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Robert Kelly cannot be contained. The boisterous comedian is born of the same Boston and New York City comedy circuit that produced talent like Dane Cook — whom he’s toured with — Bill Burr and Marc Maron.
Since appearing on television shows like “Louie” and “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” he’s mostly kept busy with his podcast “You Know What Dude,” which features Kelly hosting a swath of comedians as they riff on various topics, or just roast each other — no holds barred.
Now, he’s returning to the road for a tour across the Midwest and East Coast, where he’ll be sampling new material for his first filmed comedy special since 2014’s “Live at the Village Underground,” which aired on Comedy Central. His second stop, this weekend, is at Lansing’s Robin Theatre.
Kelly told City Pulse he’s happy to be back on the road.
“The clubs I work now are great; the people are great. Whereas when I first started headlining, I had to take whatever the fuck they gave me, for whatever price, because that’s what I had to do to earn my bones.”
But, escaping his poor, comedian punk house living situation in New York City made it all worthwhile for the young Kelly.
“I lived in a shithole in Harlem with the cockroaches. I didn’t want to be there. I was either there, or I was in a Hilton.”
In addition to no longer working “clubs that suck,” Kelly said the fear of bombing has all but disappeared with time.
“Now I don’t give a fuck; now I don’t have a Plan B. It’s just, ‘This is what I’m talking about. I know it’s funny and I know I can make shit funny.’ It’s a little less anxiety, which makes the road nicer.”
Kelly’s sets have a distinct introspective, self-deprecating flavor — it can be dark, but never pitch black. “Live at the Village Underground” featured many jokes at the expense of his difficulty losing weight, or as he explained to this reporter, “You’re gonna be 48 some day, and your wife’s going to say, ‘Don’t eat the fucking croutons, fatso.’”
Kelly’s jokes on the phone about dietary restrictions raised an interesting question based on the idea “cool is the enemy of funny,” a comic proverb attributed to either Chris Rock or Rich Voss — “one of them is lying,” Kelly says.
He elaborated on why turning the joke inward is the bread and butter of standup comedians.
“Once you start believing the hype and once you start acting cool — there’s no room for funny, because of your ego,” Kelly said. “If you start to get too cool for school, that’s it. You’re done. Look at the top comics. They’re still fucking silly, still self-deprecating and still fucked up.”
And for Kelly, nothing is off limits — but that’s not to say he picks the controversy of the month and riffs on it for easy shock value. The tragedies he morphs into comedy instead come from a personal place.
“I don’t think you should have limitations as a comic. I think you should be able to tackle any topic. When my dog died, I was very sad; I cried,” Kelly said. “Then I went on stage a month later and talked about it. Now I have a great fucking bit about my dog dying. These were all tragic things that weren’t funny, but I made them funny.”
Robert Kelly $20
7 p.m. & 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 19 7 p.m. show time SOLD OUT The Robin Theatre 1105 S. Washington Ave., Lansing www.therobintheatre.com (989) 878-1810