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Comedian Kyle Dunnigan on Amy Schumer, Standup, and Terrible Pitches

Kyle Dunnigan is a frequent guest on the Howard Stern Show, currently writes for Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, is a cohost of the Professor Blastoff podcast, and just wrapped a Midwest standup tour. He’ll be appearing in the Schumer-led comedy Trainwreck this summer. He was kind enough to do an interview with us, wherein he discusses his hilarious character Craig, his standup comedy beginnings in high school and the gems that get left on the cutting room floor.


The Nerdist: First off, thanks for doing the interview today. So let’s get started! Can you give us the non-Wikipedia bio blurb?

Kyle Dunnigan: I studied acting in college, which was maybe a waste of money, but I needed some time to grow up so it was a good thing. Then I went to New York and I did a lot of sketch and improv, and then at 25 I was like “oh, there’s no money in sketch and improv.” I did a talent show in high school, and it went okay but I got suspended so it soured my feeling toward standup a little bit. I wasn’t really that dirty, but it was a sensitive school. So then I started doing standup in New York and one of the managers of a club started managing me, and I was able to get a lot of spots to get better. And then I got the Montreal Festival, and I got Conan O’Brien off of that, and then I got an agent in LA off of that. I’ve done sketch shows, like Cedric the Entertainer Presents, and I did a Jamie Foxx sketch show. I do impressions on Howard Stern, and I do a podcast with Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger.

N: So with the high school experience pushing you more toward sketch and improv, when did you decide to give standup a try again in earnest?

KD: I was like 25 and there was a club in New York where you auditioned, so it seemed like a way in. I had written some material that was sort of germinating, and some material naturally came to me. I would write songs for friends and I could use those. I actually got past to the second round where the owner sees you, but he was sick that day, so they said “he’ll watch the tapes.” And then months went by, and I thought, “oh I guess I didn’t get it,” and I was just gonna keep doing sketch and try to make money that way. Then they called me about three months later — one of the waitress/hostesses — and said that “he never saw the tapes, just come in tonight.” If she didn’t call me, I don’t think I would be doing it. I think I’d be a lawyer or something, because I don’t see things breaking for me otherwise.

N: When did you parlay your sketch writing into the YouTube channel, with the character of Craig?

KD: I did a character [Craig] on Reno 911, it was this Truckee River guy and they made him a serial killer which was right for the show, but I felt like there was a different angle for the character that I wanted to explore. I was watching that Man vs. Wild show and thought that would be a funny situation to put this character in. So I made that video, and it got a good amount of views. It was on the MySpace homepage which helped it out — back when MySpace was a thing. Now, whenever I feel like it I’ll make a video, [but] I’m not serious about making it a business.

N: When did the Professor Blastoff podcast come together?

KD: It was about 4 years ago. Earwolf was just starting and they asked Tig if she wanted to do a show, since she knew I liked science and thought it would be fun and funny to do. It’s branched off and we talk about a lot of different stuff now. It’s basically topics that are interesting to us.

N: When it comes to writing projects, have you ever had any pitches for things that just bombed in the room?

KD: I had one pitch where a friend and I went in to do this movie, and as we were pitching it we realized how terrible it was. We started laughing in an uncontrollable in-church kind of way where you feel like you’re in this high-pressure situation. We kept passing the story back and forth to each other which made us laugh even harder because both knew we were just throwing each other under the bus. The story was totally falling apart and we started to make up things. The main person we were pitching to started laughing too, so it was actually a fun time. We obviously didn’t ever go back there, but it everyone had a pretty good time.

N: Where did you study improv?

KD: In New York I was in a couple of different groups that no one would know about. In LA I studied at the Groundlings for a while with the Sunday Company. It’s like a full-time job, and my standup career was getting busy and you can’t really leave [an improv group] for months. I met great people there and it was a lot of fun. It’s cool that it’s a lot of work, but it is a lot of work.

N: Has there been anything in the Inside Amy Schumer writers room that you’ve been either extremely proud or extremely amazed to see make it onto TV?

KD: I love to write music, and we did a sketch this year that was Kurt Metzger’s idea for a boy band that sings “you don’t need any makeup,” but 90% of the song is like “we made a mistake, you need a little makeup.” It was a funny concept and I really wanted to write the music so they let me do that. Everybody contributes, so it’s one of those sketches where you can find [everyone’s voice] in a line. It’s such a group product. I like the camaraderie and the groupthink.

N: How was your appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers?

KD: That was so fun! Although I will say that I was terrified right before I went out. The word “terror” popped into my head. Doing a late night show — I hadn’t done one in a couple of years — you don’t get into a groove and it’s an unnatural thing to walk out there, and the music stops, the camera’s on you, and everyone is staring at you waiting for you to do something. It’s like going to the gallows to be executed. If you don’t get off to a great start, you’re really digging yourself out of a hole on a late night show. Once you start, you’re fine. But when you’re back stage and they say “you have 5 seconds [to air]” you can’t feel anything. If I were to do it more often, it would become comfortable.

N: How was your Montreal Festival experience?

KD: The first time I went was terrible, the second time was great. It was terrible because I put so much pressure on myself and really stressed out about it. But I went again a few years ago and it was really fun.

N: What venues are you playing soon that you’ve played at before and loved?

KD: The Highline Ballroom is really cool place. I just came off of a midwest tour, so I’ve got a couple of months off, and in October I’m going to be in Washington, D.C. at the Howard Theater which I’ve never been to before. And then Philadelphia — the Underground Arts — I’m gonna be there, which I’ve been to before and it’s very cool. It’s in a terrible neighborhood, but the audience was really nice and cool. Then New York, and then Boston at the Brighton Music Hall which I’ve never been to before. I used to do comedy clubs, and there’s no pressure to sell tickets. Now if I don’t sell tickets [to these shows] it’s like I’ve traveled across the country for no reason. But I like that pressure.

N: Trainwreck will be out very soon.

KD: Yeah!

N: What can you give us about your character in the movie without getting too spoilery?

KD: I will spoil nothing. I literally think I might have three words in this movie. [Laughs] The original character was like a Stepford Husband. When we were improvising, the son they hired for us was really big, and so the improv became that we were scared of our kid because he’s really strong. It was really fun, and we did a lot of stuff, but it didn’t have anything to do with the plot of the movie, and it was just a total left turn, so it all got cut out. So much of the movie has to be edited down, so I was not shocked at all. I have three great lines and I say them really great. [Laughs]

N: It’s always amazing when you get a group of comedians who have a strong improv background together in a room for a movie, because it seems like the urge to “yes, and” would be too strong to stay focused on the script.

KD: Yeah, it’s good that Judd [Apatow, the film’s director] will yell out jokes and kind of guide it. Amy, too, is very aware of [where it’s going] because she wrote it. But it did go off a lot, and I think they allow that just in case you find something. It’s just fun also.

N: Plenty of material for the gag reel?

KD: Oh my god, yeah! Just from that one scene, Bridgett Everett had us all dying. It was a very fun day.

N: Finally, what projects are you working on that you’ll be debuting soon?

KD: I’m working on an hour special but that won’t be out for a while. I’m also working on a documentary for Craig. It’s like a fake documentary, and that’s basically it. I’m also gonna work on my golf game a little bit.

N: Ha! Sounds like a plan. Thanks so much for speaking to us!

KD: Thank you!

N: One last favor, fill in the blank for us: “Craig’s Tinder profile says _____”

KD: “I’ve never seen a vagina. Probably never will.”


Here are Kyle’s upcoming fall tour dates and venues, so mark your calendars:

10/7 – Washington, D.C. – The Howard Theatre
10/8 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
10/9 –  New York, NY – Highline Ballroom
10/10 –  Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall

Featured Image: YouTube/KyleDunnigan

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