As the daughter of legendary comedian George Carlin, Kelly Carlin has found her own niche in the world of entertainment. From writer to radio host to solo performer, Kelly keeps audiences laughing with her own brand of comedy.
Now Kelly's one-woman show A Carlin Home Companion: Growing up with George, will be making it's New York premiere at the All For One Theater Festival from October 11-19 at The Cherry Lane Stuio Theatre (38 Commerce Street). Deftly weaving her amusing yet poignant family stories with classic video footage of her father’s career and family memorabilia, Kelly Carlin, the only child of iconoclastic comedian George Carlin, takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions and pulls back the curtain on their life together off stage. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? As a child, when I saw Lily Tomlin, Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball on TV, some part of me said - I want to do that; make people laugh; play funny characters. But when I was in my late 20s I saw Spaulding Gray and then Karen Finley and knew - THAT is what I want to do...autobiographical storytelling that brings the struggle of what it is to be a human front and center.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Being a solo artist, I haven't worked with anyone! But if I had a chance to work with others...oh, dear...I think the list is as long as my love for all the great writers, directors and actors (comedic and dramatic) alive. Off the top of my head: Baz Luhrman, Jane Campion, Mary Zimmerman, Tom Stoppard, Tina Fey, Mel Brooks, Laura Linney, and on and on...
3. What made you want to write, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George? Strangely, I did not set out to, want to, or plan on writing this particular show. I had done a one-person show about my life in 2000 called Driven to Distraction that covered some of the same territory as this show, but was mostly focused on the experience and lessons my mother's death brought to my life. For certain reasons - my father being uncomfortable with it and my desire to move away from the entertainment industry - I only performed it three times. So, some part of me felt like I had never had the chance to tell MY story the way I had wanted to. But, after my dad died, I did not know what I wanted to do about that. I thought maybe a book.
And then in the fall of 2010, Lewis Black, invited me and my husband to come on Lew's Cruise - a comedic/alcohol fueled adventure in the Caribbean - and asked if I would play a few of my dad's videos and tell some of my family stories. I did, and before I knew it, 400 hard core Lewis Black fans, 8 comics, and a handful of managers were all telling me I had to go on the road with it. A few months later Paul Provenza said to me that if I wanted to do the show, he would love to direct it. Four months after that, I was premiering at Just for Laughs in Montreal in front of 500 people. Paul and I then took another four months and shaped it into the show that it is today.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope that audiences see that even someone that they love, adore, and even possibly worship, is a human just like them. We all struggle with our own shit. We all have families that are flawed and yet we still love each other dearly. Like most artists, I am just hoping that we can all share our humanity without shame or fear with each other, and that THAT just might make the world an easier place to live in.
5. What excites you about bringing this show to the All For One Theater Festival? I am honored that I can be a part of a festival that focuses solely on solo shows. I have been a big fan of the form since the late 1980s, and it is a dream come true to come to NY and be a part of this art form's legacy. The advisory board of AFO is the who's who of solo shows. I genuflect in their presence.
6. In putting this show together, did you learn anything new about your father, his legacy, or your relationship with him? I learned that my struggle to find my own voice was not that different from his in the end. He may have had a very clear idea of what he wanted from his life (unlike me who felt lost in the woods most decades), but he too had to be able to let go of all the voices in his head telling him to do it "their" way, and follow his instincts and heart. That is what I am learning every day I step forward and stay committed to my writing, speaking and performing.
7. What was it like to grow up as the daughter of George Carlin? What do you miss about most about your dad? Being the "daughter of George Carlin" has put an invisible pressure on me to be perfect, to live up to some impossible standard of success. I put the bar of achievement very high, and this paralyzed me for a long time. Luckily, doing this show has allowed me to find my own bar of achievement. It has been very freeing. And of course, all one really needs to do is see the show to see what it was like to grow up as the daughter of George Carlin (add winking icon here).
As far as what I miss most about him? His laugh, the sparkle in his eye, calling me, "kiddo" and "squirt," and being in the presence of his impeccable kindness and generosity toward everyone he met. He was an incredible role model in how to be a very decent human being.
8. In addition to writing this show, you are also the radio host of The Kelly Carlin Show on Sirius XM where you have conversations with famous comedians and Waking From The American Dream on smodcast.com where you talk with authors, visionaries and artists about the comedy and tragedy of life. How did you decide this was the format you wanted for your radio shows? What do you enjoy most about being a radio host? I love the medium of radio/podcasts. It is where I have found my true voice, the "True North" within me. It is a place that does not care about looks, ratings or soundbites. I can go deep, take my time, really listen to my guests and follow the topic that reveals itself in the moment. To me, THAT is heaven.
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? So so so much. I have learned that I am still a good human even if I drop a line or lose my place. I have learned that I bring a sense of calm and grounded-ness to the stage that allow people to walk through difficult material. I have learned that I am not my father, my strengths are different, but that every once in a while, my DNA leaks out and I gesture, inflect or express something just like him. I have learned that I do not live to "get the laugh" but that I still enjoy it when it happens. I have learned that if I can do a 90 minute show all alone on the stage, I can do anything.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? My friend Wendy Hammers taught me that every time I go on stage to tell my story, it may be the last time I'll ever have the chance to do so. I love this thought. It helps me connect to what is important in the moment - my heart connecting to the audience's heart.
11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Flying. How fucking cool would that be?
Kelly began her dream of a showbiz life watching her dad take the stage everywhere from college campuses to Carnegie Hall, and watching her heroes Lily Tomlin, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett on TV. As a teen she began working in TV production for her mother and father on various shows for HBO (read - production assistant who does all the Xeroxing).
In her early 20s, she got the acting bug when she got to play a punk rock Girl Scout in an HBO pilot Apt-2C opposite her father. She never fully pursued this bug, and instead, at the not-so-ripe age of 30, she graduated from UCLA, Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Communications Studies (no she was not stupid, it’s just that she had a few panic attacks, a crazy first husband, and what felt like the weight of the world on her shoulders for a few years). While at UCLA, Kelly discovered her voice as a writer, which lead her to a brief career in writing for film and TV with her writing partner and husband Robert McCall where they penned the Rose McGowan b-movie thriller Devil in the Flesh, and an episode of Fox’s The George Carlin Show.
In the late 1990s, after she was pretty sure that mainstream showbiz was not her cup of tea, she pursued her craft through various media such as writing/producing/hosting Lost in LA LA Land on the earliest online comedy channel Comedynet, and writing/performing her one-woman show Driven To Distraction about her tumultuous childhood and her mother's recent death.
In 2001 after two decades in "the biz," Kelly stepped away to pursue her love of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and mythology and received her masters in Jungian Depth Psychology. She thought she might become a therapist, but then after a few years away from writing and performing, her desire to be on a stage and yell the word "fuck" kept gnawing at her, and so she decided to follow the call of the stage once again. She began writing and performing stories in the Los Angeles area.
Kelly is currently busy with numerous projects. Monthly, she hosts a Sirius XM radio show The Kelly Carlin Show which spotlights her conversations with iconic comedians, and live weekly she hosts her podcast Waking from the American Dream at smodcast.com where she converses with comedians, authors, visionaries and artists about the comedy and tragedy of life. Currently she is selling out theaters with her one woman show A Carlin Home Companion.
In the recent past, she has interviewed a few legendary comedians for Laugh.com's On Comedy CD series, and had a blast talent producing for Showtime Network’s The Green Room with Paul Provenza.