Kyle Dunnigan, coming soon to a theater, TV set, podcast, radio, or computer screen near you.
Interview by John Bolster
The long-standing showbiz term “triple threat” falls short as a descriptor for Kyle Dunnigan. He’s more like a five-tool player, to borrow from the baseball lexicon. He doesn’t dance—so far as we know—but he’s an actor (who creates comic characters and does impressions); he’s a stand-up comic (with appearances on Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Late Night With Seth Myers, among other shows); he’s a writer (on Comedy Central’s breakout sketch show Inside Amy Schumer, where he landed an Emmy nomination for his song “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup”); he can improvise (which he does as a cohost of the podcast Professor Blastoff); and he can sing (check out his YouTube channel—which has attracted more than eight million views—for proof, in hilarious songs such as “Fuck You, Mistletoe” and “We Own the Moon”). Dunnigan is also a regular guest on The Howard Stern Show, and this past summer he had a small role in Trainwreck, Schumer’s film debut, directed by Judd Apatow. This month, he’s touring the East Coast, doing stand-up in D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Check out KyleDunnigan.com for more information.
I have a two-part question to start: (1) How do you keep your energy fresh for all the many different projects you work on, and (2) do you look back at comedians from earlier eras and think, Man, you guys had it easy?
Well, first part of that question is, things fall to the wayside as I’m focusing on something. Like, when I’m writing for the Amy Schumer show, almost everything else goes offline. I stop doing videos, and … the Howard Stern stuff doesn’t take much time. They’ll call me maybe the night before and say, “Can you call in as Perez Hilton?” or something. And the stand-up I still kind of do at night, but [generally] things go off- and online. That works for my brain, because I think I would get bored if I just did stand-up every day. It gives my brain a break, and works for me. I don’t admire the comedians who, in the past, just did the one thing.
Do you think that, in today’s comedy world, you kind of have to do all of these things?
Well, it depends on what kind of lifestyle you want. You see, I love money.
More than my family. So I will do anything [chuckles]. But, no, if I was a top-selling comedian, I probably would focus on that more. Or if I got a series-regular role. It would change the dynamic a bit. For now, though, this lifestyle works for me.
You mentioned that you do your stand-up at night, but when do you write your stand-up?
That is a great question. Honestly, most of the time I write it onstage. Like, I’ll have an idea, and I’ll just start talking about it onstage, and I’ll sandwich it in between jokes that have worked before, so it’s got a little cushion. I’ll create an illusion, like, “Hey, I wasn’t even trying to make a joke.” If it works, great. If it doesn’t, well, it was because I wasn’t even trying to make a joke, right? I save my ego from being hurt that way.
Can you tell our readers about Brothers Strong, your web series about a mismatched pair of twins?
Okay, but readers? They’re probably—I’m probably in between people masturbating, isn’t that right?
It’s a possibility.
So this is—I’m getting people very depressed, like, postorgasm—
Or pre-, they could be pre- ….
[Laughs] Or pre-, that’s true…. Brothers Strong was—it’s this character Craig that I do. I had a deal with Comedy Central. I sold them the show. But then I liked this other idea better where I could play multiple characters, so I made that, as a selling thing, to convince them—“Hey, could I do this instead?” They said I could, but the show never got picked up. So you can see it on my reel—the “sizzle reel,” as they call them—online.
When you’re playing the character Kurt, Craig’s brother, is that you singing?
Yeah, that’s me singing.
I’m impressed. Garth Brooks has got nothing on you.
That’s what I think! That’s what me and my mother think. No, I enjoy a lot of different things, so that appeals to me to do a show where I could write music and sing it, and do characters.
And the songs themselves are comedy pieces.
Yeah, they’re comedy songs. Like “We Own the Moon.” And we kind of do own the moon. We went up there, we put our flag there. That’s how you stake a claim, right?
I think so. We got dibs.
That’s our moon.
You cohost the podcast Professor Blastoff with Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger. It’s kind of a novel take on the format, where you have a serious academic topic mixed in with comedy. How did that show come about?
Tig got an offer from Earwolf, which is a podcast network. And she came to me and David, because she knew we liked science and she thought that would be kind of a cool combination. And then we developed this concept of this character, Professor Blastoff, who’s in outer space and we’re taking over his lab. It’s a ridiculous concept, but experts come in—and we’re like class clowns. Hopefully it’s an entertaining hour, and people learn something. But it’s become humiliating, because I just tell humiliating stories about myself. I don’t know how that happened, but …
It’s become your confessional.
Yeah, like no one else. David and Tig don’t confess anything. But I let people know that I had to fart in a couch when I was dating some girl. At night, I had to get up and just fart into a couch. These types of things that are no one’s business, and I shouldn’t tell people.
What was your role in Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck this past summer?
I was originally a kind of Stepford husband, but then when we got there, our kid—I had a wife, and our kid was so big that we just started making jokes about how we’re scared of our kid. And it totally changed what we were doing. But then it [ended up] having nothing to do with the film and [the scene] was totally cut out. Which was understandable. The audience doesn’t want to get taken off-track like that. But it was really fun, and I really like how Judd Apatow directs. He throws out lines and he lets improv happen. It’s really fun and you don’t feel stuck.
Did you get to meet Method Man and/or LeBron James?
Nooo! Very upsetting. No. But Bill [Hader] got to play one-on-one with LeBron. That’s a pretty good perk.