You can take Robert Kelly out of Boston, but you can never take Boston out of Robert Kelly.
The comedy veteran has lived in New York for almost as long as he grew up in the Boston area, and for him, coming home never gets old. Such is still the case when he takes the stage at Laugh Boston for five shows this week (September 6 to 8), with the first night being taken up by a live recording of his critically-acclaimed podcast You Know What, Dude?, followed by two nights of double-header stand-up shows.
Kelly holds Boston close to his heart for all the obvious reasons — family, friends, and a comedy scene where he honed his craft around the likes of Patrice O’Neal, Dane Cook, Bill Burr, and Gary Gulman — but above all else, there is always going to be the one thing he looks forward to the most.
“The two things I’m looking forward to the most when I come back home are a Mike’s Roast Beef sandwich and Dom’s Steak Tips,” Kelly tells Vanyaland. “Dom’s is the best fucking place on planet Earth. If you don’t know about Dom’s steak tips, then I don’t even consider you to be from Boston.”
While he is passionate about repping the local cuisine (he’s adamant that we all check out Dom’s in Malden), the Medford native is even more passionate about the flourishing comedy scene in the city, and the legends in it that came before him. When he takes the stage at Laugh for the inaugural live-in-Boston edition of his podcast on Thursday night, he’ll be joined by two of Boston’s most beloved comedy voices, Tony V and Jimmy Dunn.
“My visit is a little different this time around because I’m doing my podcast on Thursday, which I’ve never done in Boston,” says Kelly. “I’m excited, because I have Jimmy Dunn and Tony V on the show, and those guys are just absolute legends of Boston comedy. The club itself is awesome too, and the people who run it are funny people, and they’ve been in the business for years because they love comedy.”
Even as a household name and a highly respected alumni of the Boston comedy scene, Kelly doesn’t hesitate to pay his respects to those who paved the road that led him to where he is today. “I don’t know what the fuck it is about Boston comedy, but it’s crazy, because the funniest people I know are people that have came out of Boston, and everybody else knows it too,” he says. “People can’t deny it. Think about all the guys that never left, and those guys are still some of the funniest people on the planet.”
For Kelly, another major payoff for coming home to work is that it’s really no work at all.
“I get to do radio, like Matty in the Morning, Loren and Wally, the Hill-man. I get to do all these different shows, these guys I’ve listened to since I was a kid, and I actually get to go on their show and be funny and hang out,” says Kelly. “I got my friends here, and I have a huge Irish Catholic family, so I get to see all of them, and then I have to go and see my mother, and she’ll piss me off and aggravate me, which believe it or not, I fucking miss so much. It’s good for the first hour or so, and then by the second hour in, she’ll say something, and make feel me guilty about stuff, and then she’ll tell me somebody is dead, and then she’ll hand me the phone and tell me ‘talk to them!’, and I won’t know who the fuck it is, and then we’ll start yelling each other, and then I’ll say I’m sorry.”
In the age of an evolving comedy medium like podcasts, and live podcasts to be more specific, there’s always a smidgen of worry as to whether people are going to want to show up to a live podcast taping. But for Kelly, worrying does nothing when there’s marketing and press to be done.
“You really can’t think about it, you kinda have to just do it,” says Kelly. “First of all, you gotta make sure people show up. You do all this press, and promote a show everywhere, but you also have to make sure there’s not, like, a fucking REO Speedwagon show in town or something that same night. You just have to make sure people show up, because if people show up, it’s going to be a great time, no matter what.”
The man understands the importance of community when it comes to supporting and promoting another’s art, so if you’re looking to help the man out with promoting his shows this weekend, learn from the source, and remember that a blunt approach isn’t always a bad thing. “Fuck whatever else is going on,” he says, “and get your ass down to my show, because it’s going to be a lot of fun.”