BWW Interviews: Kelly Warne Talks THE RESIDUALS, Stand-Up, Sex Therapy, and Bodily Functions
As a general journalistic rule, if you are going to be writing an article, a stand-up comic is a terrible interview subject if you are looking for controlled, measured responses. However, if you are ok with the interview occasionally going off the rails and having to turn the volume up really loud on the interview tape just to hear answers through the laughter, then go for it.
Recently, I spoke with actress, writer, and comedienne, Kelly Warne as part of my seemingly 100-part series on the incredible webseries THE RESIDUALS. Kelly bounces between numerous types of performance, from stand-up to stage to nearly every webseries you see online. In addition, she is in the process of filming her self-titled webseries, although, she refers to her writing as "a wash of insecurity."
THE RESIDUALS is a web-comedy about actors auditioning for commercials and the hilarity that invariably ensues. The series was created by husband and wife Michael Paul Smith and Gillian Pensavalle, and co-stars Nick Costa, all of which is information that will come in handy during the interview.
Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I am kind of making my way through the entire cast of THE RESIDUALS.
In a completely non-prostitutional sense.
No, absolutely... well...
We shouldn't use words like "absolutely," because life is crazy and unpredictable.
You are exactly right. Anyway, I wanted to start by asking if there was some sort of rule that says that any webseries that films in the greater-New York City area, must feature you in some way?
(Laughs) It's an unwritten rule that I try to make people aware of. I try to just kind of "incept" anyone who's doing something to think, "You know what this needs? Not tighter editing, not a music score, it needs Kelly Warne. So, let's find out who that is, and let's get her in our webseries."
Obviously, we are primarily talking about THE RESIDUALS, but you've also done a few spots on SUBMISSIONS ONLY, which BroadwayWorld hosts, I've also seen you in THE COFFEE SHOP SHOW, and I saw you did something called DIRECTION, CASTERS, then a few others, and now you are filming your own webseries.
The way it's described is a woman, with no formal training, decides she wants to be a detective. Is that something that you have always harbored a secret desire to do?
No, not at all. My dad was a cop, so I guess there is this whole justice thing in my blood, but I just thought it would be funny to not be that great at something. We think of the bumbling detective as a trope we've seen before and I thought, "I would be excellent at bumbling."
I am describing the show to people as VERONICA MARS meets BRIDGET JONES. We've got the snark, the heart, and the compulsive eating; it's all in there. Basically, it's as semi-autobiographical as it gets, with doing a job I have no idea how to do in life, or in the show.
So, if there is no rule requiring your particpation, how do you make your way onto so many webseries?
The common thread of all these things is, I've gotten all of these things, because they are people that I know, who like me and like what I bring to the table artistically, and have been so lovely to write me into their projects. And I am just so lucky in that respect.
You talked earlier about the insecurity of writing your own show, but it seems to me like doing stand-up might be the most terrifying thing in the whole world...
Right you are Matt (laughs).
So, how do you psyche yourself up to do that on a regular basis?
I still want to throw up while I am doing it. So, I'm probably not the best person to speak to about getting over that. I guess it's like childbirth, like, "Oh god, this is coming. It hurts so bad, I'm just not going to do this today. Oh no, too late. They just called your name, so get on stage and have a godd*mn baby." It's terrifying. The first couple of jokes, you don't even recognize your voice, because you're standing outside your body, being like, "Ahhhhh, why is this happening to me?"
But then you settle into it I guess...right before you're done. That's why my closer is always the best joke; not because it's the best written, but because by that point, I've swallowed the bile enough to that I can actually form a sentence. That's a disgusting image (laughing). Buried the lede on that one.
Well, this is probably as good a time as any to transition back to THE RESIDUALS, since that is what we are supposed to be talking about.
Oh yea, you've got to bring me back, otherwise, I will verbal diarrhea all over your phone.
Good thing we're like 1,000 miles apart. You talked about knowing Mike and Gillian before THE RESIDUALS, so how did you guys meet, and how did they get you involved in the show?
I met them through Nick actually. Nick and I have been friends for about six years; we worked together at a Cheesecake Factory on Long Island, and then remained friends when we moved to the city. Nick and I just get each other. We have very similar senses of humor, and he was living with Mike at the time. And soon after that, Mike started dating Gillian, and then when Gillian and I met, it was like the love that only two heterosexual females can have for each other before people start asking questions. (laughs) I just adore them, they are wonderful, wonderful people.
Then they mentioned that they were doing THE RESIDUALS, and they called me and Nick to their apartment and said, "Look, this is what we're doing, we want you to be a part of it, we just want to have this thing that features people we like."
They are very much of the "let's all rise together" mentality. "Let's all help each other out, and we'll just go up the ladder to fame and fortune together." (laughs)
Good plan. Good plan.
Yea, I'm probably paraphrasing that. I'm sure Mike Smith is more... he has a better way at communicating ideas to people without resorting to poop, or bile, or other bodily functions.
Yea, we've gone there quite a bit already.
I know, now it's a thing. I've got to ride that theme.
I think in comedy you guys call that a "callback," right?
There it is. You don't even need me, you know all about comedy.
Well, let's not get carried away. So, it sounds like you are going to disappoint me, but everyone I've spoken to about THE RESIDUALS has nothing but great things to say about the experience, and I was kind of hoping to at least find someone who is willing to spill some dirt.
Don't you worry, Matt. Do I have a story for you? No, no I don't. I could make something up rght now if you want, but I can't lie to you. To be doing this work with people that you enjoy, and the people they brought on set? People who I have seen in commercials, but never met. Even when I was doing scenes with Emily Tarver (featured in the first picture in the article), who has been in a bigillion commercials, I was like, "Why am I in a show about commercial auditioning, with this chick, who has been in a million commercials?"
The waiting room on that show was the place to be, because everyone was so delightful, and there were no egos, there were no ass**les on that set; it was just super fun. I would hang out even after I was done shooting for the day, just to hang out with my friends and laugh.
At the same time, they walked that line of "Ok, we're all having laughs. We can blow takes because we are all laughing, but at the end of the day, we have the camera from 10-7, and we're paying for this. So, let's do it."
They were totally professional and totally fun, and that's a testament to Mike and Gillian to keep everybody on task, but it never felt like anybody was mad, or was having to play the director card over being a friend. I just loved every second of it.
There was also this sense of pride in watching Mike and "Geeps" and Nick, people who I know are so freaking talented and work so hard, just actually doing it, and I was actually lucky enough to be a part of it, like they thought of me, I was so so so grateful for that. It was just a really nice thing to see your friends shine, it's a really good feeling.
There's been a lot of talk lately about women in entertainment, especially women in comedy, and as a woman who is out there, like you said, climbing the later to fame and fortune...
Did I say that? That sounds ridiculous when it's read back to you. People are going to read this and be like, "Who is this douche?"
No, I'm sure that won't happen too much. But do you see things like GIRLS and Broad City as the start of a new trend, or are they just outliers in a male dominated landscape?
I think that's always been there, but I think now the door might be more open for people to think that there's an audience for that, but the audience has always been there; the talent has always been there. People are constantly asking me, "Why don't more women to stand-up?"
"Oh, I don't know, because it's a really scary thing to do." So, I think having the balls to be who you are and create your own content, and putting yourself out there is really hard. It doesn't matter if you are male or female. I have such respect for anybody that is able to do that. I'm just glad, because it gives you the sense of being represented. These girls give me balls, because I'm really bad at promoting myself. I just started watching that show PLAYING HOUSE on USA with Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, and that is fantastic. It makes me feel like there's a support system for me to just grow a pair. It's like, "There is a place for me in this business. Here's what I do. Who's interested in that? Anyone? I'm sure there's some takers."
Especially with all of the web stuff you do to see something like BROAD CITY, which I think is one of the funniest things on TV, to go from being a webseries to being picked up and produced by Amy Poehler, and is now a hit on Comedy Central.
Exactly, you never know where this stuff is gonna go, if anywhere. Even my dad has said to me, my parents aren't artistically inclined, but they are very very supportive, and they're like, "What is a webseries? What does this mean? What's going to happen with this?"
And I was like, "Maybe nothing, but you put it up there, and maybe one person sees it." Look, this whole BroadwayWorld thing has blown my mind. The fact that someone at BroadwayWorld saw it, and liked it, and has been vocal about it, is crazy. I never would have thought that would happen.
Now, let's not make me sound like more than I am.
Well, I was super impressed with it, especially since SUBMISSIONS ONLY is housed on BroadwayWorld. The fact that someone there took an interest in it, and had the platform to tell other people about it is great. I'm sure you've upped our visibility, whether you know it or not.
I'm not naïve enough to think, "Oh, maybe someone from Netflix will see this, and pick us up, and I can quit my waitressing job, and blah blah blah." But everybody has the internet, you never know who is going to stumble on something. I think it's exciting.
You kind of led me into something that I wanted to talk about...
You're welcome! (laughs)
Yes, thank you. I know everything about comedy, you know everything about journalism, we've got a nice symbiotic relationship going on. But you, talked about your parents, and I saw the set you did with your dad in the audience, and you said your parents are really supportive. So, were you always a performer? Did you grow up being funny?
I was very very shy as a kid. I had no interest in talking...to anyone, (laughs) let alone on stage; unless, you know, it was in someone's leg. I really didn't even want to... wait, where am I going with this?
I have no idea, but I was just going to let you go with it.
Yea, once that came out of my mouth, I thought, "Stop. You're gonna go somewhere bad." Anyway, then in sixth grade, in music class, we did a play. It was one of those things where you were singing, and those just became the auditions without anyone knowing it. And then, I got one of the leads, and I was confused by that. (laughs) I was like, "Wait, did I audition for a play? I don't remember doing that." And then I had the best time. And I kind of never looked back. I did all of the school plays, and never really entertained the idea of doing anything else.
Well, speaking of plays, I know you just recently did a production of VENUS IN FUR at Bootless Stageworks in Delaware. I am so fascinated by this show, what was doing it like?
It was hands down, the most satisfying theatrical experience of my life. I love David Ives writing as a whole, and that character goes through four transformations, and sometimes mid-line she will change characters, it was just a tremendous challenge, and yet it was so easy.
It was like playing every single emotion you've got in your bag of tricks in one character, and that's just so rare. So to be able to do that for 90 minutes on stage, it's one of those parts that you are so invested in your partner and what's going on, you don't have time to think. It's one of those rides you get on, and never want to get off. And I got to play sexy, which I don't usually get to do, and I discovered I could quite easily do. Once again, my parents were thrilled with that. (laughs)
I can imagine they enjoyed some of the costumes too.
I don't usually wear thigh-high black dominatrix boots in my everyday life.
Maybe you should.
Maybe when I'm waitressing tonight, I'll give it a shot. "What? They're black shoes. What's the problem? What? It took me 20 minutes to get to the kitchen, I'm sorry you have a show to get to."
A little birdie told me that you got a nice compliment from a sweet elderly married couple.
(Laughs) This old lady comes up to me and grabs my hand and says, "Thank you. My husband and I are totally having sex tonight because of you."
I heal marriages people, through my art. I help people. At the end of the day, that's why I'm doing it. So I can provide a service to people. You're welcome Delaware...Good luck making something out of this interview.
In addition to being really funny in interviews, she's even funnier on Twitter, so follow her @KAWarne. You can also check out her website KellyWarne.com. To catch up on the first season of THE RESIDUALS visit their website TheResiduals.tv. You can follow the show on Twitter @TheResiduals or "Like" it on Facebook.