‘Scrubs’: Most of Neil Flynn’s Lines Were Totally Unscripted
Scrubs was a TV show stacked with hilarious characters. Whether it was the main cast, side characters, or even people who popped up in a cameo role, they had funny people in nearly every part. It’s one of the reasons the show was so memorable.
One of the funniest relationships on the show was between two characters in particular: J.D. and the Janitor. This was in no small part due to many of the Janitor’s hilarious responses to J.D. But did you know that many of the Janitor’s lines were improvised by the actor who played him?
Let’s take a closer look at how these two interacted and what made it so funny.
Who was J.D. on ‘Scrubs?’
John “J.D.” Dorian (portrayed by Zach Braff) was the main character of the show Scrubs. Most of the time he was anything but a straight man. He started the show as a medical student training at Sacred Heart Hospital under the watchful eye of the sarcastic Dr. Perry Cox, played by John C. McGinley.
J.D. was also joined by many of his friends including Turk, Carla, and Elliot. There were many more characters, but those are the ones who got the majority of the screen time.
Other characters popped up from time to time in much more part-time roles. While they may not have been the focuses of the show, they nonetheless had plenty of funny moments. One of those characters that popped up in most episodes but who only from time to time was the Janitor.
The Janitor was mysterious in that he didn’t have a name or identifier beyond his job title. He also was the source of some of the show’s best comedic moments.
The relationship between J.D. and the Janitor
J.D. has a different relationship with nearly every character on the show. With Turk, they’re like brothers. With Cox, he’s an admiring protégé while Cox treats him like an annoying bug.
Elliot was his romantic interest while Carla served as the person he went to for sage advice. With the Janitor, however, J.D. never could quite figure out how to get along with him. J.D. and the Janitor have a very adversarial relationship.
While the Janitor seems like something of a villain due to his antagonistic relationship with J.D., he’s far from it. He was one of the most beloved characters in the show.
Most of Neil Flynn’s lines were totally unscripted
The Janitor was played by actor Neil Flynn. Flynn worked in numerous other TV shows and movies before Scrubs, a fact that was jokingly referenced on the show. There was even a reference to Flynn’s appearance in the film The Fugitive.
Braff and Flynn often exchanged hilarious banter. So where did a lot of it come from? Well, J.D.’s lines mostly came from the show’s writers. But Flynn’s had a more surprising source: Flynn himself.
In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, Braff told Scrubs fans that Flynn often improvised his own lines. In fact, the show’s writers often built that into the script. They’d simply notate that Flynn was to enter, make something up, and then exit. That speaks to Flynn’s tremendous improvisational capability, but also to the rapport he had working with Braff.
Those two had incredible comic timing together that shone through every time they shared the screen. It’s not surprising that Flynn, a talented actor in any scene he’s in, would feel comfortable riffing his lines. It’s a credit to both actors and the show’s absurd nature that Flynn would be able to do that so reliably.