This interview was originally published on PunchlineMagazine.com in September, 2008.
There’s a long list of professional Jamie Kennedy haters; no one knows this more than the comedian himself. But now, Kennedy has a voice to strike back in the form of his to-be- released documentary Heckler.
Throughout his 20-year career, a lot of negative things have been said about comedian Jamie Kennedy and his work. One needs only go back to last year’s reviews of his flick Kickin’ it Old Skool for evidence.
Daily Variety wrote, “Though ‘crude and sexual content and language” may be the reason Kickin’ It Old Skool earned a PG-13, it’s also the reason that rating might as well be interpreted here as ‘pretty good’ (but only if you’re 13). Anyone older who gets more than chortle or two out of this lame effort needs maturing.
Blogcritics.org said, “It was obvious the writers would cast Jamie Kennedy to act like an asshole and give white people everywhere a bad name. There are simply no other actors that desperate…”
And the Star Tribune in Minneapolis wrote, “Kennedy is a negligible performer, a hopeless dancer, and his romantic connection to the lovely [Maria] Menounos is preposterous even by the movie’s absurd standards.”
Harsh. So harsh, in Kennedy’s opinion, that something needed to be done. A retort, of sorts, had to be delivered not only on behalf of himself but on behalf of other Hollwyood types that continuously fall victim to reviews-turned-into-personal attacks. So Heckler was born and will be in stores Sept. 9, though 100,000 copies have already been pre-sold.
Kennedy’s first stab at documentary filmmaking, Heckler, is an incredibly entertaining look into the world of hecklers and critics featuring interviews with some of the most respected names in comedy; Dave Attell, Joe Rogan, Paul Rodriguez, Bill Maher, Nick Swardson, Roseanne, Doug Benson, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Kathy Griffin, Lewis Black and lots more make appearances to better define what a heckler is, convey stories of their worst being-heckled moments or to just simply deflate elitist critics.
And before you think that Kennedy – a comic and actor, who no doubt, is still searching for a higher level of respect in the industry – is simply crying sour grapes, it should be noted that Adam Sandler, one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood, recently sounded off on the way critics negatively affect his box office figures.
Sandler told Contactmusic.com: “I remember one time this lady came up to me and said ‘I’m not gonna see your movie but my friend said it was good. And I was like ‘OK why can’t you see it again?’ and she said, ‘Oh I read that it wasn’t very good’ and I said, ‘What about your friend’ and she was like, ‘Yeah she’s not that smart’.”
And before you start thinking that Heckler simply a PR tool designed to defend Kennedy, know that in Heckler he invites critics to bash him face to face; and they do… a lot. This is Kennedy’s story. The East Coast native recently chatted with Punchline Magazine about why he needed to make Heckler, why Carrot Top is hilarious, how he’s not unlike a toaster and much more.
Isn’t your documentary going to give idiots who think heckling is part of a live comedy show credence?
Yeah, I’ve given them a voice by making a movie about them. But they’re not dumb. They’re out there. It’s like the woman that knows the husband is cheating but doesn’t accept it and it’s not real until the son shows up from the other relationship. If the baby was born you have to acknowledge it at some point. It’s fine. It’s part of what makes comedy. It’s like you say stand-up comedy and the next word you would think of his ‘heckler.’
So the concept of heckling at a comedy show isn’t something that would’ve been left unmentioned?
It’s been unmentioned forever. I’m the only guy that’s ever made a movie about it. Hecklers are getting more and more popular— I think I can handle it. If you’re saying more and more people are going to heckle me or heckle in general, that’s a possibility. I think I’ll get some more haters and some will respect me more too. I’m not worried about it. The movie wasn’t made by me; it was made by something inside of me.
Is it better to get bad reviews than no reviews at all? Wouldn’t it be worse if everyone just ignored you?
Yes, a hundred percent correct. It’s all good; all press is good press. I guess what started the whole idea of the movie is that when you’re working on a show or movie and the whole crew is laughing – I don’t care how many people are on your crew, maybe there’s 120 people – they’re not all sycophants. And the people that are visiting the set are laughing and then other actors are laughing and the people that are screening it are laughing and you work a year of your life on it and then some guy with one swipe of a pen not only says it’s the biggest piece of shit to hit the cinema but then calls you a name and your mom names—that’s when it started to affect me.
I would rather not read in the Boston Globe that I shouldn’t exist and my mom should contemplate her existence for giving birth to me. I don’t need that plastered across 120,000 newspapers. I’d rather be anonymous at that point. Write about the movie. Don’t say that I have exactly no talent. Even if I just did 25 dialects, isn’t that talent? Don’t I have a talent for getting in the newspapers? Don’t I have a talent for getting a job at least once in entertainment? Isn’t that talent? I would never say that Dylan Gadino has no talent. You’re a professional writer. Even if you wrote 100 things and I didn’t like 98 of them, I wouldn’t say you had no talent— because I liked two of them.
So it’s not that you dislike criticism, it’s just when critics start to lose interest in criticizing the art and going after the wrong things.
People say all types of stuff about me. Some people say I’m fucking brilliant. Other people say that I’m this generation’s’. Pauly Shore. Really? Am I Pauly Shore? That’s good. He’s made five studio movies that are hits. He owns the Comedy Store. He was there the other night and Jim Carrey showed up. And who was he talking to? Pauly Shore. One of the biggest starts in the world loves Pauly Shore. I’d love to be Pauly Shore. He’s in the comedy community.
Larry the Cable Guy gets crapped on too. I’d love to be Larry the Cable Guy. He makes $250,000 a night. I respect him. I respect him as much as I respect David Cross and Patton Oswalt. I respect Carrot Top because I know what it’s like to get on the stage or to make a movie. Nick Swardson says it great: ‘I made a movie; you didn’t. Try it.’ I know what it’s like when Daniel Tosh does a reference that’s hilarious and four people get it and he doesn’t care. And other times he’ll do something and a billion people get it. But that’s what he does. That’s what makes him amazing.
It’s not criticism I dislike; it’s smearatism. If you really want to say I suck 100 percent across the board, then you better have watched everything I’ve ever done. I don’t like when someone says something about me and it goes to 500,000 people and they believe it. I don’t like misinformation. Joan Rivers said she never liked Rodney Dangerfield as a person but she’d never miss a show of his. That’s brilliant. She separated church and state.
Is it just as bad if someone gives you a positive review but clearly has no clue about what you do, is that just as bad?
That’s never happened to me so I’m not sure. But I will say this. I had one reviewer that reviewed my special and said, Jamie Kennedy’s a good impressionist but some of his material is tired. He wasn’t wrong. I did an Ozzy Osbourne impression. The audience liked it but he was right, it wasn’t exactly cutting edge. So I thought that review was constructive. I can’t sit here and say I don’t want to be criticized. I’m putting myself out there. Of course I’m going to the criticized. I’m a product. You people buy me. I’m $7.50 or $11. But if I’m a toaster that don’t work, send me back. If the toaster doesn’t work you don’t say that it’s fucking garbage and kill it. You don’t blow up GE. Just send the toaster back. Don’t say the toaster has no talent.
In the movie you talk to directors, writers and other performers about being heckled. But do stand-up comedians have a much more intimate relationship with heckling?
Comedians are the fucking coolest. They’re the bravest. Comedians are great because they’re not hidden behind veils of bullshit. And that’s why you see them in there. And I think after more people see this movie I could get even more people. It’s just a matter of them trusting the process. People that get this movie, really get it. There’s going to be people out there that say I’m a whiner and a dope but there’s other people that are rooting for me. I’m using myself as the punching bag but it’s really representative of all people. And I’m not hiding behind any characters this time; I’m just showing people me.
Is there ever a time when a comedian deserves to be heckled?
I’m not opposed to criticism or even heckling. What I’m opposed to is the random smearing. Some comedians say shitty things about other comics but at least they’re creative about it. Perez Hilton says some shitty things about people. Sometimes he says shitty things about me. But they’re funny. At least I laugh at them. If you’re creative about it, that’s fine. If you’re funny, fine. But if it’s just hardcore evil, then that’s where I have a problem.
In terms of being heckled, yeah, if you’re onstage alienating the audience and just shitting on them and not giving them a show— by all means you should be heckled. Give the guy the hook. If he’s good enough he’ll get the crowd back. There’s been times where I’m not good enough and I can’t get the audience back and the hecklers win. There’s been other times where I’ve been bad and I’ve gotten them back and the show’s been even better.
In a review of Larry the Cable Guy’s movie Delta Farce in the Ottawa Sun last year, the headline read: Delta Farce’s “High Point … no Jamie Kennedy.” The movie had nothing to do with you and the critic still felt the need to mention how much he hates you.
That’s hilarious. Doug Benson talks about that in Heckler. That’s called collateral damage. Were it’s like they’ll talk shit about something else and say this is worse than a Jamie kennedy movie. And it’s like ‘Whoa, what the fuck did I do?’ That’s just people reaching. Somehow your name gets on a list and you get smeared. But in a way, it’s kind of an honor that you’re getting thrown about in this manner. What’s funny is that I was offered Delta Farce and I turned it down
It’s surprising to know that famous performers are so affected when a few reviewers go negative on them. There’s a part in Heckler where you interview Carrot Top (see video below) about that; he admits that it “hurts a lot.”
Most people wouldn’t think that me and Carrot Top could fucking speak the English language because they’re morons. But it’s not the fans that are morons; it’s the elitists that are wearing a beret from [LA vintage boutique] Jet Rag that really have no money and are driving around in a ‘62 Studebaker and living in a bachelor apartment in Sherman Oaks. It’s bullshit. It’s like my aunt, who I love dearly, who considers herself a debutante but lives in a one-room apartment in Washington DC.
Carrot top is fucking hilarious. Carrot top is original. And I’ll tell you why. How many comedians are doing prop comedy? Carrot top makes every single one of his props. And he makes a joke from them. I mean there’s not more originality than that. And every comedian in the business likes him. It’s a just a joke among us that you say that stuff. Dennis Miller fucking loves Carrot Top. That’s a known fact.
Carlin was a big fan too.
Yeah. And Gary Shandling loves Carrot Top. He’s a great mind. But yeah, it affects us a hundred percent. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the movie. When you hear performers saying, ‘I don’t read what they write,’ you want to know why they don’t? They don’t fucking want to get their feelings hurt. And people that do read what they write, get their feelings hurt. Everybody is affected. You don’t think Britney Spears is affected? You don’t think Tom Cruise is affected? Everyone is. But Why do we read the reviews? Because we’re all in this business. We want to express ourselves but we also want people to love us.
At the end of the day, we’re all searching for that deeper meaning. I want respect. I’ve come to conclusion at 38 years old that I love making money; I love girls; I love meeting Hollywood people and traveling… I love it all; I love my life. What would probably make me the happiest is if I got respect. And I do get it. People come up to me all the time everyday and tell me they’re a fan of me or my movies or whatever. But me having a fucked up brain and being a comedian, I focus on the one missing tile. That’s human nature. Everyone but one guy likes us. So what’s his fucking problem?
Yeah, one would think you’d be content with your success. You have his DVD coming out, you landed a role oppose Jennifer Love Hewitt in Ghost Whisperer, you’re producing your indie drama In Northwood. But you still fixate on the people that can’t stand you.
That was one hundred percent true before the movie. Half way through the movie, it was maybe 65 percent. Now that the movie is over, I never will be preoccupied with it again. I needed to make this movie to find out who was doing the heckling. As I investigated it, I found out it really was a certain type of person. And I applaud everyone who’s in the film— to my biggest critic to my biggest fan. Because they showed up in the movie and I respect them for doing that. Without them, there wouldn’t be a movie. Making the movie was therapeutic and now I can move on.
For more info, check out jamiekennedyworld.com.