Q&A: Kyle Dunnigan, Emmy-Winning Comedian, Inside Amy Schumer Writer, Billy Joel Superfan

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BY JONATHAN VALANIA For the last three seasons, comedian Kyle Dunnigan has worked as a writer/performer on Inside Amy Schumer, where he just won an Emmy for the boy-band pastiche “Girl You Don’t Need Make-Up.” In Trainwreck, he played “Kyle,” the obnoxious staff member of the equally obnoxious S’Nuff magazine that Schumer’s character writes for. He does a weekly podcast with fellow comedian Tig Notaro called “Professor Blastoff” which premiered at #1 on iTunes Comedy Podcast Chart, and consistently remains as one of the top comedy podcasts. He had a recurring role on Reno 911 as ‘Craig’ a.k.a The Truckee River Killer. As a stand-up comic Kyle has had his own half hour special on Comedy Central and has appeared on Conan O’brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson. He is also a tournament-class poker player and an unironic Billy Joel superfan. He performs at Underground Arts on Thursday October 8th.

PHAWKER: Walk us through a day in the life of an Inside Amy Schumer Show writer.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Well it’s a very supportive group and it’s a very groupthink kind of environment. From what I hear, that’s unusual. I do stand up and this is the first writer’s room that I’ve been Kyle_Dunnigan_as_Craigin. I was on a sketch show years ago that I also wrote on but I wasn’t a staff writer like this. You come in with like five pitches for sketches and then they kind of decide, they focus on these two and write that up you go home and write them and hand them in then they give you notes, you rewrite it and then everybody together works on it from there on out so you get a couple rewrites and then everybody jumps in.

But some sketches are different like the song “Girl You Don’t Need Make-Up.” Kurt Metzger had the concept of like the girl who doesn’t need makeup and wait you do need makeup when she takes it off. And then he just came in with a list of rhymes and then we all just sort of pitched rhymes. But it wasn’t really shaped like a song it needed to be edited way down. It was like a fifteen-minute song when it was first written. So I just went through, and I just picked my favorite lines and I cut some together so musically it would change and have a little bit of a bridge and chorus kind of thing.

PHAWKER: Was One Direction your model for the song and the band in the video?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Yeah I downloaded that One Direction song. This guy in LA Jim Roach, he produced it. He made it sound great, and I directed it in terms of I want it to sound like this One Direction song you know make sure you put in some cowbell there. I downloaded some N*Sync songs and the Backstreet Boys just to get like a cross section. I got into it.

PHAWKER: One Direction I think is the first band – boy band that is – that I think made me feel officially old because I look at those guys and just say ‘They have the stupidest hair. This is the stupidest hair I’ve ever seen on teen idols.’ I don’t understand what teenage girls see in them but I guess that’s why I’m not a teenage girl. Or for that matter a teen idol.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Yeah because they always have stupid hair but you’re now noticing because you’re getting older. Always something weird I mean Justin Timberlake had like frosted tips or something weird going on there was a lot going on with the hair in boy bands.  I mean going back to the Beatles the first boy band. Teen girls love when guys change up their hair and make it crazy. That’s just a tip for all the young guys out there: do it.

PHAWKER: Good to know. Okay and let’s talk about you do impersonations, you do Donald Trump you can do Caitlyn Jenner you do Kyle_Dunnigan_as_CraigPerez Hilton and Brian Williams. What is the secret to imitating Donald Trump since he is occupying so much of our media these days?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Donald Trump is like he’s got this like bull horn quality and then he breaks out into a high pitch and it’s just a combination of those two things going back and forth I kind of do him like that. But I did impressions when I was younger but then with Howard Stern that’s how I started doing them again because I met with them and then I was dating Sarah Silverman at the time and she was on the show and she played a Bill Maher impression on the show and then they contacted me and asked if I had anything else and then I woke up and I could do Donald Sterling — remember Donald Sterling at the Clippers the racist guy? I just made a demo for Howard for a potential call-in and he played it on the air which I didn’t even know he was going to do and then we had a couple more live call-ins and now I’ve just been doing a lot of impressions since then for the show.

PHAWKER: And you’ve been given Arty chair status is that correct?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: No, I’ve sat in it a couple times.

PHAWKER: Is there actually a chair that they leave open that was Artie’s chair?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Yeah there’s a chair there. I don’t think it’s his actual chair kept as a shrine but there’s a place where he sat and it’s still there and it’s empty. But people come in and will sit in the chair. I did it twice and it’s so surreal. I have to get comfortable. It’s so surreal that it’s hard to be comfortable right away it takes a few times, you know.

PHAWKER: I’ll ask you the cliché Howard Stern question that he is actually off-mic a very nice guy nice person very sweet person.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: He’s been nothing but incredibly nice to me.

PHAWKER: You brought up Sarah Silverman. I love Sarah Silverman. I’m sorry to hear that you guys aren’t still together.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: That’s okay I mean we’re still friends it was not a bad break up situation.

PHAWKER: What is the best perk of dating Sarah Silverman?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Well one time we missed our flight to Hawaii and then Bill Maher just took us on his private plane which I have a feeling if I wasn’t dating her wouldn’t have happened, I have a hunch.

PHAWKER: Bill Maher has a fucking private plane?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Well I think he chartered it for Hawaii he had a couple shows in Hawaii. I think people mainly just charter Kyle_Dunnigan_as_Craigprivate planes. From what I gather very few actually own them except for like billionaires and like hundred of millions of dollars, I think it’s just kind of like spend fifty grand on a plane ride to Hawaii.

PHAWKER: How many times had you been on a private plane prior to that or since that?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: I’ve been on a couple. I did a show with Howie Mandel and we would go to Toronto on a private jet, and I open for Amy Schumer sometimes and she takes one. Yeah it’s like being friends with Elvis. You know Elvis’s friends got a lot of perks and Elvis would shut down an amusement park and the friends would get to go on the rides for free and stuff. That’s me.

PHAWKER: I read somewhere that you’re one of the top twenty-five thousand poker players in the US?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: I don’t know if it’s true anymore but I did play a few tournaments that I did well in. I was actually in a big one about a month ago and I was a chip leader after the first day, and I had almost a million dollars in chips.

PHAWKER: Holy shit.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: You can’t cash them in, though, you have to win the whole tournament to cash them in. The next day, I found out there were three more days in the tournament. It was this million dollar tournament, and I had to go to Chicago because I was going on stage will Billy Joel because Amy was going on stage and she knew I was a big fan so she got me on stage, and I wasn’t going to miss that so I played super aggressively and I got knocked out. But I haven’t played since that.

PHAWKER: What do you mean on stage with Billy Joel you mean standing off to the side while he’s performing or she opened for him or what’s this all about?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: No Uptown Girl that song was in her movie Trainwreck, and I guess he asked her to come on stage and just surprise the audience and she just invited me because she knew I was a big fan, and I had jumped on stage when I was 18 at a Billy Joel concert so it was filmed for his DVD and I got to show him that and it was just funny.

PHAWKER: You just jumped on stage like you crashed the stage kind of thing?


PHAWKER: How did that go over with his security?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: I thought I would get beat up but everything was fine, and he was cool and then twenty five years almost to the day the same thing happened. I mean I was invited this time.

PHAWKER: What’s the single greatest Billy Joel song?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: That’s an impossible question but I’m going to say “Summer, Highland Falls,” “She’s Always a Woman.” Those two are Kyle_Dunnigan_as_Craigmy favorites right now.

PHAWKER: [makes buzzer sound] I’m sorry to have to tell you that’s the wrong answer.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: That’s wrong?

PHAWKER: “Captain Jack” is the single greatest Billy Joel song.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: That’s a good song.

PHAWKER: Actually, “Piano Man” is his greatest song, even though you’ve heard it a million times.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Oh yeah that’s a fantastic song, and I encourage people to Google ‘Piano Man rare’ and there’s him singing live in 1973 and it’s fantastic. He has such a great voice and the piano and harmonica, it’s fantastic.

PHAWKER: There is a little ironic timing to this conversation in that you’re such a Billy Joel fan and we’re talking about him now because…wait for it…I am from Allentown.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Really? I was going to say that’s one of my favorite songs too. I love that song. I mean you’re from there, they’re pissed, right?

PHAWKER: Well, nobody likes having a mirror held up to them. That’s song is pretty dead on — they did close all the factories down  — and it’s only gotten worse since then. What should we end with here?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: Maybe we should both sing “Allentown.”

PHAWKER: I don’t think that’s going to mean much when people read it on the page.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: I disagree, but okay what else?

PHAWKER: Tell me something about Amy Schumer that nobody knows.

KYLE DUNNIGAN: I don’t know if she’d want me to say but big tipper. You want to be her waiter.Kyle_Dunnigan_as_Craig

PHAWKER: Is she one of those people who leaves a note too and is like ‘Here’s a thousand dollars’ or something like that, no?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: No just very quietly and leaves.

PHAWKER: I’m guessing she might have waited tables or something? She knows where wait staff are coming from?

KYLE DUNNIGAN: She did, yeah.

PHAWKER: I figured she was a good person.