Kevin Pollak has been performing stand-up comedy since he was a kid. His first act? Lip syncing to Bill Cosby’s album.
“It made my parents laugh, and at the age of 10, I’d never seen them laugh so hard,” Pollak says. “It was kind of unnerving – like the first time you see your parents cry. And I wanted to be the cause of that.”
By age 20, Pollak was touring professionally, and in 1988, at age 31, Pollak landed his first movie role – in George Lucas’s “Willow.”
As an actor, Pollak’s most notable accolades include roles in movies such as “Casino,” “A Few Good Men” and “The Usual Suspects.”
“It’s because of films – like [those] – I kind of became a dramatic actor in the eyes of filmmakers,” Pollak says.
But he’s also really funny.
As a comedian, Pollak’s most famous work was his 1992 HBO special “Stop With the Kicking,” directed by fellow comedian David Steinberg and produced by Boston comedy writer Martin Olson. His second special, “The Littlest Suspect,” aired on Showtime in July 2009.
The Scene recently caught up with Pollak to chat about what Eastsiders can expect when he returns to Parlor Live! this month:
SCENE: In your career you’ve played both dramatic and serious roles. What do you enjoy more? And why?
KP: I probably enjoy the comedy more because it’s my roots. But as far as dramatic versus comedy – it rarely comes down to that. It comes down to whether it’s good.
SCENE: Describe your comedy in two words:
KP: Best impressions.
SCENE: Could you explain the set-up of your act?
KP: There are no real jokes; it’s all stories. Funny jokes within stories. I released my first book a couple months back [“How I Slept My Way To The Middle”] and a lot of my stories came from the stage and went into book. Now I’m taking some of the stories from the book, that I haven’t talked about before, to the stage.
SCENE: What inspires your stories?
KP: A lot of the stories are inspired by being on movie sets and interacting with actors.
SCENE: How do you decide which stories will translate to the stage?
KP: Well that’s just it. I have to gauge and evaluate if there are enough live audience laugh moments verses laughing while reading. I have to decide, is this going to sustain an audience during a three to four minute story?
SCENE: You’ve also done pretty well with your online talk show, “The Chat Show.” Who has been your favorite guest?
KP: I have so many favorites.
SCENE: Are there any recent ones that stick out?
KP: Peter Farrelly from the Farrelly brothers was incredibly great. We just taped Eli Roth a couple days ago and he was a lot funnier than I thought he would be. I didn’t know he was that funny in his story telling ability.
SCENE: Last year you competed in the World Series of Poker. Did you grow up playing poker?
KP: It is something I grew up doing. When I was younger, I was staying with my cousin, and he came home from playing with friends with money and their belongings. And I was like, “How do you do that?” I became a little more than curious.
SCENE: Have you found that you’ve brought any of your poker skills into you standup act?
KP: Yeah, I guess I probably have – like reading people. But trying to read a whole audience is a lot different.
SCENE: What are you looking forward to most about returning to the Parlor?
KP: I just remember the audiences are really smart. My act doesn’t play well to dumb people, so the more intelligent the crowd is, the better chance you have of holding their attention.
SCENE: What can the audience expect?
KP: A lot of new stories and a lot of really great impressions.
SCENE: Any new impressions we can look forward to?
KP: Oh, yes. But I’m not telling you!
Kevin Pollak performs at Parlor Live Comedy Club June 13-15. $15-30, parlorlive.com.