I did what any self-respecting, driven person would do, I blackmailed my way into the business…
All kidding aside, I’ve always had a strong, passionate, and healthy interest in comedy, entertainment, and broadcasting. From a very young age I was drawn to talk shows; namely the late-night comedy talk shows. I loved the personalities of the hosts, the immediacy of them, and the overall entertainment they provided. My love of those programs sparked a serious interest in me that maybe I could someday be in front of the camera sometime down the line. Years later, when ‘The Rhode Show’ was launched locally and I viewed it as potential good fit for me to do something I love right in my home state. At the time I had already written, produced, and hosted my own late night comedy talk show on the Rhode Island Public Access channel called ‘Wicked Late with Brendan Kirby’ from 2003-12. Therefore, I felt that I possessed the experience to be ready to make broadcasting my full time career. ‘The Rhode Show’ had an open casting call in late 2013, so I sent in an audition video from my hole-in-the-wall apartment in Los Angeles where I was living at the time, and the next thing I knew, I had one callback and then another callback and eventually I got the gig and moved back to RI. My first day as Co-Host of the show was January 2, 2014. The vast Southern New England viewing audience has been stuck with me every morning since. I’m sorry.
You feature a wide range of topics, from health care to the arts and entertainment and pretty much everything in between. How do you decide what to broadcast?
Guest pitches come in at a feverish pace which is a very good thing. The challenge is trying to make it all fit and to appropriately evaluate each idea. We have this live hour to fill each weekday and we want to do our best to make it informative and entertaining for the viewers and to make the guest experience a positive one. We do our best to pick and choose what is appropriate and fun and aligns with the mission of the show and the station.
Your guests also come from many different worlds. Again: How do you find and select them?
‘The Rhode Show’ has always been about “Having Fun, Eating Well, and Living Life” so we try to stick within those three pillars. If it’s a fun event happening locally, we do our best to put the spotlight on it. If there is a creative local person who has something to share, we try to showcase who they are and what they are doing. If it’s a new restaurant, we want to know about it. We take our responsibility seriously. We want to help local people succeed and if we can bring more eyeballs to what is happening in a fun way, and if we bring some joy and a smile to someone tuning in, then we’ve done our job.
Some of your episodes are fun and others serious. It’s an interesting mix. Do you deliberately seek a balance?
I think balance is key to just about anything. I do see myself as an entertainer first but I pride myself on being a very versatile host. I’m also extremely proud of the fact that I have well-rounded interests. I can converse with people on a myriad of topics. I’m also inquisitive by nature so if there is a guest joining us who is discussing a topic of which I have very little or no knowledge, I see it as an opportunity to learn and hopefully the viewers can also learn through my experience.
Obviously having comedians and entertainers on the show is terrific but I do enjoy when we can be serious from time to time. So, whether I’m interviewing an entertainer or a family who has a loved one going through a difficult treatment, or a Boston bombing victim, I am extremely proud of my ability to shift and make it great. I always thought the best entertainers and hosts had that ability to shift gears deftly. David Letterman is my biggest inspiration for this career I have, and he is a masterful interviewer, Johnny Carson was great at it, as well, obviously. I love how Conan O’Brien did it on his shows. Howard Stern, as well, I listen to him every day and have been a massive fan for decades. He’s incredible at morphing between topics and tones. I took my cue from those who did it before me who did it brilliantly. It’s not always perfect but I think even the imperfect segments can be great if there’s an earnestness involved.
Speaking of fun, you state on your Instagram account that you are a “wannabe guitarist” – and you have played guitar during broadcasts. Tell us about that.
I fell in love with the guitar when I first saw Marty McFly shred ‘Johnny B. Goode’ in ‘Back to the Future’ as a kid. I just NEEDED to know more about this instrument. Years later when I became a enormous music fan, heavy rock bands, namely Metallica, started to dominate my life and pop culture interests. ‘Rhode Show’ viewers are probably sick of how much I talk about Metallica but they are my favorite band and they really re-awakened what started in me when I saw ‘Back to the Future’. Though I’ve loved their music since I was very young, life and career pursuits began to happen and I never really pursued the instrument like I wanted to. I bought a guitar somewhere along the way and knew a few basics but I did not stick with it like you need to do in order to become proficient. However then, during Covid, I finally made the decision to start taking lessons every week; it’s one of the best decisions I ever made and I’ve been playing regularly for over three years now and I absolutely love it. I originally wanted to learn just so I could play Metallica riffs, which I LOVE to do, but I’ve found the true joy comes from coming up with my own riffs and ideas. I’m lucky to be a creative person and the guitar is another outlet for that. Plus, it’s way cooler than the triangle….
Also in the fun category is “Seinfeld: The Official Cookbook,” which you co-authored with Julie Tremaine. Give is the lowdown on the genesis of the book and what’s in it.
In addition to my love of for late night TV comedy, I absolutely love ‘Seinfeld’. Jerry himself and Larry David truly helped to further inspire and expand my comedic palette. That show just totally unlocked something in me. The characters, the minutiae and realness of the stories, the jokes, I just loved everything about the brilliant absurdity of it and I still do to this day
In the fall of 2021, my friend Julie, a very talented writer herself, said that she had been approached by a publisher to write this book, and that it was licensed by ‘Seinfeld’ so I knew it’d be a polished project with total legitimacy. Knowing that I possessed an unhealthy level of Seinfeld fanaticism she asked if I would co-write it with her. I really do try to pride myself on only doing original projects and things that aren’t really derivative of an existing entity, so I wasn’t totally sure at first if I wanted to pursue it. This thing was going to do well because of the ‘Seinfeld’ name, not whether or not I was involved with it. However, I then realized “You idiot, it’s your favorite show, you’re a good writer, take the project and have some fun with it!” It was totally the right move. If this thing had been released and it there was some else’s name on it next to Julie’s instead of mine, I would’ve been kicking myself forever; and I already do enough of that…
You have succeeded in bringing Hollywood legends on the show. We’re thinking Drew Barrymore and Paul Reiser. How did you land them?
It’s always great when we can welcome big names to our airwaves and we’ve had many. In the case of comedians like Paul Reiser, for example, if they are coming to town for a show and their schedule aligns with our production time or live show time, there’s a built-in reason to have them on. I get such a kick out of the fact that I get to interview so many people whom I’ve watched for years and admired. I take it seriously, too, and I find I do very well with the comedians due to my comedic interests and background. I have such an appreciation and borderline reverence for all performers and I feel my passion shines through when I’m talking with these types of individuals.
The Drew Barrymore interview is one of my proudest achievements and I think one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. I’m tough on myself normally, but I do realize that I nailed that one. I was comfortable and at ease with her and in full control of the moment. I live for those occasions, when everything is clicking and working. Of course, it helps immensely that Drew is a very affable person who is a pleasure to converse with.
That interview came about in a very fun and organic way. One day, in the Fall of 2022 shortly after the ‘Seinfeld’ book had been released, Drew was talking about the book on her program, ‘The Drew Barrymore Show’. Since Drew’s show airs on one of ‘The Rhode Show’s’ sister stations, I went on our show the next day and showed the clip of Drew talking about the ‘Seinfeld’ book, then, in my typical silly Brendan way, spoke directly into the camera and basically invited Julie and myself to New York to be on the show. I’d hoped something would come of it but wasn’t sure if it’d get anywhere. Well, within a DAY, Drew’s team had reached out to WPRI to track me down. Julie and I were invited to be on her show as guests. Then, because Drew’s show is on one of our stations, her team agreed to let me hang around after we taped our segment on her show to let me interview Drew on her set. We knocked it out in one take then aired that interview on ‘The Rhode Show’ about a month later, the same day Julie’s and my segment aired on Drew’s show. Just an incredible experience and I’m so grateful for it and I’ll always remember it. Obviously Drew will, too. LOL.
The Rhode Show is live TV, five days a week, with all of the planning that goes into it. How do handle such a grueling schedule?
It is indeed a grind but in a good way. I really do live for that 9 – 10 a.m. hour when we are live on the air. I offhandedly said in a recent show promo we made that “it’s the best hour of the day” and it really is. I love being “on”. There’s an energy that hits, there’s the immediacy of the moment where anything can happen and I take great pride in being able to handle anything when I’m out there. Of course, as you said, planning plays a huge role and I put a lot of time into crafting some of my lines and many of my scripted ideas and pieces of material but when it’s live, anything can happen, but sometimes there’s a perfectness in the imperfections. James Hetfield (Metallica guitarist/vocalist) is a huge inspiration of mine and much of the way I think and see things in terms of creativity and performance aligns with his; he had a great line once before they went on stage. He said “there are no mistakes, only variations.” I love that because it takes away some of that artificial pressure and underscores the fact that you’ve just gotta roll with whatever happens, nothing is the end of the world. That really stuck with me. The planning is huge though. I pride myself on being ready every day with some type of piece of original material which I hope the audience will enjoy. Not everything can be a home run but I try my best to put the effort in so I can at least look back knowing I gave it my best shot that day. Someone may be checking out the show for the first time on any day. I want them to enjoy and to come back to us.
Can you give us some of your background before co-hosting The Rhode Show?
Other than my short-lived competitive arm-wrestling career, what can I say? I am a proud LaSalle Academy and Rhode Island College graduate and it was during my time at the latter that I majored in Communications with the hope that one day I could work professionally in the broadcasting/entertainment field. I started to realize during college that I had a very strong original comedic sensibility which somewhat aligned with what the aforementioned late night TV programs I loved were doing on a nightly basis, so my singular focus became how I could work, or write for, one of those shows. A show like ‘The Rhode Show’ did not exist yet and I did NOT want to be a news anchor or reporter. My strength is in writing and performing original content on air, not reading you the news, but options for a host role were limited at that time and the world of YouTube and Social Media Content Creation were not yet part of the zeitgeist, so I thought maybe, since I could write jokes, I could be a comedy writer if I kept at it. This desire to write led to my late-night public access show. Though I did that show for pure love of entertainment, it was the outlet for my jokes and I basically taught myself how to put together a show from top to bottom. Plus as host of it, it was built in training for when I was ready for the next step which ‘The Rhode Show’ eventually was. Along the way, during those years of doing ‘Wicked Late’, I had a few local marketing jobs. They weren’t anywhere near what I wanted to be doing with my days and I really did not enjoy that time because my passion lay elsewhere; but I had to work and thankfully, eventually, I was able to move to full time TV work when the time was right. I love it and I haven’t looked back.
You recently made this announcement: “In addition to my nonstop, ongoing, unrelenting commitment to entertaining you in the mornings on TV, I’m excited to share that I will be creating social media content with my friends over at GoProvidence.” What will you be doing there?
From time to time, I will be doing short little reels for their social media pages. So perhaps we’ll take you to a cool spot you haven’t heard of yet or maybe an old favorite or perhaps we’ll offer a short behind-the-scenes look at something unique. I’m fascinated by the always evolving and ever-changing world of media. The way we consume entertainment nowadays is so different, so I’m grateful that I can be in front of the social media audience as well with some fun, and hopefully funny, quick-hitting short videos with Go Providence every now and then.
Finally, anything else in the works for Brendan Kirby?
Well beyond hoping to revive my short-lived competitive arm-wrestling career, I just want to continue to create entertaining content. I live for ideas and making fun things for people to watch and hopefully enjoy. My dream job when I was younger was to be a late night host. I watched those shows and just LOVED them. In essence, I’m kind of doing that, in a modern and roundabout a way. I have a GREAT outlet every morning with ‘The Rhode Show’ that gives me the platform to get out there and do what I do. We have a tremendous team both in front of and behind the cameras that I absolutely love being a part of. Most importantly, nothing makes me happier than knowing that what I do in that studio during that hour might brighten someone’s day a bit. I take my job seriously and even though I love putting myself down for easy, quick self-deprecating laughs, and even though I’m loaded with self-doubt and criticism, I been trying to give myself more credit here and there as I really believe in my ability as a performer overall; but I’m also looking to continue to get better at it.
So I just hope that through the TV audience and the social audience, I can keep entertaining people with my silly ideas, jokes, and passion for it. I just live for creating and hope I can continue to do so for the next 500 years. I actually have too many ideas. I guess that’s a good problem to have. I have other book ideas, too, so who knows what is next? I just hope that people will enjoy and that I can keep creating. Thanks.