"Comedy's changed a little bit, evolved a little bit where there are more pauses and quiet time, but in Boston it was joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke a night. You wanted them not to breathe. You wanted people buckled over. You wanted tears coming out of people's eyes. That's kind of what they did. And that's kind of what we learned."
– Robert Kelly
Robert Kelly: Hey, what's up, man?
Guy MacPherson: Not much. How are you?
RK: I'm good, dude, I'm good. I'm just here in my house.
GM: Where's your house?
RK: I'm in Westchester, New York. Right outside the city. Thirty minutes outside the city.
GM: So you moved up from that tiny little apartment you were in.
RK: Yeah, I had the little one bedroom in Hell's Kitchen that was my dream bachelor pad that I lived in with my wife. Then we had a kid. I got in a fight with a homeless guy so I sold it and moved up here.
GM: How old's your kid?
RK: My kid's two now.
GM: Has that changed your outlook on standup at all?
GM: Yeah? How?
RK: You can't help but be vulnerable when you made a life. A woman's body you thought was for you your whole life, all of a sudden you realize a woman's body is for a child. Everything is made for the baby. You think twice about what you say because there's going to be a kid one day who's, 'You said this?! You wrote that joke, dad?' 'Aw, yeah, I messed up.' You know what I mean? It just makes you more vulnerable, man. It makes you more honest as a comic. You don't just say stuff to say stuff. Stuff comes from the heart a little more, I think. For me, at least. My whole hour special that I just put out there was about making a baby and falling in love and all that stuff. And now the stuff I'm writing is... I never thought I'd write about intimacy.
GM: Fewer dick jokes, is what you're saying.
RK: Oh, no, there's plenty of dick jokes. They're just more honest dick jokes.
GM: They come from the heart.
RK: Yeah, man! I mean, there is a difference, believe it or not. When somebody says something that is undeniably true or relatable, it doesn't matter what it's about. But if somebody's up there just trying to be dirty, you can see right through that.
GM: But you used to do that? Is that what you're saying?
RK: Oh yeah. When I first started comedy? Oh yeah, I was terrible. I think I had ten minutes on having sex with a stool. Look, I think all young comics kinda do that. Well, not all but some. Especially coming from where I came from. I came from Boston – blue collar town. My whole life was about looking good and meeting girls. But then your hair falls out and you get a gut and fall in love and your toe nail dies and all of a sudden you start writing about honest stuff.
GM: When did you start out?
RK: I started out, geez, wow, '95? Maybe '94 or something?
GM: You started out with Bill Burr and Dane Cook and Patrice?
RK: Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Bob Marley, yeah. I came up with heavy hitters. And the guys before us were crazy. Lenny Clark and Steve Sweeney and Anthony Clark and Dennis Leary and Louie and Nick DiPaolo, Steven Wright. I mean, the guys before us were just ridiculous.
GM: When you started going out to see live comedy, is that who you were seeing?
RK: When I started going out to see live comedy, you'd go to the comedy club and you'd see the best of the best on stage killing so bad that the room would erupt. You thought the building was going to come down. That's kinda the way comedy was in New York. Comedy's changed a little bit, evolved a little bit where there are more pauses and quiet time, but in Boston it was joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke-joke a night. You wanted them not to breathe. You wanted people buckled over. You wanted tears coming out of people's eyes. That's kind of what they did. And that's kind of what we learned.
GM: Punch them in the gut.
RK: Yeah, punch them in the gut and don't stop. I appreciate it that some guys go up there and kind of... Like Steven Wright is one of those guys, he just goes up and is very slow and methodical and just genius. Then you get John Pinette who the second he would step on stage, you're not stopping laughing until you're done. It's like a tornado hit you.
GM: Was he the same era as you?
RK: He was older than me. He was one of the greats.
GM: It's a shame what happened there.
RK: Aw, man, yeah, it's terrible. It's terrible. We lost a lot of people in the last couple years. It's sad, you know.
GM: You still like to punch people in the gut, don't you?
RK: Yeah, that's just the way I am. I just go. I like just stepping on the gas, man, and having fun. It's weird, too, because now I love when older people are in the crowd and younger people. I feel if you can make everybody laugh then it's funny. If everybody laughs, it's funny. No matter where they're from. That's why I love working the Comedy Cellar as my home club in New York. You go there every night and it's old people, young people, and people from all over the world and Jersey and Brooklyn and the States. It's everybody. So it's a good testing ground to make everybody laugh.
GM: You came to Vancouver in 2009. How have you changed since then?
RK: Now I got a kid, I got a wife. I mean, I had a wife back then. We were just falling in love and all that stuff. Now it's a different time mentally for me. When I did that tour in 2009 – I've been to Vancouver a couple times, and I love Vancouver, by the way. I love Vancouver and Victoria. They're two of my favourite places on the Earth. But I don't know, man. I'm probably a little better at comedy. And I'm a little older, man. The stuff I'm talking about was just being in love with my wife, falling in love and figuring out all that stuff. Going from a single guy to being with one girl for the rest of your life. Now it's more about embracing it and how much I love my kid and having a kid and getting old – how awesome it is getting old, just letting go. Having a stain on your shirt and not caring. My hair's gone. The only thing that bothers me is that I have hair in my ears. That's bugging me a little bit. I don't know where that came from. I don't know why there's not a late night ad for an ear thing. My wife lets it go, though. She used to pluck it but now she just lets it go. I'm bald but I have a lot of hair growing out of my ears and on my shoulder. One shoulder. I don't get that. I don't know what the hell that is.
GM: You said you've been here a couple of times? I know you were here with the Dane Cook tour, but when else were you here?
RK: I actually shot a movie up there.
GM: Which one?
RK: Uh, My Best Friend's Girl, I think it was, with Dane. The first one he did. We actually shot in the Vancouver airport. I was a TSA, or whatever you guys call them up there. We kinda improv'd the whole scene. It was awesome.
GM: When you were here for that, did you drop into clubs?
RK: No, I've never done that. My self-esteem's so low I don't want to walk into a club and have them charge me a cover. But I would love to stop into a club. I've never done clubs in Canada, only Just For Laughs stuff. But I heard the clubs are great. I know Dane would just stop in and do shows when he was up there.
GM: There was a controversial one, did you hear about that?
RK: Yeah, what was that?
GM: I was at that show?
RK: What happened?
GM: They knew he was going to show up but I guess there was a mix-up on how long he was supposed to do. So he went up before the headliner, who was a local guy.
RK: Oh, God.
GM: The crowd was loving him. The manager was new and didn't know comedy. And at this time, Dane wasn't the name he'd become. They gave him the light and he just kept going. I guess that happened a few times and then they blasted loud music.
GM: He stopped briefly, seemed confused. I thought somebody must have just hit the wrong button.
RK: (laughs) Yeah, right!
GM: So he kept going. Finally they just cut off his mic.
RK: Oh my God!
GM: And he dropped the mic and walked out.
RK: Well, you know, they should never do that. Look, once it's going, just let it go. Take the hit. But also, if there's a local headliner going on, if you're stopping in, go on after him. Or do twenty. Or do a couple, you know what I mean?
GM: I think they stopped him at 35.
RK: That's a weird situation. That's a weird thing, man. I would have just got off at ten minutes. I would have done a nice ten, fifteen, take it easy. And I would have probably gone on after the guy if that's what he wanted. That would be a nightmare for me if I was doing my headline act a club and Little Kev walked in, I'd be like, 'Oh, God.' Like Schumer comes in and does a tight 35? Then you have to follow that? Forget about that. Like, Louis comes into the Cellar all the time and he goes on. But all the big guys will come in: Chris Rock, Louis, Ray Romano. But they do like 20 minutes and then get off. That's weird that you were there. That's great that you have that experience, though, even though it was uncomfortable for you.
GM: It was great.
RK: I love great experiences. There's nothing like it seeing a show that's awesome. But there's nothing like having that memory of just being there and being like, 'What is that?' (laughs) I love that.
GM: You should drop into one of the clubs when you're up here.
RK: If I got time, I would. I don't know if they'll know me. I don't want: 'Hey, I'm Robert Kelly.' 'Who?'
GM: They'll know you.
RK: I would love to.
GM: And you were in Victoria. Was that also for the movie?
RK: No. We did this tour that we're doing before. So that was my first time in Victoria and I loved it.
GM: Oh, you were on a JFL tour before?
RK: Yeah, man. I've done a couple of these tours with JFL. The tours are always great. The theatres are great. This is why I love Canada. You guys get if it's funny, it's funny. It doesn't matter how smart or goofy it is or silly. If it's funny, it's funny. These theatres we were doing were full of everybody and there were so many different comics on and they loved every single one of us, which was awesome. There are different points of view and for a crowd to get that shows a lot. You guys like comedy in Canada. And we went to Victoria and I went and saw the salmon run, which was crazy. And then there was high tea. I was like, 'What the hell's that?' Then I went to some magic shop. I don't know, man, the town was just crazy. It was like a movie set.
GM: It's my hometown.
RK: Is it really? The only thing that sucked was the Chinese restaurant. I think the lady was mad at us because we came in late and they wanted to close but we got there in that time frame where you kinda have to serve us. And then we asked for rice and she gave us rice in a child's sand bucket.
RK: Yeah, dude, I have a picture of it somewhere. It was a dirty kid's bucket. It had little Chinese kids playing on the side of it. But we were so hungry and there was nothing open, we ate it. We were laughing so hard. There was no denying that it wasn't flatware. It wasn't a bowl. It was definitely someone in the kitchen going, 'What do they want?' 'They want more rice.' 'I don't have any clean stuff.' 'Well, just put it in that bucket.' And they just put it in the bucket and we ate it.
GM: You love working clubs and here you're doing all theatres on this tour. You gotta play it different, right?
RK: I believe comedy is 200 people or less. I think small comedy clubs are where comedy exists. Comedy's jazz. That's why I shot my special at a small place. Everybody wanted me to do a big place. I was like, 'I wanna do small.' But when you do a theatre, it's almost like you're doing a one-man show. Things have to be bigger. You have to use the whole stage, I think. You want to make sure you make the guy or the girl in the back row laugh, too. So it's a little more pronounced for me. In the club you can be a little more subtle. The stage is usually the size of a Triscuit so you have no choice but to stand there. But doing a theatre show is exhilarating. Making that many people laugh is like crazy. It's like a wave of laughter that goes up and comes back down and hits you in the face.
GM: Pacing would have to be different.
RK: Pacing is different. You gotta wait. That's why it always takes like a couple shows to kinda get your legs underneath you. Every theatre's different, too. When we did it last time it was great. And Just For Laughs runs it like a machine. They do it so well. They promote it great. The people that love comedy go. They know that the show's going to be funny. Even if they don't know everybody on the show, they still go because they know they went last year and it was great, and the year before it was great. And they run it so smoothly that we're not worrying about anything except getting on stage and having fun. As a comic, if you're having a good time, they're having a good time. If you're in your head about some weird shit, that's going to come out. So that's a relief. And hanging out together is great. The other comics, I know two of them: Gerry Dee I'm a fan of. I love his show. And I'd literally dump my wife for Darrin Rose. Literally would tell her, 'Listen, we gotta break up because Darrin said he'll be with me.' He's a national treasure.
GM: You know Darrin?
RK: I love Darrin. He's the Dick Van Dyke of Canada.
GM: Where do you see the show? How do you get it down there?
RK: I watched it when I was in Canada. The first tour I did was with Darrin. That's where we kinda became really good friends. And I actually started watching the show when I was up there touring with him. It's actually hilarious. Gerry's hilarious. And Darrin's awesome. So I love the show. And Cristela, we did a tour together, too, last year. She's hilarious. We did a smaller version up over near Toronto for JFL with Mike MacDonald, who I love.
GM: The original? The Canadian?
RK: Yeah, man! The original. That's hilarious! The Canadian one, yes. I went to breakfast with him every day. He got the same thing every single day. And then the last day he went, 'Eh, give me some sausage.' Him and Arthur Simeon, who's a Toronto comic. I think I love Canada, dude. It's weird. When I was growing up in Boston, we were taught to not like you guys or your money because we'd always get your quarters in some machine and it would just annoy me. But I told my wife I would live in Canada. I love it up there. I really do.
GM: You do a lot of acting. Did you study or are you just a natural?
RK: No, I studied, man.
GM: Before standup or during?
RK: Parallel to standup. When me, Patrice and Billy and Dane all started, I took two years off right at the beginning. I did some plays and a couple movies in Boston. I had an acting teacher, Peter Kelly, and an acting class I did for years there with him. Then when I went to New York, I kinda stayed with him. He still teaches me. I do private lessons with him and stuff like that. So I was acting with him kinda parallel to comedy. This year was a great year, too. I did Nurse Jackie, I did an episode of Maron, I did three episodes of Louie, and then I got lucky enough to get cast as one of the regulars on Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, Dennis Leary's show on FX. That was a dream come true. And I had to learn how to play the drums, which was nuts.
GM: You're the Micky Dolenz of a new generation.
RK: Yeah, man! I had to get a drum kit and learn. Now I can play the drums. It's awesome. I've always wanted to play the drums. I never have the ability to go, ‘Let's go learn.’ But now I was kinda forced to go learn how to play the drums.
GM: Is that show done?
RK: No, dude, we just got picked up for our second season.
GM: And you didn't mention Trainwreck.
RK: And Trainwreck, yes. Trainwreck was the best. And I'm so glad my scene didn't get cut. I remember I walked in and I delivered the lines, just made up some lines as me, and then Amy was like, 'Do it as a gay man.' (laughs) So I was like, 'Alright.' And I just did a bunch of lines and they were like, 'Great. I'll see you later.' That was it.
GM: That's it.
RK: That's it. Love it. Boom. When you got what they wanted, they're like, 'I'll see you later. That's perfect. Goodbye.'
GM: It's amazing what's happened with her. You've seen it first hand with Dane Cook and now Amy Schumer. Somebody just gets in the ether.
RK: Yeah, it's weird. If it happens to me, it'd be really fantastic. It would make this interview so much more better, wouldn't it?
GM: No, you wouldn't be talking to me.
RK: Come on! Stop that! I promise you if I get into the ether, wherever that is, the only one I'll talk to in Canada is you.
GM: Thank you!
RK: Yeah, it's weird, man, to see. The things that people don't see is the crazy hard work that she did. I remember the script and the script readings and the standup every night. I was in LA doing a show and she was doing her show down the street and she had a writing session with other comics that were in town doing shows. They all got together with her to write for lunch. I was like, that's what it's all about. Most comics on a Saturday afternoon, especially if they have two shows that night and you just did two shows the night before, you're sleeping or relaxing or sitting by the pool. She's at a diner writing.
GM: So she's writing with these other people for herself or is everybody doing their own thing, just all together?
RK: Well, I think it was for a roast or something. For some reason it's weird, comics are like, 'you have to write your own stuff' and 'comics don't help other comics.' It's bullshit. In New York, I'll sit there and watch, like, Lenny Marcus' set and write down tags and be like, 'Dude, try this, say this, do this.' And then he'll watch my set and be like, 'Dude, you gotta say this.' I mean, that's what we should be doing. We should all be watching each others' sets and help each other out. The guys I bring on the road with me, I'll watch their set and be like, 'Dude, that's funny. You gotta do more of this.' And they'll watch me. Instead of just trying to get laid or something after the show, we'll sit there and do bits, talk about how to make your set better.
GM: All the married comics will do that, anyway.
RK: Exactly. It's so funny. I remember I did a show in Boston recently. I brought these two guys and we did the show. The last night I go and get my stuff out of the green room and it's locked. And I'm like, 'What the hell? I gotta get my stuff.' I'm kinda pissed. I knock on the door: 'Excuse me.' I open it up, it's those two with two girls. Two of my fans that came to see me and they're in there fooling around. I was like, 'Can you just pass me my bag. I have to go back to my room and Facetime my wife.'
GM: When someone gets to the level of Amy Schumer or Dane Cook...
RK: Little Kev.
GM: I don't know who that is.
RK: Kevin Hart?
GM: Oh! Kevin Hart. Okay.
RK: We call him Little Kev. We used to throw phone books at him when he was on stage.
GM: I don't hear criticisms of him like I do with the others. Usually as soon as you make it too big, then you've got the detractors. Just the other day on Facebook somebody was posting an article about how Amy Schumer stole from Patrice O'Neal.
RK: It's garbage. They just hear a bit and they don't understand how bits work or what stealing is or what a premise is. They just don't get what a hack is. That's our terminology; that's not your terminology. As a fan, you don't get to say this person's a hack. We say that. It was actually a bit about sexual positions that somebody wrote, like the angry pirate. That's everybody's. It's out there. So you can talk about it; it's just what is your opinion on it. Patrice had a different opinion on it and she had a different opinion on it. It's like talking about the weather. It's like talking about anything. It's an incident that happened. It's actually jokes somebody else wrote they were talking about. Secondly, if Amy Schumer were stealing jokes, we'll take care of that. Don't you worry about it. Us as comics will have a talk with her. It's not for you, the world, to go and try to judge somebody because you don't know what you're talking about. And if let us explain it... If we're not bitching about it, then you don't have to worry about it because we don't just let people do things. If you haven't noticed, we're pretty vocal about people who are scummy people. It's sad, man. The people that don't like you have a voice now where twenty years ago, ten years ago they didn't have a voice. They just had to secretly sit in their house and not like you.
GM: I have a voice because I write in the paper and I've got a podcast. But I saw Amy, who I like, recently here in Vancouver, and she did a line that's a famous Wendy Liebman line. I didn't say anything because I don't know the story behind it. But I know she likes Wendy Liebman so I was thinking how could she not know that's a Wendy Liebman joke?
RK: It's weird because Louis could do something that's kinda like me, but nobody's gonna give a shit because Louis' Louis and I'm me. But if I did something of Louis, oh my God. But I don't sit there and watch Louis' set. I'm not gonna go watch Louis' hour. I might help him with a bit or watch a couple minutes of his set but I don't want to be influenced by anybody. First of all, I don't want to get depressed on how great he is and where I'm at. But sometimes that does happen. Sometimes there is a crossover or something's said that's similar. I guarantee if you ever said that's what's her name's bit, she'd be like, 'Oh shit, I didn't even know that.' Somebody like that who spends so much time writing her show, her standup, roast jokes, blah blah blah, I think the last thing they're going to do is blatantly at the height of their thing go and take people's stuff. That's my opinion, though. People can say what they want. But also you say that you have a voice, you earned your voice. You spent a long time learning how to write and write well and talking to a lot of people and processing thoughts into words – you earned your voice. I'm talking about the guy who just says mean shit and castrates somebody.
GM: Do you know anything about what's happening in Canada this week?
RK: Yeah, I guess you guys are gonna be high and a lot happier. I don't know how you can actually get nicer but apparently you guys are going to be a lot nicer when we get up there. So that should annoy New Yorkers even more.
GM: Legal pot and brothels.
RK: I mean, look, man, it could be worse! It was gonna happen. Someone had to pull the trigger. I mean, we're gonna do it, too.
GM: He just got in two days ago so we don't know if he'll actually do it.
RK: He's a great looking guy, too. He's Kennedy-like.
GM: That's what they said about his dad, did you know that?
RK: What's that?
GM: His dad was the prime minister of Canada for 14 years. And the women loved him in the beginning. They thought he was sexy and flamboyant.
RK: That's amazing, man. You understand, our president might be Donald Trump? Do you understand? It's crazy. But like you say, he's saying that stuff now, who knows what's going to happen, but legalizing pot is not going to end the world; it's actually going to relieviate [sic] a lot of stuff. I actually believe in legalizing marijuana just because I don't want to hear about it anymore. I mean, who cares? Go smoke a joint. I don't do drugs. I don't do them. I'll never smoke pot, I'll never do any drugs. I don't drink. And I don't do brothels anymore. But who cares. A legalized brothel? So you mean guys who want to do that aren't going to get AIDS and herpes and they're going to be regulated and the girls are going to have to be actually healthy and blah blah blah? Okay, fine. Go do that.
GM: I don't even know if that's something he said. That's just what the people who ran against said he'd do.
RK: That's so funny. That actually would get people to vote for him!: 'He's gonna legalize brothels and he's going to make marijuana legal and everybody gets ice cream on Sunday! That's what this guy's gonna do.' (laughs)
GM: I was just wondering if it even made the news down there.
RK: Oh yeah, no, it made the news, man. But we're about what he looks like. It was more so about, 'Oh my God, look at that guy, he's gorgeous.'
GM: Isn't it funny how if that were a female politician everyone would cry, 'You're sexist! You'd never say that about a male politician!' And yet everybody's saying it about him.
RK: Everybody. That's the first thing everybody says. We were talking about it yesterday. That's all they're talking about; he's just a young, hot, good-looking guy running your country. You guys are going to be the new America.
GM: He's the first prime minister with a tattoo, as well.
RK: He has a tattoo? What's the tattoo of?
GM: I'm not sure. It's on his biceps. I don't know. There's a shirtless photo of him posing before a boxing match and you can see it.
RK: I hope it's not like the Tasmanian Devil or something stupid.
GM: I think it might be a native thing.
RK: Oh God, he has a tribal tattoo?
GM: No, I don't think so.
RK: Alright. Hopefully it's cool.
GM: Anyway, Robert, great talking with you.
RK: Hey buddy, it was nice talking to you, too. Maybe I'll see you in Vancouver?
GM: Yeah. Have a great tour.
RK: Alright, brother. Thanks a lot, man. Have a great day.