You became good friends with many of the performers, like Zach Galifianakis.
HAMM: Yeah, I know all those guys. It’s weird that everybody in that social circle came up around the same trajectory. Zach is monumentally famous now, and he’s still the same guy I’ve always known. I look at him and say, “This thing happened to you.” And he just smiles back at me and says, “The same fucking thing happened to you.” I don’t see it because I’m looking outward rather than in. But it is true, and it’s funny.
PLAYBOY: What’s it like socializing with comics? Are they shy and reserved, or is it a nonstop barrage of jokes?
HAMM: All of the above. And if it’s the latter, I generally don’t participate. I learned a long time ago never to get into joke-telling competitions with professional joke tellers. We talked about this earlier, but there’s a lot to be said for just being quiet and listening. I love being around comedy people and listening and laughing. It’s therapeutic.
PLAYBOY: But you can hold you own with comics. You were hilarious on 30 Rock.
HAMM: I definitely felt over my head on that show. My approach to comedy has basically been to stand next to really funny people and try to keep a straight face.
PLAYBOY: You’re being humble. What about that sex scene with Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids? You definitely weren’t just keeping a straight face there.
HAMM: No, I guess not. [laughs]
PLAYBOY: When you’re doing an outrageous sex scene, do you feel embarrassed, or are you too caught up in the moment?
HAMM: It’s like running in the rain. There’s a certain point when you go, “Fuck it, I’m already wet. I’m not going to get any less wet, so I might as well just enjoy how this feels.” I mean, sure, there’s an awkwardness about being in a weird flesh-colored thong, bouncing on top of an actress. And I am not a small human being. I weigh at least 200 pounds and I’m six-foot-two. And Wiig is a twig; she’s a skinny little thing. I told her, “Just punch me in the side if I’m hurting you.” It’s weird and uncomfortable at first, but then all the awkwardness melts away and you think, All right, we’re doing this, so let’s have fun with it. You know what I mean? You’re in that moment and it’s happening and it’s not going to get any better, so you might as well enjoy it.
PLAYBOY: After Mad Men ends, will you focus more on comedy or drama? Or does it matter?
HAMM: It doesn’t matter. I don’t have a preference either way. All I care about is working with people I enjoy being around. I’ve been fortunate in that I have not worked with many douche bags. And this industry is populated by a lot of narcissistic, mean-spirited, horrible people who get rewarded for being narcissistic, mean-spirited and horrible. Thus far I’ve been able to keep my exposure to that crowd to a minimum.
PLAYBOY: It probably helps when you collaborate with people like your girlfriend.
HAMM: Yeah, I already know she’s none of those things. She’s the least narcissistic, mean-spirited person I know.
PLAYBOY: You and Westfeldt have a new movie, Friends With Kids.
HAMM: That’s right.
PLAYBOY: When you don’t have children and you make a movie about the fear of having children, it practically begs to be read into.
HAMM: [Laughs] Oh sure, I understand that. And there is some autobiography to it. We’ve seen enough of our friends, who shall obviously remain nameless, become parents, and sometimes it’s hard not to think they shouldn’t have had kids.
PLAYBOY: Because it’s a bigger responsibility than they’re ready for?
HAMM: That’s what it seems like. Maybe they should’ve waited. But if you wait until you’re ready to have kids, then it’s possible you’ll never have kids. The unspoken corollary to that is, maybe some people shouldn’t have kids. Which you’re not allowed to say because people get offended.
PLAYBOY: Is it safe to assume you don’t want children?
HAMM: I don’t have a driving force to have a baby. That said, I’m in a committed relationship, and if it ever came up, I’m not ruling it out. There’s a reason it hasn’t been prioritized, because I don’t think either of us has that pull. I don’t know; it could happen tomorrow. I have no clue.
PLAYBOY: What about marriage? Have either you or Westfeldt actually said, “Let’s not get married”? Or is it a mutual understanding?