Interviews

Interview with Kelly Landry

A comedic force both in front of and behind the camera, Kelly Landry has quickly established herself as one of the go-to storytellers for the digital generation. She first gained a following while writing and hosting the YouTube series, TOP 6, which garnered over 40 million views. She has since shifted into directing/producing where she’s won back-to-back Streamy Awards and was shortlisted for a Cannes
Media Lion. Kelly served as head writer/director for the 2018 comedy series, STARTER PACK, which follows Ayana Martin, a broke 25-year-old with a master’s degree in art history, as she sets out to curate a meme museum. The show explores themes around the ownership of digital art, and the concept of meme-ing responsibly. The New York Times reviewed the show as a “bright and poppy fictional series that reads like an aesthetic mash-up of Instagram videos and MTV reality shows,” and deemed it one of the best shows streaming on Facebook Watch. Prior to STARTER PACK, Kelly wrote, co-directed and produced AT&T Hello Lab’s 2017 venture, GUILTY PARTY, a multi-platform digital series. The show blew past industry benchmarks garnering over 65 million views across four platforms. In 2016, Kelly executive produced the interactive digital series THE DISAPPEARING GIRL starring influencer Collins Key and served as showrunner for Grace Helbig’s latest digital endeavor, WRITING WITH GRACE. Both shows picked up Streamy Awards for Best Branded Series, and Helbig’s project culminated into a live stage show at Vidcon— which Kelly directed— attracting an audience of over 3000. Kelly’s stand-up comedy can be seen on Hulu, and her proudest on-screen moment can be found in an episode of Netflix’s CHELSEA, where Kelly appeared as a sketch player advocating for free birth control. Kelly hails from Maine, and graduated with a BFA in theater from New YorkUniversity’s Tisch School of the arts. She is represented at Artists First Entertainment.

1. For the people who might not know you, who are you and what do you do?

I’m Kelly Landry, a comedian/writer/director from Maine who moved to Los Angeles to follow my dreams. I write and direct and perform standup comedy. I also host occasionally. People usually know me best from the Youtube show I wrote and Hosted called “Top 6” or from writing the last season of Ray William Johnson’s show “Equals Three”

2. How did you discover your passion for writing and comedy?

I started out acting. Growing up in Maine as a little girl interested in film/tv and making movies in the basement, everyone said “Oh you’re going to be an actress, a movie star!” and I thought “yeah!” so I auditioned and got into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ acting program. I was in the Stella Adler Conservatory and I was pretty sure I wanted to be a very serious dramatic actress. I had a friend, Jessica, in college and she was very into comedy and improv so I had my first taste of it there but it wasn’t until I moved out to LA after college that I really decided to shift into comedy writing. I had done a few auditions for the show “Entourage” and I remember sitting there in a room waiting to audition with 100 girls that looked exactly like me and we were all there to audition to plat “Hot Secretary” and say one line: “Vince, they’ll see you now.” I remember thinking how crazy it was that we were all there when literally anyone off the street could say that line. I decided I wanted to have more control over my career. I didn’t want to wait until someone told me I could act, I wanted to do something more pro-active, so I started writing stand up comedy. From there I started writing sketches and then got into the CBS Diversity showcase as a writer and I realized I really loved it.

3. What do you love most about being a writer?

I love that I can write anywhere and I don’t need to wait for anyone to do it. It’s so fulfilling to have an idea and then see it on the page. I also love seeing actors bring my material to life.

4. Are you working on any current projects and, if so, can you disclose anything?

I Just finished writing and directing the Facebook Watch series “Starter Pack.” You can watch the full series on Facebook. I also have a new show that I’m shopping around. I’ve teamed up with a pretty big company to try to sell it and I’m hopeful you’ll be able to watch it soon on television or somewhere like Netflix or Amazon. I can’t tell you any details about it yet, but I’ll keep you posted!

5. What are some common misconceptions about your job?

I think a lot of people believe they can’t write if they don’t have formal training, which isn’t true. I didn’t take any screenwriting classes, I just read a ton of scripts and figured out what I liked.

6. What advice would you give to young, aspiring writers?

I would say to anyone that wants to become a writer/director, get out there and just do it. Stop talking about the script you want to write and just write it. Get SOMETHING on the page, and don’t worry if it’s good or not. The first draft will probably not be great and that’s ok! It’s much easier to re-write something once it’s on the page and you have something to work with. Also, I firmly believe that there is no correct path to achieving a career in writing and directing. Some people break in through Youtube, some people are assistants first and work their way up, other people just write something brilliant on the first try and the right person happens to read it… Anyone that tells you there is only one way to achieve something is just afraid that you are going to pass them. They put in 6 years of work struggling so that means you have to. But everyone has their own path, so trust yours. I don’t think anyone is ever 100 percent confident in what they are doing, you just learn to fake it and then you realize you’re actually doing it.

7. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

Getting to direct and co-write “Starter Pack” for AT&T Hello Lab and Facebook Watch. It was the first full series I directed by myself and I think it has a great message. It also got a write up in the New York Times so that was HUGE FOR ME.

8. Who did you love working with on a project and why?

I really loved getting to work with Michael Yo on “Starter Pack.” We’ve been friends and have worked on a few things together since 2015. I was co-producing and hosting a standup show at Club Nokia (now the Microsoft Theater) in downtown LA and Michael was one of the comics on the show. We hit it off and started meeting up to write together and then when I got to make “Starter Pack” I knew Michael would be perfect for the character of Aaron Borgenstein. He was amazing and it was so great to get to work with someone I’ve known and admired for a while. Michael just had a special come out on Amazon and Itunes called “Blasian” and he sold a show to CBS, he’s killing it!

It was also really awesome to get to work with Chris Redd on one of the first shows I produced, The Disappearing Girl. I had met Chris in a writers room and thought he was so talented so I asked if he would play the role of “Martin” in the show. He killed it and then flashforward a couple years and he’s on SNL. It’s very cool to watch him on TV, especially since he’s an awesome guy who deserves every bit of success.

9. What social stigmas does society need to get over?

I think society needs to get over the stigma of “Feminists.” I think a lot of the country believes feminists are man-hating women when in reality a feminist is just someone who believes women deserve equal rights. I hope that after understanding the definition, that everyone would describe themselves as a feminist.

10. Who are some of your favorite writers and/or comedians?

Oh, man, there are so many. My favorite has to be Tina Fey. I’m obsessed with her and I tried to make “Starter Pack” have some of the quirky comedy that 30 Rock does. I also love Chelsea Handler, Amy Schumer, Ali Wong, Mindy Kaling… badass, funny women. I also love Michael Showalter. I first saw him in New York at the People’s Improv Theater and he really influenced the type of standup I wanted to write. I remember he told a joke about how people talk in first person all day long but then when they go into the bathroom suddenly they start talking third person…There’s something brilliant about the way he points out mundane things and makes them hilarious. I tried to emulate some of that in my standup.

11. What are some causes that you hope to bring more awareness to in the future?

I love a program called The Young Storytellers, which helps 5th graders explore their creative writing skills. It’s an awesome cause and I’ve volunteered with them. In terms of broad causes that I think need more awareness… The acceptance of the Trans community. I’ve worked with some very talented trans actors and I think there is still a lot of hate that exits in certain parts of the country towards the trans community because there isn’t enough understanding and/or exposure to the struggles they have gone through to become the incredible people that they are.

12. What is one philosophy that you live by?

There are a couple I live by:

#1 Be kind. You have no idea what someone else might be going through.

#2 Life is a marathon, not a sprint… Some of the best ideas and projects take time. Work hard and keep at it and eventually things will pay off even if it doesn’t seem like it is in the short term. I bartended for SEVEN YEARS before I started making money writing/directing.

13. What do you have in mind for the future?

The plan is to sell the show I’m shopping around and then get to direct it. I also have another pilot I’m writing and a short film I would love to make. I applied to the NBC Female Forward directing program so that would be incredible to learn from some of the best directors like Lesli Linka Glatter, Pamela Fryman, and Gail Mancuso. Ultimately, my goal is to create and direct a show on TV that changes the world in a positive way. I want to make people laugh and then think about their life a bit and then laugh some more. I want the shows I create to inspire people to look at their life as ask themselves if they’re living it in their best way. I would love to play a funny side-character in my show too! I still love performing and am also going to continue doing stand up and hosting when I’m inspired to.

Thank you so much to Kelly for agreeing to the interview. You can find more about her and her work on:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

IMDb

Photo credit:  The Riker Brothers

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