Robert Kelly is already having an amazing 2015. His brand new comedy hour, Robert Kelly: Live at the Village Underground debuts Friday at 12 am et on Comedy Central, and he’s incredibly proud of the special, which he produced on his terms. He’s also shot the new Denis Leary FX series, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll which is set to premiere this summer. And just last spring he had an unforgettable guest role on Louis CK’s Louie. His podcast, You Know What Dude is a huge hit on RiotCast.com. After 25 years of working at it, it’s all coming together for Kelly.
This week, the timing was perfect for Kelly to guest on SiriusXM’s Unmasked and talk about what it feels like to be hitting a stride at this point in his life. Kelly sat down with host Ron Bennington to talk about all of this, and how being a husband and father has changed things in his life as well.
“I’m happy in my life. I think it’s the first time I’ve been happy as a human being,” he told the audience. ” I’ve got a kid I’ve got a wife, I got a ranch, I got a driveway. I’ve got all that kind of weird shit that I never thought I wanted, I always avoided because I thought it would make me less funny. If you fell in love you’d take away the edge. If you get a kid your life is ruined, if you move to the suburbs and get a driveway you’re just going to stay home and be a douche and watch housewives. It’s the exact opposite. As soon as I started being happy in my life, all of a sudden my creativity opened up.”
One of the great moments for Kelly has been finishing his comedy special that comes out today on Comedy Central. He had the opportunity to do the special two years ago, but it fell through when Kelly insisted on filming the special in a club, rather than a theater. Kelly explained why it was so important to him.
“Here’s the thing. We were ready to do this two years ago and at the last-minute they were like ‘fuck you we need you to do it in a big theater’ and I said ‘no, I’m out.’ And I walked away which sucked because now I’m not doing my special. So now cut to a year later, I have almost two specials…. And a big part of it was, we wanted to capture the way comedy used to be back in the day. When you see Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor’s first [special] at the Improv on 43rd and it’s just a brick wall a light shooting through, some smoke, and that’s it. You could tell a joke and see the people laughing at the same time. It wasn’t a cut shot to a laugh that they did before. You could see me. How funny I was. I’m ‘this’ funny. I’m telling the joke and you’re seeing the people laugh as we’re doing it. You can’t do that in a theater. And we wanted a cinematic vibe- almost like a movie. I feel like specials became unspecial. This long, four-minute monologue tv set, that’s just this perfect beautiful pan shot of the crowd’s heads, and then woaaaaahhwww. Comedy is not like that. It’s some waitress walking buy, some dudes knee on the stage, you tell a joke everybody laughs except for that twat and you’re like “why isn’t she liking me?'”
Kelly worked with Jim Serpico and Bobcat Goldthwait to make the special that he wanted to make in the place that he wanted to make it– the Village Underground. “The venue is part of the special. Most of the specials you see, you don’t even know where they were fucking shot. It doesn’t matter. I love the fact that the Village Underground is part of why this special is good.”
“But,” he said, “I’m still not happy as a comedian.”
One of the problems for Kelly is that he is constantly comparing himself to some really great comedians. Kelly got his start in Boston with comedians like Dane Cook, Patrice O’Neal, Bill Burr and Louis C.K. — a group of who all have had incredible successes, but all at different times and in different ways. Kelly called himself the “least funny out of all of them,” even after all of the things happening for him now. He explained:
“In comedy, I feel like I’m starting to become good, now. I really do. I know I’m funny, I can come up here and make you guys laugh. I can do it, but there’s something else if you talk about a Louie [CK] or a [Colin] Quinn. When you start talking about those guys, they’re at some level that I personally haven’t attained yet but I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m trying to get there. I’m not the smartest guy…I don’t know how to write ‘oh my god jokes’ that make other comics say ‘hey man that’s fantastic.’ I’m just funny. I’m still learning, I’m trying so hard to get ‘there.’ And I feel like i have hints of it now. Where this special I’m talking about me and what I’m doing.”
Kelly also talked about his fears, his addiction history, and his worries about social media. And his difficulty letting the success sink in. “To be where I’m at right now. To be on this stage. To be honest, I never….when they asked me to do this, I was like, no. I don’t deserve to do it,” Kelly told Bennington. “To be on stage with you doing this is pretty epic, for me. Because of who you’ve had on before and what you’ve done. It’s… I don’t know if I’m worthy, you know what I mean? So to be here right now and to do this, its hard to accept.”
Kelly told Bennington that the reason it’s hard to accept is because he’s afraid it will go away.
“It never happens. So all this great shit’s happening, doing this show with you, having the special come out, owning the special. Having that– owning my material– which is fucking epic. The show coming out on FX, Louie, all this stuff is so overwhelming to me that I get scared that it will go away if I fucking acknowledge it. If I acknowledge it, and I just don’t keep my head down, and I don’t keep trying to be better; if I don’t stay humble it’s going to go away again. That petrifies me that I’ll just be at some club in a mall, half full after all this, and I’ll just be going fuck, i almost had it. I’m scared man, I’m scared to be at a comedy club with a tie and a vest on.”
But none of that is happening, and none of those fears change that it’s his time right now, and all of these big things are happening, and Kelly has the respect of his fans, and other comics. And nothing can take away the fact that he’s funny.
And he put it, “My stand up’s funny, go fuck yourself.”
Robert Kelly: Live from the Village Underground premieres Friday at 12 am et on Comedy Central and the extended, uncut version will be available at RobertKellyLive.com for just $5 immediately following the release of the special. You can hear the premiere of Unmasked on SiriusXM’s Ron and Fez Show tomorrow at 2pm et on Raw Dog Channel 99. Unmasked will re-air on Saturday, January 10th at 7pm et and on Sunday, January 11th at 2pm et and 10pm et. Unmasked will also air on OpieRadio Channel, Sirius 206 XM 103, tonight at 11pm et and again on Sunday on Opie Radio at 11am et.