INTERVIEWS

Conor Kellicutt: Top of His Game

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conorBay Area comic and actor, Conor Kellicutt is one of those comedy guys who always seems to have been around the scene and always destroys onstage. With two teenage kids, Kellicutt is a busy man. Between appearing in an award winning Woody Allen film to taking his daughter for a piercing, Kellicutt doesn’t sleep much. SUSC is stoked he was able to find some time to converse with us about comedy, acting and growing up a child of hippie actors.

 

CONOR: What are we talking about?

SUSC: This is for SUSC, so it’s about you and your comedy history.

That sounds like fun. So we’re talking about me, right.

Yes. Conor Kellicutt.

Well, let’s definitely do that.

So you grew up in Davis, California. Was there stand-up there or did that not happen until you moved to the Bay Area?

What happened was, I was an actor in Davis at The Palms Playhouse. I grew up with a bunch of hippies, I was the resident child for all the hippie plays. I grew up watching shows. It was originally a farm that was turned into a theatre. Then I started doing commercials when I was 12, in Sacramento.

What product were you slinging when you were 12?

There was a commercial for a stereo store called Lightening Stereo or something like that. They don’t have stereo stores anymore. It was like a bolt of lightning hits the building and we all look up. The sky was a blue screen, which I thought was awesome. When I was in High School I did a few things. One was for the association of veterans. We all dressed up like young soldiers. But there was no stand-up. I moved to LA right out of High School. I was trying to do acting. I was there three years, laying on the couch, smoking pot and not really doing anything. They were really mean there, so I left. I moved to San Francisco and I was totally broke and 20 and I owed the police money for a bunch of tickets. I kept not going to court, so just one of those speeding tickets took me 8 years to settle. So I owed money, so the plan was to move to San Francisco and become a big theatre actor. But, in theatre you can live on your stipend, but it’s really hard, so you still need a job. I owed the police so I needed to work. I thought I could go do open mics and get my rocks off a bit. Then I wouldn’t need to do theatre, and I could commit to doing whatever I wanted. And, I was really, really, really bad. I thought everybody was from theatre, and nobody was from theatre, I mean a couple were, but most stand-ups come from a writing perspective or something like that. The fourth wall thing is gone. It’s different. So I was acting for the audience and they did not like that. I spent five years acting in comedy. That didn’t go well. Young comics, don’t act like a comic. Be real.

That’s good advice, but nowadays, successful comics are multi-platform, so acting is an important skill, but I know what you are saying.

Absolutely. It’s great to have all the skills, but I was acting in stand-up. You can use comedy in acting, you can even use a little stand-up in acting, because it’s so repetitive. You can act out characters in stand-up, but you have to also be sincere in your act, and I wasn’t doing that.

What was the transformation for you?

I started talking about more personal stuff. It’s funny because I’ve moved away from the personal stuff. But I learned how to be a comedian so now I can talk about anything and it doesn’t seem weird. I also just started talking to the audience and addressing them as people.

Who were you coming up with?

The people that were there when I arrived were people like Patton Oswalt, Bill Broness who now writes for TV. Ngaio (Bealum) was there. It was 1991 at the Holy City Zoo. There is a mural in the back and all those guys were there. (Greg) Proops was there, (Will) Durst was there. Ellen (DeGeneres) had just left, Margaret Cho had literally just left. Cho had only been doing stand-up for a year and they took her to LA. When I first started coming up, all those guys went to write for TV and then two/three years the bottom of TV dropped out and it all became reality television. They were like the last group of stand-up comics that wrote for TV but weren’t connected to the internet that much. They got involved later, we all did, but we started off with printed flyers, running around making phone calls. . .

The good old days!

Right. So when they went down to LA and started writing for TV and being on shows. Now it’s not really an option anymore, I guess for a few it is, but it’s not like it used to be. That used to be the track and then 90% of the writing jobs disappeared because of reality television.

So, you always pursued acting and stand-up, so you still act?

I’ve had an agent since 1991. So I’ve done commercials or industrial films, I do very little theatre. Although, I did do a play about Sublime that me and my brother wrote.

Sublime, the band?

We did it in San Jose, Santa Cruz and we had a three week run in LA that went really well on Melrose. My brother interviewed Brad’s father and he turned it into a play. Brad’s wife came to see it. I played Bradley. She sat next to my wife watching it. She said towards the end she was really moved, she said it was like watching him.

Here’s the thing Conor. I saw Blue Jasmine in the theatre and when you came onscreen, I let everyone around me know that I knew you. And they did. And then during the Oscars last year, they used the scene you were in as the clip.

Yup. I was on the computer at the time, and then my Facebook and phone started blowing up, it started going crazy. I was like, “What the hell?” That’s when I found out I was on TV.

Did that lead to you getting any exciting projects?

Here’s the thing. I live in the Bay Area and I have been. I don’t live in LA, I’m not an LA actor, I will go down and do stuff here and there. Living here I’m already top of the food chain, I get called in for stuff and I know all the casting directors. So, it doesn’t help me being up here, I’ll be front of the line for anything that comes up here. As far as LA is concerned, being in Blue Jasmine was legitimizing, mostly because Woody (Allen) handpicks each actor. I didn’t audition in front of him, but he picks every part. I’ve seen every Woody Allen movie and when I auditioned the guy hands me the script and goes, “This isn’t your characters scene.” It’s the scene in grocery store, where he’s trying to get her back, if you remember that. It’s really emotional. He said, “We don’t want you to do the emotions at this level, so scale it back.” I told myself, “A. Don’t read the lines correctly, just do them with getting the gist across.” So I didn’t learn the lines, I just learned what they meant. Second, I wanted to make sure the casting director never got to finish their sentence, ever. I was going to step on every line he had. And that’s what I did. A month later I got the phone call that I had gotten the part.

Is Woody Allen a hands-on director?

He and Cate (Blanchett) were talking a lot. Heres the thing. He looks you in the eye, he’s very cool, he’s very down to earth. Just a regular nice guy. I had to say the word “expensive”, I had two lines and we did some takes and I said it two different ways. He took me aside and he said, “I need to hear the word expensive.” We did it again and I dropped the word and I was like, “Oh, shit.” Here’s an interesting thing. I was working with the top people in the business and none of them had all the answers. They were trying to figure it out like the rest of us. They may be way more talented then us, but we’re the same on set. I was hanging with Colin Thomson, who is also a local, and Woody told us, “I need you talking in the background, and when they pause, go up with your conversation, then back down again, so we can hear what you are saying, but it cannot be noticeable.” Woody doesn’t give compliments, but he did tell Colin and me that we did a great job. I earned the right to be there, so I was relaxed. Bobby Cannavale, I was playing his best friend, came in right away and hung out with us. He wanted to get to know us. During the scene, we are watching boxing, he told us, “You are rooting for the other guy, and Colin and I are rooting for the same guy. We are betting,” and he looks at me and says, “And you never pay.” I told him, “I pay!” He said, “No, you never pay.” So we although the camera is on Kate Blanchett in the other room, you can hear us improvising background noise. Colins like, “Show me the money.” I say, “Well it’s not here,” and Colins like, “You never pay!” Bobby helped us establish a reality and he was totally friendly and fun and of course we never heard from him again, but it was great.

I would imagine growing up at The Palms hippie acting commune that you are comfortable on set.

Oh yeah. I love the set. It’s home. When you work in films, there is a director of photography and he is the one physically directing you, because he’s setting up the shot. For instance, throughout the whole scene I am sitting on a table. But for the shooting, I’m sitting on an apple box, a crate, different level apple boxes and on the table. But in the movie it all looks the same. A director of photography will move you to where he needs you like a prop. He will physically move you, put his hands on you and move your head. It’s friendly and part of the business. But this guy was beautiful to watch. You could see the worry on Kate’s face when they had their little meetings, but this guy was super friendly with Woody. The DP danced around the set. He would hum and move around and tilt your head and tell you, you were beautiful, and then dance off and do his thing. He is a true artist. And I think that’s a difference about working on a Woody Allen film, everyone was an artist at what they do.

And now you are coming full circle with The Marijuana Logues.

I play the Arj Barker part, I’ve known Arj for 25 years. Caitlin Gill plays the Doug Benson role and Tony Camin reprises his original role. I get to use all the skills I have for something like this.

 

Interviews
01/14/2015

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