by Ryan Meehan
Best known for his three year run on Fox’s MadTV, Pat Kilbane made his mark on the show with outrageous physical comedy and uncanny celebrity impressions. Among his more memorable characters were “Stan the Java Man”, the shady Spishak spokesman, and the floppy superhero “Rubberman”. Kilbane’s impressions are too numerous to list, but notable his mimicry of Howard Stern and Lyle Lovett fooled some viewers into believing that the stars actually appeared on the show. After MadTV Kilbane was signed to a two-year deal with Dreamworks, during which he appeared in the movies Evolution and Eurotrip, and on ABC’s hit show Spin City. He later added to his eclectic menagerie of characters with appearances on My Name is Earl and in the films Day of the Dead, Semi-Pro, and Meet Dave. Raised in Dayton, Ohio Kilbane earned his bachelor’s degree from Beloit College before beginning his career as a stand-up comedian. He headlined clubs throughout the United States and was featured on Showtime’s Full Frontal Comedy as well as A&E’s Evening at the Improv and Comedy On the Road. After moving to Los Angeles he appeared in over a dozen national commercials, made guest appearances on The Single Guy and Arli$$, and played the role of the Anti-Kramer in the Emmy nominated Seinfeld episode “The Bizzaro Jerry”. Now a writer and producer of science-fiction, Kilbane recently penned The Brain Eater’s Bible, a zombie book published by St. Martin’s Press. That’s why I’m currently wearing a helmet, but am still delighted to have Pat Kilbane as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What’s the most crucial aspect of nailing down a great impression? Does it depend on the figure that you are trying to impersonate?
PK: Yeah, it does depend, but I usually start with how they hold their face. If there’s something strange they do with their lips or jaw, doing that will get you a long way towards having the impression. Also, not to get too technical, people from different cultures speak from different parts of their mouths. French people speak from the front, Scottish from the back, American and German from the middle. Getting that helps a lot too.
RM: Do you think that individuals over six feet three inches tall who want to be successful in the entertainment industry are sort of pigeonholed into doing physical comedy because of their height?
PK: Height definitely presents a type-casting issue. I’ve been cast a number of times as a basketball player, and often as comedic villains or authority figures. Someone like Brad Garrett would have a hard time getting a role that is not some kind of strange character… in part because that’s what he does best as an actor, but part of it is his sheer size.
RM: When you were working on MadTV, did the cast view its target audience as fans who were looking for a sketch comedy show that was an alternative to Saturday Night Live; or did you think for the most part that they were looking for something completely different than what one has come to expect from that format? How do you think yourself and the other cast members went out of your way to create a sketch program for television that set you guys apart from everything in that format which came before you?
PK: I don’t recall any conversations about branding per se. Mostly we just went straight for whatever we thought was funny. The fact that half of our shooting schedule was without an audience (every other week was for pre-taped pieces) meant we got to do things that were more complex production-wise than what SNL could do live. Overall, I do think our voice was a little wackier and appealed to a slightly younger audience.
RM: As someone who has done prior commercial work, were you ever worried that being the Spishak pitchman was going to jeopardize any future commercial spots given that you played this shady character who was selling all of these ridiculous products?
PK: Haha! Great question! I never thought about it, but I suppose that’s true. How do you hire a spokesman who has spent years playing a dishonest spokesman?
RM: Back in 2003 you shot a pilot episode for Comedy Central, and the show didn’t end up getting greenlighted…At the time, how did you deal with that kind of rejection and find new creative outlets that would lead to the work you’ve done during the rest of your career?
PK: Not getting greenlit is always a disappointment because of the amount of work you need to put in on a project like that. By that point, though, I was seasoned enough to know what the odds are and that you can’t invest too much hope in it once you’ve turned the work in. It was an interesting look at the behind-the-scenes machinations of the networks. That’s the artist’s paradox: you have to attack the creative process with passion and hope, but when you’re done, you have to forget about it almost immediately and move on to the next thing.
RM: You posted a video blog back in April called “Celebrity Conspiracy Club”…What do you think is the silliest conspiracy theory of all time; and which common conspiracy theory do you think is the most likely to actually be true?
PK: In the internet age, there is no shortage of ridiculous conspiracy theories. Seriously, there are people who believe in the lizard man stuff and chat about it with crazed excitement. You know, after learning that Nixon derailed Johnson’s Vietnam peace process to improve his chances in the presidential election, I think almost anything (besides lizard men) is possible with our government.
RM: Do you still do stand-up comedy? If so, how often; and what are the best and worst attributes of being a stand-up performer?
PK: I do stand-up here and there, but not on a regular basis. It’s an invigorating feeling to plant your feet on that stage, so I’ll never walk away from it completely. The best performers understand that ultimately what you’re doing up there is communicating, so if you can look at your audience and “talk to them” with your material, the results can be pretty magical. I think that Louis C.K. and Richard Pryor are the best examples of that human connection. The worst thing in stand-ups is the opposite quality – performers who recite their jokes with the same timing and manner as when they practice at home in the mirror. No dynamism and no connection.
RM: What exactly is “The Brian Eater’s Bible”; and to what do you attribute this strange fascination America has with zombies?
PK: The Brain Eater’s Bible is a book I wrote about post-apocalyptic survival and self-discovery from the point-of-view of the zombie. It’s almost like a “Zombie Survival Guide” in reverse but with more story. If you’re a zombie fan and haven’t read it, you should. It’s a full-color, really immersive ride. Maybe I’m showing my age, but I think our zombie obsession is related to the depersonalization of our relationships by way of phones and computers. Zombiism is a metaphor for our own loss of our humanity.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
PK: Right now, our YouTube channel “Dorks of Yore” is the thing I’m most excited about. My wife and I created it as an outlet for our comedy and nerd-related ideas. We just teamed up with some brilliant technical people and have some great series lined up. Please subscribe!
Dorks of Yore on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/dorksofyore
Official Website: http://patkilbane.com/
Pat on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThePatKilbanePage
Pat on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TVsPatKilbane
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