Saturday, October 09, 2010

An Interview with Kevin Brown - 30 Rock’s Dot Com

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America
You may know him as Dot Com. Or Uptown Kevin Brown. Or Big Kev. They’re all gentlemen. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Brown this week about his life, acting, stand-up comedy, 30 Rock, Tina Fey and some other exciting projects. And Tina Fey.

Kevin is a stand-up comic, actor and writer, who appears each week on NBC's 30 Rock as the character Dot Com, an entourage member of Tracy Jordan's (played by Tracy Morgan).

Kevin is a funny man. Even the outgoing message on his cell phone cracked me up. If you'd like to hear it yourself, dial...really? I may not be a journalist, but I'm also not an ideot. ;-)

Here's a web clip of Grizz and Dot Com's Best Friend:


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MIKE: So what do you prefer to be called? Kevin? Kev? Dot Com? DC? Uptown Kevin Brown? Your honor?

KEVIN: My friends call me all of those. I've been doing stand-up for 13 years. I started out as Big Kev. After promoting that name for two years, I finally decided to jump on the domain name and found out someone already beat me to it. They had it tied to a joke web site. So Bigkev.com wasn’t available. I ran into Tracy Morgan in the comedy circuit – back then he called me Big Kev or  Dot Com. When he saw me again years later, this time shooting 30 Rock, he introduced me to Tina Fey: “This is my man, Dot Com”. When I saw my first script [as a speaking character], it had me as "Dot Com".

MIKE: I noticed last night’s 30 Rock episode was called “Let’s Stay Together”, which is also an Al Green song. And you opened for the reverend about a month ago. Coincidence?

KEVIN: Absolutely a coincidence. I hadn’t heard his name in years until I read the episode. Then three days later, I got a text asking if I would open for him at B.B. King's.

MIKE: Wow. That sounds like more than a coincidence to me. Did you have to tailor your material opening for the reverend?

KEVIN: Well, I did my research about him. I knew he had his first big album in the '70s, but I didn't know he’s a reverend. And nobody told me to do a clean show; just a 25-minute set. He did want a clean show and I kept it clean. It was the most mature crowd I've performed for, and I've opened for Patti LaBelle. But they loved me.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I don't believe in coincidences anymore, including this opportunity to interview Kevin. Good Karma comes to good people.]

MIKE: What can you tell us about the upcoming live episode on 30 Rock?

KEVIN: A lot of people from 30 Rock are from SNL. I think it will be like that. I've done lots of stand-up and theater, but not live TV. This will also have a live audience. There's a lot going on. Actors need to remember their dialogue and cues.

MIKE: Are you nervous?

KEVIN: No. (He says it definitively, but I can hear him smiling.) I'm never more nervous than before stand-up. You go out there and it's different every time.

I appreciate that NBC has noticed my skills and has given me an opportunity to do this. But I've also done one-man shows in theater, where I'm onstage for two hours. I perform 25 stand-ups in a week. I've had leads in independent film. My acting muscle is really strong. 30 Rock doesn’t know everything I’m capable of, but this industry is about preparation. If Alec Baldwin misses his flight, I’ll be ready to step in for him.

[Wavy lines, wavy lines, wavy lines...cue dream sequence]

INT. JACK'S INNER OFFICE - DAY
Liz approaches Dot Com. There's a new nameplate on Jack's desk: Walter "Dot Com" O'Shaughnessy. She looks at the nameplate.


DOT COM
(in classic Donaghy whisper-speak)
I agreed to change my last name to something Irish if this day ever came.

FLASHBACK - INT. JACK'S OUTER OFFICE - DAY

JACK
You're sure every package of Quayle Skin Regimen,
made from the stem cells of young Republicans, is unmarked, 
and there's no record of my purchases...or my actual birth date.
Dot Com hands Jack a clipboard and a pen. Jack signs without reading it.

DOT COM
I guarantee it.

Dot Com breaks the fourth wall with an exaggerated wink to the camera.

INT. JACK'S INNER OFFICE - BACK TO PRESENT

DOT COM
(foreboding)
Lemon, gather the writers. I've got some big changes in mind for TGS.

Liz starts to exit.
DOT COM
Wait! I think this show is almost perfect. We're missing something. Get me...
(beat)
Morucci!

LIZ
(totally puzzled, a single chord of DRAMATIC ORGAN MUSIC, then even more confused)
Right away, Mister...O'Shaughnessy.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yes, I turned it into my dream sequence. Writer's prerogative. The Live Show episode airs on NBC this Thursday 10/14 at 8:30 PM Eastern, and three hours later on the West Coast - I might download the West Coast version from iTunes to compare. Back to the interview.]

MIKE: You live in New York but the show is shot in L.A.

KEVIN: No, we shoot in New York.

MIKE: Allow me to wipe the egg off my face. Please continue.

KEVIN: Our studios are in Long Island City – Silver Cup. The live episode will actually be shot at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. It could be interesting if we get great feedback of filming live in front of a live audience.

MIKE: You got the 30 Rock gig representing yourself. Is that still the case, or do you now have someone to say "Mr. Brown appreciates the people of Schenectady, but his schedule does not allow him to appear at the opening of the Super Star Car Wash…in roller skates."?

KEVIN: I have representation now, yes. My brother is my manager. My agent is About Artists. Before 30 Rock, there was freelance representation. In New York, you can freelance and be represented for work with different agencies. In L.A. it's more contract-based. You freelance until you get work. 30 Rock was negotiated by me in the hallway on a handshake.

MIKE: My friend is 6'4" and has been a doorman/bouncer for years, but doesn't actually fight. Were you a gentle giant in your younger days, or a hell-raiser?

KEVIN: I was a gentle giant. I can fight. I have a black belt in judo and karate. I did security in my late teens. I was a beast, but I used my powers on the side of good. I used them to help and protect. I never liked to fight...I knew I could really hurt people so I never liked to fight.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I too have a black belt. It's reversible. At this point I started to share how I didn't like to fight because I was afraid of being hurt, and then wondered why I was answering my own questions, boring Kevin, and got back to the interview.]

MIKE: What can you tell me about working with the writers on the show? Do you work with them, or do you just get a script and see what's up?

KEVIN: I get my scripts and see what’s up. But they're around the set and they pay attention. Whatever we’re talking about could be in the script. Back in 2006, I was into Sudoku. Everyone was into Sudoku. I carried them everywhere. And I was teaching them to play. The next thing I know, Tina had it as a line.


From Season One, the "Blind Date" episode:

FRANK
Robot, kick him in the knees. Bears have weak knees. He should vibrate, 'cause the robot's full of radiation. Yeah, that's it.


LIZ
Frank, how many bears did I say you could have?


FRANK
One.


LIZ
And how many do you see here?


FRANK
Um, four?


LIZ
Save a little money for the rest of us, Frank. You can't spend
a bunch of money on bear suits that are only gonna be seen for like 25 seconds.


FRANK
Liz, nobody's gonna believe that a killer robot can get his ass kicked by one bear.
It doesn’t make any sense.


LIZ
You’re trying to bring logic to the robot bear sketch? You can't have four bears!


FRANK
Well, how many can I keep?


LIZ
One!


FRANK
Sorry, guys. Sam, why don't you stay?


LIZ
Who did my Sudoku puzzle? I have been looking forward to this puzzle all morning.


JACK
Hey Liz, could you come up to my office when you have a free moment?


LIZ
I never have a free moment, Jack -- never, ever.


FRANK
Really punch him, like karate.


MIKE: What do you like to do when you're not acting, promoting or cracking wise at a club? If you actually have free time.

KEVIN: I have a sixteen year-old daughter. Her name is Vania. My daughter is my heart – she’s my everything. She’s into her friends and high school now, but spending time with her and getting to know her grow into a young lady is what I love most.

[AUTHOR'S BONDING MOMENT: Kevin, my daughter Megan is 20 now, lives with her mom, and I cherish the exact same things.]

MIKE: I understand Grizz recently had a kidney transplant, and is a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. How is he doing?


Kevin Brown and Grizz Chapman

KEVIN: He’s doing great. He’s doing amazingly well. Before the transplant, he used to have dialysis three times a week. After the transplant he had it once, and that was the last time. He's also lost 150 pounds or so. He is really doing great.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm a big fan of Grizz Chapman's too, and this was welcome news.]

MIKE: No disrespect, sir, but Tina Fey is my idol. What’s it like working with my favorite comic-genius writer? And if she’s horrible, lie to me.

Tina Fey
KEVIN: I am very intimidated by Tina Fey. Don't get me wrong. Tina has a supportive, giving way about her. Her résumé intimidates me. She is the head writer of 30 Rock. She was the head writer of SNL. It makes me shut up and go blank around her. She is very supportive of me. She’s a superhero and I love being able to hold on to her cape. I just shut up and listen.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm nodding my head the entire time. I totally get this. I share more, thinking we're buds talking over coffee instead of me as an interviewer. I think I'm a funny guy, and the ultimate is for me to get those who I find funny to laugh. I even blogged about my idea of ultimate validation: Tina Fey Comedy Litmus Test. But I was digressing again. He made me feel that comfortable. I appreciate that, Kevin.]

KEVIN: I've never stopped the stand-up. I started taking acting classes when I started stand-up. I think every stand-up should take acting classes. Stand-ups have an advantage over actors. We are developing our own sit-com the moment we start as stand-ups. We write our sit-coms the moment we hit that stage. When it's our time, we will already have funny scenarios, characters, jokes.

MIKE: Last question. What else is going on for you?

KEVIN: Honestly, once we start shooting, 30 Rock owns me. Myself, Tracy [Morgan] and Judah [Friedlander] do stand-up between shooting. We're on 30 Rock's schedule until the end of season, around February or March.

But I do have two independent projects I'm working on. Two books – a book about my life and journey as an actor up to now, through five seasons of 30 Rock. And another about healthier living for bigger men.

I recently lost 60 pounds, and still counting. Nutrisystem® is now sponsoring me. I didn't realize how big I was until seeing the before and after pictures. But there have been some funny things that have happened while losing the weight, and I'm putting that in the book.

When you’re big, people glorify your size. They call you big man, like Big Kev. After college and as you get older, you become less active – that big is less healthy. On the outside you can carry it, but on the inside we're killing ourselves. We big guys have to be healthy – ex-athletes get to 300 or 400 pounds and the body can’t carry that weight.

And there are so many internal problems, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I want to bring awareness.

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I now have even more respect for Kevin. A lot of comics are deep thinkers, not just joke writers, and Kevin is no exception. I think it's great that he's bringing a message of health awareness straight from his own experiences, and those of his friend Grizz.

Another bonding moment for me. As a former cigarette smoker, I've tried to encourage those who still smoke by discouraging their nicotine addiction with a very direct piece I wrote that addresses all of the excuses smokers make. SMOKE-FREE WORLD.

Kevin was my first interview, and it was a delight. A very special thanks to Rose Reeder for setting this up!
Dot Com (Kevin Brown), Tracy (Tracy Morgan), Liz (Tina Fey), and Jack (Alec Baldwin) ponder the merits of diversity -- and talking dogs. Credit: Ali Goldstein / NBC

You can follow Kevin and others from 30 Rock on Twitter here:

@dotcom30rock
@Grizz30rock
@JudahWorldChamp
@RealTracyMorgan
@nbc30rock

I won’t kid you. Now having had the chance to speak with Kevin at length, and having experienced one degree of separation from Tina Fey, I probably won’t sleep for a month.


8 comments:

skiv said...

Mike -- Great interview. I'm glad the good Karma found you and the interview went so well :)

Anonymous said...

I love reading information on my favorite Comedian and Actor Kevin Brown a.k.a. Dot Com of #30rock. Dot Com is Doin Big Things. Love that Dot Com has been in 2 out of 3episodes in season 5. He is extremely talented and I hope to see more of him in #30rock.

kwhitaker99 said...

Appreciated the interview and that you are pursuing your dream! And that close to Tina Fey - she is the best on the screen!

Jamie said...

What a great interview, and what a neat opportunity to talk to Dot Com! I'm a huge 30 Rock fan, and Tina Fey is my hero, so reading this was a lot of fun. Your interludes cracked me up too -- Mr. O'Shaughnessy!! Thanks for the laughs. I'm happy to know another avid (rabid?) fan.

Jamie

Mike said...

Thanks, Kay! I appreciate the comment and good wishes! Each day is one step closer to my dream!

And thank you, Jamie! I had such a good time interviewing Kevin, and I had this thought of Chris Farley in my mind the whole time ("You know that time you were on the couch, sitting next to Tracy, and Tina walked in?...That was cool, right?"). Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am a an avid fan (with all my shots). ;-) ~Mike

Dankwa Brooks said...

Great interview. I totally agree with Skiv!

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