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September 06, 2018

Jamie Kennedy teases 'Ad Astra' before stand-up at Punch Line this weekend

The Upper Darby native talks how he hurdled the hard knocks of Hollywood and still finds solace in stand-up

Jamie Kennedy may have left Upper Darby two seconds after first tasting fame – an uncredited role in “Dead Poets Society,” made when he was still at Monsignor Bonner High School – but the comedian and actor never got Philly out of his system. Despite big roles in “Scream,” the “Tremors” series, and currently, the upcoming Brad Pitt film, “Ad Astra,” stand-up comedy is still Kennedy’s first love, and he plies his trade handsomely this weekend at Punch Line Philly.

Q: Were you much of a theater kid, or even a comic kid, when you were living in Upper Darby?

A: Not at all. I graduated high school, got to be an extra in “Dead Poets Society,” and, oh man, that was the best thing ever. I decided right then to move to LA...Lightning struck. Everything I ever wanted to do just ht me. Bam. I mean, I love television and I loved comedy growing up, but I had no idea I could do anything about that, until it began calling me.

Q: Why not New York City, first – what, with its proximity to your home?

A: That’s it. New York was too close. People could have talked me out of it. I needed to go on my own – find myself.

Q: Were you at least a funny kid in Upper Darby – a class clown?

A: I might have thought I was funny. I don’t think the girls in school thought so. I was probably just annoying to them. I was the kid who did voices. Growing up, and going to Catholic school, I was probably less than appreciated for that, than when I got around other people doing likewise.

Q: Who did you like in terms of comedians, maybe the cats that inspired your stand- up?

A: I loved, loved loved Eddie Murphy. Loved George Carlin. Loved Bob Saget because I knew he was from the area. Stephen Wright. Ellen Degeneres. They shaped me.

Q: You’ve been doing stand-up forever. Were you doing that in-between gigs when you first got out to Hollywood?

A: Exactly. You come out to L.A. with no road map. Hollywood is just coming off the excess of making huge action movies. I had no idea – not how to get a head shot or get an agent. Zero. It took me six months just to figure what living by myself was, as I had never done that before in Upper Darby. As I’m submitting to agents, and they’re asking what I’ve done, it turned out that I hadn’t done enough, like I was an extra...So, nothing. I auditioned for improv groups, and missed out. Finally, someone told me I should try stand-up – that was time on stage. What’s the best way to get seen? Stand-up.

Q: Do you remember the first joke that got you a laugh?

A: I do. An old hack joke that talked about how girls just want to spoon, and no, man, I want to fork. My first set was stuff I borrowed or heard at the supermarket. It went well though.

Q: You’re not taking stuff from your supermarket trips, now. Are you writing it all?

A: [Being] 100 percent transparent? No. Most of it? Yes. But, some of my best jokes, my best one-lines, come from other comics just giving me tags at the club, "Hey, try this." Or, "Yo, add this." 

Q: Are you allowed to say anything about “Ad Astra?”

A: I’m pretty excited. All I can say is it’s Brad Pitt in outer space. Who better to be the face of the human race than he? It’s a big-budget film in the best tradition.

Q: You’re probably just as busy making movies as you are doing stand-up. I know you’re back and forth with “Ad Astra” and that "Roe v. Wade” movie. Is it hard maintaining a comic rhythm?

A: Yes, and that’s a great question. It’s cool to do three, four shows, back-to-back. For weeks at a time, doing spots of people’s podcasts in-between. You keep yourself within the comic community. Then comes the movie, and that happens when it happens. In a perfect world, you’d segment more – do the stand-up, film the special, tour the special, put that away, act, boom. To do it all at once is hard, but until you can totally dictate your career. It’s multitasking all the way.

Catch Jamie Kennedy Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8 at Punch Line Philly