Friday, January 7, 2011

The Boston Comedy Q&A: Robert Kelly at the Wilbur

Medford native Robert Kelly plays
the Wilbur Saturday night
Medford native Robert Kelly is looking forward to a busy 2011. He’s touring – he plays the Wilbur Saturday night – and working on material for a new one-hour special. He’s amazed to have a book deal with Joe DeRosa and fellow former Boston comic Bill Burr that sprang from a film the trio self-produced called Shooting Angles. They are currently waiting to hear back from several festivals about screenings.

Kelly first came to the attention of national audiences when his buddy, Arlington native Dane Cook, put him on the HBO stand-up series Tourgasm. He’s also been a regular on Opie and Anthony, and played Louis C.K.’s brother on the FX series Louie, which is filming season number two now.

I spoke with him earlier this week by phone.

You’re taping a new one-hour special later this year, I’m assuming what you’re touring with now is the material you’re preparing for that?

Yeah. I’m trying to lock down who I’m going to do it with right now. But yeah, I’m going to be taping an hour special and it’s definitely the material I’ve got now. I’m trying to unload this chunk and get it done with. And then I’m going to do a new album with the special. I’ll be trying to get the album down and the special down in the next few months.

Have you dropped all of the material from the previous album?

Yeah, Just the Tip? I don’t really use that, anything from it anymore. The occasional hell gig, I’ll wail one of those out. Sometimes when you’re doing a hell gig, you can run through an hour’s worth of material in fifteen minutes. Then you look down at your watch and you’re like, aw, Jesus.

How often does that happen for you these days?

Not that often. I’ve been lucky. The last year of shows has been pretty good. It always matters when fans show up, you know? If your fans come to your show, it’s always a good show. If you’re somewhere where they don’t know you’re there or you’re not really popular in or whatever, and people just show up, sometimes it can get a little crazy. But the last year, a lot of fan support has really helped out the gigs.

Are there areas of the country it has been hard to break into?

I don’t know. I kind of did the whole country with Dane on that big tour. I’e been lucky that I kinda was exposed to every state in the union on a massive level. There’s better than others. Boston, Philly, New Jersey, New York, Vegas, those places always show a lot of support. I’ve done shows, especially in Boston and New York, where people are like, “Dude, I’ve seen you six times, every time I bring friends back.” They’ll just keep bringing their friends back to expose them to my comedy.

It’s just crazy, people have seen you six times. And you can tell, too, when you add new stuff to the act they’ll come up and say, “Dude, I love that you added new stuff to the act. I appreciate that.” There are certain guys who can do a new hour every other week, it seems. I can’t really pull that off yet.

Is that something you’re looking to do?

I think you can do it, yeah, but there’s always that fame factor. If Chris Rock comes into the Cellar working on new material, he’s always got that five to ten minutes of, he’s Chris Rock. We’ll let him slide. If I go down there and try new material, if they don’t know who I am, my fans aren’t in there, it’s like, “This guy stinks.”

So I think it’s a mixture of taking some risks, and you’ve also got to have some exposure, too. If people are your fans and they came to see you, and you’re just going off and trying new stuff, I think they appreciate that. But also, when you find your voice as a comic – if you look at all of the greats, they have their own little way of saying things. It’s a tempo that they have. Even a guy like Louis C.K. has his own little tempo, even Dane has his own little tempo, where you can kind of take any topic, throw it in that blender and it comes out the way they talk.

Do you feel you’re there yet? Where do you feel you are in that?

It’s weird. My life has changed so much. I feel like if I stayed on the path I was on, which was a single guy, chicks, rock and roll, I think I might have been there. But I’m married, I fell in love. My life went in a completely different direction. I’m trying to have a kid. I have a mortgage. I went to sleep at 9:30 on New Year’s Eve. My whole perspective of life is going in a different direction, which is new for me. That’s what’s reflected. But it’s also maybe funnier, because it’s more honest. Because I’m not doing comedy to get accolades anymore, I’m just doing comedy because I kind of have to. So I think I’m closer to my voice or the way I do things than I’ve ever been.

If people saw you at the Wilbur last year and they see you this year, are they going to see a marked difference, either in the material or the way you present yourself?

It’s going to be some of the same stuff, but I definitely added a bunch of new chunks. There’s comics that write jokes, where it’s like joke, joke, joke, joke, joke, set up, punch, set up, punch through the whole act. Then there’s guys like me who, you come up with a chunk of material, whether it’s getting fat or being old or going on vacation or getting married or whatever it is. Anywhere from three to ten minutes on the same topic in a chunk of stuff. So there’s definitely new chunks in there. I’ve fine-tuned it a lot. It’s kind of like a one-man show. Not a theme, but more what I’ve been going through for the past two years.

Does the new material and your recent life experience have anything to do with the book deal?

No, that’s just something that came around. Me and a couple of other comics, Joe DeRosa and Bill Burr, we wrote a short movie and produced it ourselves and filmed it ourselves. We entered into some festivals. Somebody heard about the movie and then our managers got involved. We wrote a book proposal, and they loved it. So in the next few months, I’m going to be hunkering down and writing a book. But I really don’t even know what a semi-colon is, so. Honest to god, I don’t know how to spell. I was in juvee hall from 13 to 15, and then I pretty much was in rubber rooms all through high school.

They didn’t have AP English in juvee?

Oh, no. You played volleyball and just didn’t stab each other. I know when somebody’s following me in New York City and I know when to cover my watch on a train. I know a lot of things that people who do know how to spell don’t know. I know secret codes for video games. I know how to jailbreak my iPhone. But I don’t know how to spell. But apparently you don’t need to. [laughs] I know, it makes me sick, there are guys who are just genius fucking writers and beautiful and put words together magically and they’d just love a book deal. And then some bald chunkball asshole from Medford can make something funny and they’re like, “Yeah, let’s do that!”

Is it going to be the same story as the movie?

No, I don’t know if I can talk about it yet. We have a meeting on Monday. But it’s going to be a controversial book. Let’s put it that way. Men are going to love it, and women, some women, are going to haaaate it. I mean, hate it. Put it this way, some of the publishers that wrote back who didn’t want the book were appalled by it. I think one of the words was “disturbed.”

Can you say if it’s fiction or non-fiction?

It’s non-fiction. A how-to book. It’s guys helping guys.

Any word yet on Louie for season two?

No. You know what’s weird, even last year, I know Louis was doing a show and I knew people that were on it already. I never asked to be on it, and I just got a call out of the blue. Small part. His brother. Just one scene, really quick. I was in Hawaii with Dane at the time and I flew back to do it. It cost me money to do Louie.

But you wound up on more episodes.

Yeah. He liked our chemistry. The only reason he wrote me in is because he never had a brother in life, and since it was is show, he was like, I wanted to write a brother in, just to have one. And he liked what we did so he wrote a couple of more episodes and just kept writing shit for us. It was awesome. Worked out for me.

Anything else you want to mention?

I just released my first iPhone app. I believe that the comic Web site, and Facebook, and Twitter, for comics and entertainers is going to be dead. Especially the Web site. Nobody goes to anybody’s Web site anymore.

What does the app do?

It’s just crazy, it does everything. It has all of my tour dates, but instead of, you know like Google Maps with all the pins, it’s my head. You can zoom in and buy tickets from the head. I have my own little Twitter feed right in there. Videos, text, and photos that only go to the app people. It has my podcast up there. A soundboard of all the crazy shit I’ve said over the years.

1 comment:

tommyamado said...

It's always a pleasure knowing some bald chunkball asshole from Medford is still working hard & makin em laugh. lookin forward to the book & the special.

Miss ya Bobby.

Keep in touch pal,
Tommy Amado