Comedian Robert Kelly proves you can go home again as he prepares to take the stage at Comics Come Home on Nov. 3. The Massachusetts native, who co-founded the RiotCast podcast network, makes his fifth appearance at the charity event organized by Denis Leary and Cam Neely in support of the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. We caught up with Kelly before his performance at TD Garden to discuss family feuds and the changing city.
What’s it like coming back to your hometown to perform? Well, my family still lives here so I come home a lot ’cause, you know, my mother makes me. It’s a little shocking how much things have changed. South Boston isn’t dangerous. You won’t get killed walking around Charlestown anymore—that part is weird. But as far as performing here, it’s the best. There’s nowhere like it in the world. Boston comedy and comics are literally known worldwide as the best, so I’m really proud of that.
You grew up in a household of 13. How did that influence your comedy? When you’re in a big family, you have to be funny. You just have to. Someone’s always getting messed with, someone’s always getting made fun of or teased. You laugh all the time. I mean, my mother was the oldest and she would fuck with my uncles so bad. [Laughs.] Growing up, my family was just a very funny, typical Irish-Catholic family.
How does it feel to keep being asked to perform at Comics Come Home? The Cam Neely Foundation is just incredible. When they ask you to do it, at first you’re like, “Yeah! Of course I’ll work with Denis Leary at a big show!” Then you find out what you’re involved in and what you’re actually doing. You’re donating your comedy, and it’s pretty epic to be a part of that. It’s the longest-running comedy fundraiser in existence. It’s ridiculous and it gets bigger and bigger every year. Not to sound cheesy, but I feel really proud to have been asked to come back so many times.
What’s your best piece of advice for up-and-coming comedians? The only advice one comic should give to another is to just get onstage. When I was coming up, everyone was like, “you should do this” or “you should do that.” I kept getting told I needed clean material. I’m an asshole from Medford that was stuck in juvie when I was 13. I was not a clean guy. I’m a good person, but I’m still messed up. The way I think of stuff is a little twisted, and everyone’s telling me to be clean and I’m like, “Well, I can’t be, because that’s not my life,” and Joe Rogan said to me, “Just get onstage, man. Don’t listen to anybody cause if you do, it’s going to take you longer to become yourself.” But if you just get onstage, you’ll find your voice. It takes a long time, but you’ll do it and you’ll be you. Just get onstage, tell jokes and suck until you’re good.