Martha Kelly [Interview]




I recently fell in love with a brand new comedy that premiered earlier this year on FX known as Baskets. It is a series starring Zach Galifianakis, produced by Louis CK, and starring Louie Andersen as Zach’s mother. There was absolutely NO WAY this could fail with just these facts alone. Not to mention the premise of the show is god damned incredible. It was simply destined to be amazing. But, little did I know, there was going to be more. Yes, it is through this amazing show that I learned about the great Martha Kelly. A hilarious woman who simply blew my mind in her portrayal as the brilliant deadpan and sort of self-deprecating character named, well, Martha. I simply can not stress to you just how wonderful she is on this show.

And throw that, I learned that Martha is not entirely “acting”. Of course she is indeed acting, and doing great at it, but the character she portrays is very close to her own act as a stand up comedian, which I did not know she did as well. But, hot damn, I am so happy that I discovered her work. Her recent Comedy Central Half Hour Special is an absolute delight. I also managed to watch a plethora of videos of her work, and she has definitely moved to the top of acts I simply MUST see live for I kick the proverbial bucket. She’s a wonderful comedian, actress, overall human being. So, please enjoy a great interview with a great person, the delightful Martha Kelly!


Of all of the forms of entertainment there is to get into, why stand up? What drew you to this beautifully demented world?

I love stand-up because there are no auditions, rehearsals, or middlemen – you just write stuff you hope people will like, go to an open mic, and perform what you wrote. The audience gives you immediate gratification or rejection. To me, it’s the closest to a merit-based art form there is. If the audience likes you, you move up from open mics to booked shows and maybe someday quit your day job. You don’t have to convince casting directors or producers that an audience will like you – you just perform and see what happens.

What were some of your earliest influences? And what do you believe they would smell like after an hour special?

Some of my early influences were Rosanne Barr, Joan Rivers, and later Janeane Garofalo, Mr. Show with Bob [Odenkirk] & David [Cross], and a lot of other comics. I’d rather not speculate on anyone’s personal lives/hygiene.

You have been doing stand up for quite a while, and you are indeed a woman, so maybe you could give us some insight into women in comedy. Are we closer to losing the Boys Club mentality that has been projected onto the world of comedy? Have things improved at all? Basically, are we any closer to equality than we were 15 years ago?

I started doing stand-up in LA and then moved to Austin and did it there and have been lucky that both comedy scenes were full of really funny, good guys who treated women comics like peers and friends, not outsiders. I don’t know if there’s been a shift but there are definitely more women doing stand-up now than there were when I started, which is great. In general, it seems to me like there are tons of super funny newer comics of both sexes, which makes it really fun to go to open mics and renews my enthusiasm for stand-up.

Being a long time Austin resident, what are your opinions on SXSW? Have the changes in the set up bettered or worsened the experience for you? Or has being an on and again, off again resident desensitized you to the entire spectacle?

I like SXSW early in the week when all the stages are set up but there’s no garbage in the streets. The comedy shows usually get great crowds so I love that part. I don’t go to any of the parties or music shows because I’m a full-time dud.

What is the craft service like on Baskets? On a scale from 1 to Diabetes, how healthy are the choices?

Craft service on Baskets is terrific. We have a lot of healthy choices and plenty of comfort foods so that pretty much everybody on the cast and crew can find stuff they like.

Baskets -- Pictured: Marrtha Kelly as Martha. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Baskets — Pictured: Marrtha Kelly as Martha. CR: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Speaking of Baskets, how did you enjoy your time on the show? What is set life like with such a diverse and hilarious cast essentially doing improv?

Being on the set of Baskets is one of my favorite things of all time. It’s been one of the greatest sources of joy in my whole life, second only to when my niece and nephew were babies and I got to spend every day with them. The cast and crew are a bunch of talented, good-hearted people who I love spending time with every day. Louie Anderson is great to work with. He’s always been really supportive and encouraging to me even though I’m no where near as good as him at improv. Jonathan Krisel is amazing. He’s brilliant and super funny and very sweet. There’s not a bad egg in the bunch really, except for Zach, who is a goddamn nightmare.

So what is next for you? I hear you are doing a Spider Man flick or something? Anything else you would like to plug here?

After we wrap season 2, I’ll start working on stand-up again to hopefully record an album in 2017. I might also go back to school to finish my BA in English, and/or get a job in retail. We’ll see how it goes.

When you look back on your extended career in comedy, what would you say you are most proud of?

I don’t know if I’m proud of a whole lot – I always feel like I should work harder/be funnier. But one of the things I’d wanted to do for over a decade was a Comedy Central Half Hour special and I got to do it this past summer. We recorded in New Orleans and the Comedy Central Half Hour people made it a great experience. Could not have asked for a better audience/venue/overall experience.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog and cat slapping each other this morning.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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