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Interview: US comedian Kevin James Doyle discusses the highs and lows of performing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Comedian Kevin James Doyle has been performing stand up for over ten years. An actor and writer based in New York City, it was in 2017 Kevin brought his first hour of storytelling – 30 Year Old Virgin – to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This year Kevin James Doyle’s second soul-searching hour, Loud Blond Bald Kid, saw him explore adolescent angst and cringe-inducing, 100% truthful anecdotes to draw big laughs from the crowd.

I managed to catch Loud Blond Bald Kid at the Laughing Horse Free Festival this summer, and was unsurprised to learn it had been crowned Best Solo Comedy at New York City’s FRIGID Festival last March. Kevin possesses a talent enviable amongst comedians – natural likeability – which keeps the audience’s attention as he weaves his way through hilariously relatable stories. Kevin’s refreshingly honest approach hooks the crowd into a candid conversation and, as laughter seemingly catches you off guard, it makes every punchline all the more satisfyingly funny.

Three months since the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 ended, Kevin James Doyle is taking Loud Blond Bald Kid on the road in the US. I recently caught up with Kevin James Doyle to see where comedy will be taking him next.

Why did you decide to start doing stand up comedy?

My first year in New York I was auditioning every day for all kinds of theatre and not getting anything so I decided to get on stage doing stand up out of frustration of not getting cast in anything. Then pretty quickly you get a rush from being a performer and your own writer, director, producer. It got creative wheels spinning in my head that I had never experienced before.

Who are your comedy heroes? 

I think the first comedy I ever remember watching regularly was I Love Lucy. You could rent it from the library and I remember binging that show before binging was a thing. Lucille Ball’s physical comedy is on another level and I loved Fred and Ethel. Then I got into Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. But a big moment as an adult was when I saw Mike Birbiglia’s show Sleepwalk with Me off broadway the first week I moved to New York City and seeing storytelling combined with jokes clicked for me and I was like I want to do THAT.

What’s the best and worst thing you’ve found about being a comedian? 

I think getting to express a point of view or tell a story that you have always thought was funny and then it turns out it is…that’s the best part. The worst when you think something will be hilarious and then people are like ‘Why on earth would you even think to say that.’ Being broke all the time used to feel like the worst thing but then you meet rich people that are miserable and it makes it all worth it!

You share a lot of personal stories on stage. Do you ever worry about sharing too much? Has your honesty ever got you in trouble? 

I don’t worry about sharing too much about my own life, I am driven to tell very personal stories to reckon with them in some ways and I think the audience appreciate that. BUT it can be difficult when they involve other people from my life.. My previous show there was a lot of stories about my ex-fiance and another girl who I lost my virginity to. I wanted to be respectful of their identity as well as how they I portrayed them, they both ended up seeing the show and enjoyed it, my ex fiancé’ even texted me later and said ‘Great show, you really went easy on me’ and then we texted back and forth laughing about our biggest fights when we were together. It was actually kind of beautiful.

Do you get consent from your family or friends before you reveal certain true stories?

It is not a yes or no situation but I consult people about if they want me to change their name or if a certain aspect of the way I tell the joke is ok. I will say one of my favourite parts of my new show and a punch line of something my mom said that is not true at all. And when I did it the first time she yelled out “I did not say that” and then we had a dialogue from the stage and it was one of the funniest moments of any show I have done. Also, most of the people that end up in my stories are people that helped me or I admire in some way, I am usually the doofus in my stories, my friend and family are the heroes in my stories and in my real life.

What’s been your most memorable gig (for good or bad reasons)?

I do a show every year at The Bowery Ballroom with my friend Cory Cavin, a great comedian as well, we raise money for an organisation called NOMI Network that fights human trafficking. It was always my dream to perform in that venue because its big and I’ve seen some amazing concerts there. One year we had an amazing line up and our secret guests were Jim Gaffigan and Mike Birbiglia. So watching the audience flip out when we brought them to the stage was amazing but also getting to ask your comedy heroes to do a show and then perform along side them was a thrill.

Loud Blond Bald Kid was your second show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, how did it compare to your first run in 2017 with The 30 Year Old Virgin?

I would say everything was 20% better. Audiences, rest, fun, reviews, housing, people I met. I was less stressed out and was just able to enjoy performing everyday and even flyering was not as miserable as I had remembered it being.

You’re touring the show and then recording it as an album – would you like to take Loud Blond Bald Kid anywhere else or will you put the show to bed at the end of this year?

I am going to record the comedy album so I can have a record of what the show is and became throughout fringe. Then I am going to shoot it as a comedy special next year, the show is all about growing up and middle school and adolescence and the other day I thought of a way to film it that would be unique to this show. And then I look forward to putting it out there because I believe this material is very relatable and I want as many people to see it and share their horribly embarrassing stories about growing up with me.

Comedian Kevin James Doyle

Are you planning a return visit to the Fringe in 2020? If so, can you reveal any themes or topics you’d like to tackle on stage? 

I am planning on coming back for sure. My Airbnb host said I could come back so that is half the trouble, finding good housing! One reason I am recording this show sooner than later is so that I can start to write material for another show. I have no idea what it will be about. I am releasing The 30 Year Old Virgin, Filming Loud Blond Bald Kid and going to be writing a new show for Fringe. It’s juggling a lot but my dream was to do an hour stand up show one day and now that I found Fringe and achieved my dream twice I just want to keep doing it and see what comes out.

Do you feel your approach to writing and/or performing has changed since doing Edinburgh?

Yes. Writing with a theme and an arch is what thrills me. I love getting a laugh but I love callbacks and recurring characters and crafting a story in the midst of laughter. Doing shorter sets in New York and then longer 60 minute shows in Edinburgh is perfect comedy training. It’s like getting good sprinting and long distance running.

How does a UK crowd compare to audiences in the USA?

That is the biggest question I get from people in the USA before I go to Fringe and people are so worried my material won’t work in Scotland but it’s just small adjustments. When I am working on material to take to Fringe people will always be like ‘WILL THEY UNDERSTAND THIS IN THE UK? ARE YOU SURE?’ I am like hey…thank you for your concern but it’s fine…just change elevator to lift and cookie to biscuit and use the metric system and it’ll work out just fine.

What is it about Edinburgh do you think that keeps bringing performers back every year? Are some USA comedians put off by the festival’s costs?

It is the most creative chaotic beautiful intense month I have experienced. I always loved summer camp growing up and this is like summer camp for adults. I think the costs put some US comedians off but also just the horror stories of some people. I remember when I wanted to do Fringe I would hear so many stories of people who performed for 1 person or got bad reviews or had the worst month ever. It is hard to invest a bunch of money and time when that is part of the risk but to be honest even if I got horrible reviews, bad audiences I think I would still come back because fellow performers are so supportive you would find someone else in the same boat and go have drinks to bitch about it.

Besides yourself, which acts should we look out for at next year’s Fringe?

There are so many great comedians from the States I think would take incredible shows to Fringe. If Tim Dillon, Casey James Salengo, Ashley Brooke Roberts, Doug Smith or Dina Hashem ever come to Edinburgh put them at the top of your list.

Loud Blond Bald Kid tour / Album recording dates 2019:

Nov 12th New York City – Off Broadway

Nov 13th Canton, Ohio

Nov 14th Columbus, Ohio

Nov 16th Nashville, Tennessee (7pm+9pm)

See www.kevinjamesdoyle.com for updates about Kevin James Doyle’s gigs.

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