Becoming a Comic
The final installment of the First Friday Comedy Series summer run returns to the Avi Resort & Casino on Friday, Aug. 3, in the Grand Ballroom.
If this show is anything like July’s show, audiences are in for a real treat when this full-on, non-stop laugh event comes back to town. The evening begins with emcee Rob DaRocha, followed by feature comic Andy Kern and the evening’s headliner Brian Kiley.
All of the talent comes from a comedy organization called The Comedy Machine, which has been supplying venues across the country with some of the funniest clean comedians around.
More about Brian Kiley
Kiley always knew he wanted to be a comic but growing up in Boston back in the ’60s, he had no idea how to make that happen. He loved watching the few comics that happened to be on the limited talk shows of the day, but getting into the industry seemed like a long shot. However, sometimes opportunities happen along when you least expect them to, and Kiley turned his ability to write jokes into a full-time gig as a staff writer for Conan O’Brien in 1994, and is currently the head monologue writer.
He has been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards and he is the winner of the 2007 Emmy Award for Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series. All the while he has also maintained a successful stand-up career, traveling around the country for many years.
He has appeared several times on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” and more. He regularly performs at clubs in L.A.
“As a kid, I wanted to be a comedian, but in those days, there weren’t any comedy clubs around,” he told the Laughlin entertainer. “You never heard of anything like that. I’d watch a comedian on Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas, but my question was, ‘how do you become a comedian?’
“I watched ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ which was my favorite show, and I thought, people write for TV shows. I knew that was a thing. I could write for a sit-com, but at 12 or 13, you don’t know how to go about that.
“At about 14, I would write jokes and I had little note cards I wrote them on and I kept them in like a recipe box, in case I needed them someday,” he laughed.
“I was in my sophomore year at Boston College and they had some professional comedians come and perform. The third guy, Barry Crimmins, was hilarious. I talked to him after the show and I said I’d like to be a comedy writer, because saying I wanted to be a comedian was too scary for me. He was running this club in Cambridge called the Ding Ho — it’s a Chinese restaurant that ran comedy seven nights a week. He had me come there and meet with him.
“I typed up the jokes I’d been writing all those year and he critiqued them. He told me that I couldn’t make any money in Boston writing jokes for people, that I’d have to perform. I thought, I could never do that. He let me come and watch the show at the restaurant any time I wanted.
“I took a comedy class in the summer at Emerson College taught by Denis Leary and we had to write scripts and perform stand-up. At the end of the class they had guests come in and we did our stand-up for them. This woman, who was a professional comedian named Andrea Eisenberg told me, ‘you should pursue this and see if you can have a career.’ So I went to the Ding Ho the next week for the open mic and Barry was hosting. He gave me a good spot and a good intro and it went great and then I was a comedian.
“That was my senior year at college and I did it full-time after I got out of college for about 10 or 12 years,” he added.
Then a new talk show made it’s way into the mix.
″‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ had just started and a couple friends of mine got hired. I was writing a lot of topical jokes at the time,” Kiley said. “I would go through the newspaper and write jokes on whatever was happening in the news. A friend called me and said, ‘one of Conan’s monologue writers got fired, they’re really looking for somebody, why don’t you submit?’ So I typed up 25 minutes of my act I’d been doing the last few years with all my topical jokes and I sent it in. They called me and said, ‘Conan liked your packet and you start tomorrow.’ The show was new, we didn’t know if it was going to last and I had all these 13-week contracts. It kept going and I’ve been there for 24 years.”
Writing jokes for himself and writing for someone else proved challenging.
“Conan grew up in the next town in Boston from me. We went to the same Catholic Sunday School when we were kids. I kind of knew of him as a kid, and a weird coincidence was the two of us, we grew up in these big Irish Catholic families in Boston, I think we just had a lot of similar sensibilities so that helped. I didn’t have too hard a time adjusting to writing for him.
“Sometimes when you write for someone else, it’s like we’re on two different wave lengths about what we think is funny. When I started working for Conan in the old days, I always enjoyed word play, and I’d write jokes like that for my act, and I’d write jokes like that for him. Well, he hates those kinds of jokes. He kind of beat those out of me,” he laughed.
“When it comes to my comedy, I basically satirize my life,” he added. “I’ve been married for 26 years, I’ve got two kids who are college age, so my jokes are about my life.
“What I’ve done with Conan is, I never wanted that thing when I’ve come up with a good joke, do I give it to him or keep it for me? I never wanted to have that sort of moral dilemma everyday. So anything topical, which is what the monologue is anyway, Conan gets all that stuff, and my act is about my wife, kids and my childhood.”
The good, the bad and the ugly of the business of comedy is a high, low and everything in between.
“There is nothing more exciting than going on ‘The David Letterman Show,’ or ‘The Tonight Show,’ and it’s great. I’ve had so many great experiences with great comedians. But then they book you in restaurants and they want you to perform for the people — the people didn’t come for a comedy show, they just came here to have dinner. You’re giving them comedy against their will,” he laughs. “Sometimes you’re booked for a private party and everyone’s milling around. I might as well be at a bus depot. No one wants a show. There’s nothing worse than a bad night.
“Strange places they want you to do comedy? I’ve done a show at a racetrack, or a burlesque-type show and I have to ask, ‘do you guys really want me to quietly come out there and discuss my family?’ Sometimes it’s a bowling alley or a laundromat or situations where you can’t believe you’re in them, but it is what it is.
“I’ve lived in Boston, and I lived in New York and now living in Los Angeles,” he added. “These are great comic cities where there’s just great comics there. So I’m lucky that my favorite comics are my friends and some of these people are comics you’ve never heard of. But they are hilarious and that’s one of my favorite things — getting to hang out in the green room with other comics is just a treat. It’s so much fun.
“Everyone’s a good storyteller, but no one tells about the great shows they had, their story is, ‘I’m doing the show, and I’m getting heckled by a veteran, he’s a war hero and the crowd hates me. The guy’s holding a baby and the baby starts heckling me.’
“There’s nothing better than having a great show,” he said. “If you have a hot crowd and a great show, that’s so much fun and there’s nothing like when you’ve got that new joke that you can’t wait to try and it works. It’s such a great feeling.
“Then there’s nothing worse than bombing, especially when you’re bombing by yourself and you’re 2,000 miles from home. When you’re on the road full-time, it can be lonely. You miss your family and your life. It takes it’s toll on people. I’m fortunate because of my job, I’m not on the road any more. I travel very little here and there.”
What does he do about hecklers?
“First, I have a team of lawyers that can issue a cease and desist. It’s expensive to have them at every show, believe me. I’m losing money hand over fist,” he laughs. “I don’t have them too often luckily, some people have an aggressive act and it makes sense for people go after them. But I don’t do that kind of act so it’s not too bad.”
So if Kiley were at the wheel of his very own TV show, how would
“I would probably have some guy who lives in the suburbs, who gets into trouble by trying to be too many things to too many people,” he said. “As far as my co-star, there are so many funny female comics now, I would pick one of them, and have someone believable. There’s nothing worse than when the star of the show is this guy who’s 55, bald and overweight and he’s got a supermodel for his wife.”
For samples of Kiley’s comedy, check out website, briankiley.com or his Twitter page at kileynoodles to see his Tweets.
With a heritage that is both El Salvadorian and Brazilian, DaRocha didn’t learn English until the second grade from watching Saturday morning cartoons. Born in New Orleans and then moving to L.A. with his mom, it wasn’t until he was at San Francisco State University studying film he learned he had the talent to make people laugh their butts off. Turns out, comedy was the love of his live.
While taking acting classes in the evening and auditioning during the day, he become a substitute teacher for two years and taught Special Ed for three years.
He began his stand-up comedy career in his hometown of Los Angeles and has emerged as a favorite at the Ice House in Pasadena, Laugh Factory both in Los Angeles and in Long Beach, and at the Improv in Los Angeles. He’s also performed in Orange County at various comedy clubs. He was selected to be part of the 2007 Latino Laugh Festival’s Diamonds in the Rough Show featuring top headliner comics such as Carlos Mencia and Johnny Sanchez.
DaRocha has a very strong stage presence and great comedic timing. He performs all over the Los Angeles and Orange Country area and currently has two national commercials running, so you may have seen him on TV. He recently performed on “Standup and Deliver” on NUVO TV.
Andy Kern dreamed of becoming a professional football player. Once he realized that wasn’t going to happen he jumped into standup comedy. Kern went from the “chitlin circuit” in South Central to Comedy Central. Kern’s star has been rising ever since.
He has performed in comedy clubs, colleges, military bases, and casinos from Canada to California. Also he has appeared on VH1 and Comedy Central.