He loves keeping up appearances

Jamie Kennedy searched long and hard for a niche

it was in his face all the time

April 17, 2003|By Mike Morris | Mike Morris,SUN STAFF

Jamie Kennedy is sprawled, barefoot, on a fancy chair in a $610-a-night Inner Harbor hotel room, drizzling chocolate over the vanilla ice cream provided by room service. After munching on a giant chocolate chip cookie, the comedian-turned-actor talks about his previous life as a struggling artist.

In town to promote his latest movie, Malibu's Most Wanted, Kennedy describes trying to make it in Hollywood like this: Frustrating. Depressing. Confusing. After all, he was fired as a page at ABC for bothering Tony Danza. His first agent advised him to get a nose job because his was too "fat and big." And, at one point, the best acting job he could get was on a spinoff of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Once forced to work odd jobs in L.A. ranging from waiting tables at Red Lobster to making Pizza Hut pizzas, Kennedy now jokes that he's so busy with a hit television show, a movie that opens tomorrow and an forthcoming book that he doesn't even have time for sex.

Though he's 32, Kennedy has the demeanor of a teen-ager. He's best known for the WB's JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, which airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. and in which he draws the unsuspecting into his comedic skits. Best described as Candid Camera meets Saturday Night Live, the show debuted last January and draws approximately 3 million viewers each week. While JKX may not bring in 20 million viewers like American Idol does, it has a loyal following composed primarily of teen-agers and young adults.

"Now, if we can get $7 from each of them the movie will have a good opening," Kennedy said of JKX's viewers.

Perhaps he'll succeed: The main character in Malibu's Most Wanted, is a take-off from the show. Brad "B-Rad" Gluckman, Kennedy's favorite JKX character, is a white wannabe rapper who acts and talks like he's from the 'hood even though he's from a well-to-do family in Malibu. In the movie, B-Rad's hip-hop antics jeopardize his conservative father's bid for governor of California, so B-Rad is "kidnapped" by hired actors. To "scare" him into what the campaign staff deems acceptable behavior, the kidnappers take him to a rough South Central neighborhood.

"We want to make people laugh, but we also want to make a comment about society - about what people think stereotypes are," Kennedy said of the film, in which whites, blacks, Asians, Arabs and Mexicans are the butt of many jokes. "I'm sure it's going to offend some people."

So how did Kennedy come up with a character like "B-Rad"?

He looked in the mirror, sort of.

"Partly it's me," he said. "I'm a white kid from the suburbs who listened to rap music. The other parts are when I moved to L.A. I saw kids that would be like, `Yo, yo, Beverly Hills represent.' "

Director John Whitesell (See Spot Run) adds from over the phone in Los Angeles, "I don't know about in Baltimore, but out in L.A. we have these wannabe rapper lookalike guys all over the place."

While some viewers may wonder if Eminem inspired "B-Rad," Kennedy claims that Gluckman was invented prior to the Detroit rapper's success. However, after watching the graphic rap battles in Eminem's 8 Mile, the comedian decided to re-shoot a scene to parody the hit movie.

Kennedy has been a longtime fan of rap music. His favorite artists include Eminem, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, who makes a cameo in the movie as a talking rat during a dream sequence. Snoop's song, "Girls, Girls, Girls" is featured in the film.

Kennedy grew up just outside Philadelphia listening to Run-DMC, tormenting his parents and getting into trouble in Catholic school. After high school, he enrolled in a community college but dropped all of his classes - except acting, of course.

Determined to make a living by entertaining others, Kennedy packed his bags and headed for the West Coast where he had aspired to be on Saturday Night Live. Things didn't go as planned: It took him 4 1/2 years just to get work on a sneaker commercial.

"I always had hope, and what kept me going was that people thought I was funny," Kennedy said.

His big break came in 1996 when he was cast in the successful Scream trilogy. That was followed by a role opposite George Clooney and Ice Cube in the 1999 war drama, Three Kings. More and more movies came, including 2000's Boiler Room, and eventually Kennedy persuaded network executives to allow him to create a pilot for JKX.

Kennedy has used his previous misfortunes as a muse for his comedy. He'll chronicle his days as a struggling actor in his first book, Jamie Kennedy Wannabe: A Hollywood Experiment, due in September. "The world is my comedic oyster," he says. "Everywhere I look I see comedy."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.