UPDATE: This show has been moved from the Loft to Mac's Bar.
Robert Kelly doesn’t shy away from coarse jokes. But he’s not in it to piss you off or make you uncomfortable. He wants to win you over.
“I love when people aren’t with me, but I get them to go with me,” he said. “I love seeing a girl who looks like, ‘What is this guy talking about?’ But then she’s laughing at this joke that maybe she shouldn’t laugh at. Somehow she related to it. It had honesty, she could see that, and it was funny. That’s comedy to me.”
A veteran comedian, Kelly, 46, starred in Denis Leary’s FX series “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll” and plays Louis C.K.’s brother in the comedian’s semi-autobiographical FX series, “Louie.” This fall, he is barnstorming the East Coast and Midwest on his True Story Tour, which comes to Mac's Bar Nov. 3. City Pulse caught up with the busy comedian between gigs.
Tell me about this tour. It seems like you’re hitting a lot of rock clubs.
We’re trying to do something different than just going to big comedy clubs. We’re trying to get in places I’ve never been and get in these little venues where comedy doesn’t go all the time. And then I’m gone the next day. It’s a really cool tour.
Do you have an opening act on this tour?
Me and Stavros Halkias are doing this tour together. He’s a new guy on the scene. He just moved from Baltimore to New York, and he’s one of my favorite young comics.
We do a lot of writing during the day. We help each other with jokes at night and then fix them the next day. We try to push each other. There’s a lot of creativity on this tour, which is great.
What do you do to pass the time between gigs?
We chow. We find great restaurants on Yelp and just chow. We’re almost doing a traveling Food Network show, for God’s sake. We should just film it and pitch it. We’d probably be able to sell it. We should call the tour “Two Honey Pigs Eating,” because that’s all we’re doing.
You’re a sober comedian. Is it weird performing in bars and clubs every night?
It doesn’t even affect me. The only time it bothers me is when there’s that guy or that girl who gets too drunk. They have to repeat everything you say, or instead of laughing after every joke, the guy yells ‘woo-hoo,’ because he thinks he’s at a rodeo or a monster truck rally. I don’t like that. I don’t mind people drinking in comedy clubs, but it’s not karaoke. You have to listen. It’s like theater. You’re not supposed to take away your senses. That kind of drunk stinks.
How do you think growing up in Boston influenced your comedy?
I grew up in Boston when we never won a championship. All we had was the Celtics. We were pretty miserable people.
I think having all that anxiety and craziness and hate and disappointment actually helped with standup. Either you become a crazy tough-guy lunatic, or you become funny. I think anywhere that’s a bad city — where they’re depressed or sad or there’s a lot of tragedy — in the next 10 years it will produce really good comedians. Chicago’s poppin’ off right now. Detroit should be kicking out some good comedians.
Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to be a comedian?
The first laugh I got. It was the accolades and the self-esteem. When you tell jokes, you’re getting laughs every 30 seconds. It’s people just approving you by laughing, and it’s pretty addictive. I was like, “This is it.”
I actually quit college. I was one math credit and one English credit away from getting a degree. I was going to school for fine art, and I was going to be an art teacher. I was going to make macaroni vases and hand turkeys.
What was it like working with Louis C.K. and Denis Leary?
I’m very lucky to be in the same room with those guys, let alone act in scenes with them. They’ve been doing it for so long, and they’re so good at it. It makes you better. You act with shitty people, you’re shitty. You act with great people, really great actors, you become better.
How have Twitter and Facebook changed things for comedians?
I think social media and all this stuff is too much. I think you can be too exposed. You could have Cornish game hens every day, and after a few weeks you’d be like, “I’m done with that.”
What about podcasts?
I think podcasting is the best social media platform for a comedian. You can’t fit tone in 140 characters, but in a podcast you hear the tone. You hear the anger or the happiness; you can hear who that person is and hear them having fun.
And to get the podcast, you have to work. If you’re a fan of my podcast, that means you have to download it every week and listen for two hours. That means you’re a fan.
Robert Kelly With Stavros Halkias, Nick Leydorf
8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3
The Loft 2700 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing
517) 484-6795, macsbar.com