Sep 26, 2017

Q&A With Alum Kevin Barnett

Spotlight Date:
September 27, 2017
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Kevin Barnett, a class of 2004 Music alumnus, went on to study music at Florida State University. He quickly switched majors and earned his degree in Exercise Science in 2009, all while realizing his true talents were in comedy. Now living in New York as a standup comedian, actor, writer, and producer, comedy keeps Kevin pretty busy. As well as personal projects such as “Friends of the People” that aired on Trutv, and “Lucas Bros. Moving Co.” on Fox, Kevin has contributed to shows such as MTV’s “Guy Code”, fellow alum’s “The Eric Andre Show”, and Comedy Central’s hit “Broad City.”
Q: Favorite Dreyfoos teacher:
A: Mr. Miller
Q: What is the most profound change you experienced at Dreyfoos:
A: I think the biggest thing was how accepting and open minded everybody seemed to be. I think I've kind of carried that mindset into the rest of my life.
Q: Is there something Dreyfoos (SOA) could have provided that could have better prepared you for your college and career:
A: I ended up with a major in college that involved sports, working with teams and what not. So I suppose it would have been nice to have a few more sports at the time that I went to Dreyfoos.
That said I started as a music major in college, then switched thinking I'd go into physical therapy after I got my undergrad, and now I mostly tell jokes for a living. Nobody got the answers.
Q: You were a musician who played baritone sax, when did you decide comedy was something you wanted to pursue?
A: While I was at Dreyfoos I used to occasionally play piano when there was downtime in band. I'd tell stories when I did it, and would sing a little bit. The stories were usually funny, and occasionally I'd perform them. Chappelle show was coming out around that time, and it was something everybody would talk about excitedly every morning after it aired, I think a lot of us had it in the back of our heads that comedy was something we'd want to do because of that show.
I graduated from Dreyfoos and was in college. I hadn't given comedy serious thought but there was a comedian coming into town who was known throughout colleges because he self-promoted very well. We knew his name but had never seen his stuff and decided to check his website out. We watched a clip and were like oh... this guy’s terrible, and he's gettin’ all this money. We should be gettin’ some of this money. Then my friend from the dorm and I started that week. There's no more noble reason for pursuing an art in the world than that. Money.
Q: Do you think your education and experience in music has benefitted you in your current career?
A: I think that ultimately, comedy and music are very similar. It's really the same with all forms of art. All you're doing is trying to figure out who you are to the utmost degree. You have to really understand yourself, and then you try to convey that to the world and hopefully it resonates with others. Either that or whatever you're conveying to people is your commentary on the world around you. Also, the same rules apply for studying the greats, then finding your own voice.
Q: Do you still play?
A: It can be tough given how crazy my schedule can be, and I sometimes go for long periods without playing. But I do try to play a bit when I can.
Q: As a stand-up comedian, what is your day to day like? How many shows are you usually doing in a given week?
The day really depends on what I'm working on at the time. It all goes in waves. I've had jobs where the days are anywhere from 12-16 hours every day. That's writing or acting. During those periods, I don't really do stand up at all. You're usually in a marathon meeting trying to come up with ideas for stories during those days, and then at a certain point the group may break off to work on an outline and then meet back again to get notes on the outline, then off to script, with however many subsequent rewrites are needed.
When I'm not working on a show specifically I usually just wake up at whatever time doesn't make me feel like a complete animal, and I kind of start to think about whatever funny or odd things have happened recently, and I'll write a lot in my phone. At night I'll start to do shows and it really depends on the night how many shows I'll do.
When I first got to NY I would do a minimum of 10 shows a week as a rule. But would usually end up with most nights having two shows, and occasionally some with 3-4. Nowadays I tend not to do as many, because I feel like it's important to also have a life outside of comedy and it's tougher with production schedules.
Q: As well as a stand-up comedian, you are a comedic actor, writer, and producer. What do you find the most rewarding? What have been some of your favorite projects?
A: I think that stand up is the most fun, and you get the immediate response from the crowd so you know whether or not something's good. It's also something you create and perform entirely on your own so you can't blame anyone else when it goes horribly. Always thought there was something cool about that.
I think my favorite thing so far was a cartoon I worked on called “Lucas Bros Moving Co.” It aired on Fox originally. It was insane and was full of a ton of 90s references. Really fun to write on and I'd do a couple voices in it as well. All of us writing/acting in it were all really good friends, and the hours were never crazy. It was also relatively early in our careers so it will always kind of be a cool time capsule to me. I feel very similar about another show my friends and I did called “Friends of the People.” But oddly, the cartoon just felt like it was way less pressure and was more relaxed and you could create literally whatever you wanted because it was animated.
Q: What is your next project?
A: My writing partner and I are developing two projects right now. One that we'd write and act in and another that's for a friend of ours to act in while we write. I don't think I'm necessarily allowed to talk about either for now, but we're excited about both.
Q: What do you feel has been the highlight of your career so far?
A: My friends and I had a sketch show for two seasons on Trutv called “Friends of the People.” It was a group of 7 of us who were all good friends and we pitched and sold the show together and all acted, wrote and produced.
Q: You have worked as a writer on fellow alum Eric Andre’s show. Have you had the opportunity to work with any other Dreyfoos alums?
A: Yeah Francesca Ramsey is another comedian in NY from Dreyfoos who I've acted in stuff with/wrote stuff for before. Matt Vigil worked in post on some commercials I did. Shayla Benoit and her company Shady Theatrics worked the premiere of Broad City season 4 which I wrote on. The Dreyfoos legion is strong.
Q: What recommendations do you have for our current DSOA students?
A: Be nice, be genuine, and if you're going to pursue something, actually pursue it.
Q: In a brief statement can you explain “What Dreyfoos means to me”.
A: I don't think I'd be a comedian today if it wasn't for Dreyfoos. Becoming a young adult around so many creative open minded people really changes the way you think. So I'd say it means a lot.
Also City Place lunch was dope.