Interview with John Kawie

John Kawie is a Comedic Performer and Writer who has worked with Bill Maher, Dennis Miller and Howie Mandell to name just a few. After recovering from a recent stroke John has emerged with a new DVD titled “Brain Freeze.” John recently took the time to speak with Movie Mikes about his upcoming DVD release and also what it was like working with Robert DeNiro.

Click here to purchase your copy of “John Kawie: Brain Freeze”

Adam Lawton: What made you decide to get into comedy?
John Kawie: I was in the Aerospace industry for almost 20 yrs. At age 40 I decided that it wasn’t for me anymore and I had to get out. It was at the point where if I didn’t go out on my own the industry was going to make me go. I really hated it. It had been a family business that I got into after college and after my father passed away suddenly I took the company over. I just never wanted to be there and one day left and moved to New York City to pursue stand-up, which I was something I had always loved. Things started to move fairly quickly and I was making my way around to all the popular clubs. I then got a Comedy Central special and shortly after that I had a stroke. This put me on hold for awhile.

AL: How was it working with Bill Maher and Dennis Miller?
JK: It was really great! Bill Maher and I didn’t get to work with personally.  I would send material to him to use. However, I worked with Dennis personally in concert. He was great, just a really nice guy.

AL: Did getting to work with such big names early on in your career help ease your mind as to whether or not getting into comedy was a good idea?
JK: It did. It was validation. I was doing a lot of writing which was very important for me. I wanted what I was doing to be very sharp and smart similar to Dennis but with my own take. I had always looked up to Dennis so it was very helpful getting to work with him.

AL: Can you tell us about your DVD “Brain Freeze”?
JK: I was doing stand up prior to my stroke and then the stroke happened and it was devastating. I did not think that I would ever be doing stand up again. I was going through rehab at the Rusk Institute in New York and had some really great therapist. I wanted to still do stand up somehow. When you have a stroke it’s not just physical but cognitive as well. So during the whole recovery process no one ever said no to me about what I wanted to do which was really helpful. The people at the institute just kept telling me to keep pursuing it. They actually allowed me to tell a joke at the beginning of each session which was really cool. This allowed me a safe place to perform as I worked on a new joke each week. It was really amazing. When I would get the laugh from the others in therapy it gave me that jolt that I always loved. I started writing the show and being funny again which was amazing because I wasn’t funny for so long as a stroke isn’t very funny. I used a lot of my daily experiences and if something happened to me that was a negative I was able to write about it and make it positive. This was really great therapy for me! So I wrote the show as a one man type of Bogosian show. It’s a real roller coaster ride. I do all the characters in the show.

AL: What made you decide to do this type of project?
JK: It mostly all stems from my stroke however I had always wanted to do a one man solo show. Stand up is made up of shorter pieces with set up punch lines. I was getting into people like Spalding Grey prior to my stroke and I really admired their solo shows which took you on ride but still had that humor. I wanted to get away from the club scene and be able to do something more theater based.

AL: During your recovery you had a chance to work with Robert DeNiro can you tell us about that experience?
JK: It was fantastic. Robert is a very nice guy. The film is called “Flawless” and also stars Phil Seymour Hoffman. Robert filmed me during my recovery doing various things such as walking. He was really trying to learn everything he could about a stroke. Robert is amazing in the movie. He did a really good job.

AL: How did that opportunity come about?
JK: I think Joel Schumacher had gone to the Rusk Institute knowing that they had a rehabilitation center in New York.  I think Rusk knew kind of my back ground and suggested me to Joel. They came to me and asked if I wanted to work with Robert and I said of course!

AL: Was it difficult to get back on stage and perform?
JK: It was. I started doing sets again at The Improv after my rehab was done. The owner had me go up on Saturday nights and at first I would go up there and I would forget my material! I would just stand there and people in the audience would just stare at me. It was terrible. I was having just a real tough time getting jokes to land and to make people laugh. I had met with one of my therapists at Rusk and told them about wanting to do the show. She suggested that I contact my acting coach. I called her and she invited me to a workshop. I would write monologues but I couldn’t memorize them. One day after class I called my coach and asked if she had wanted me to drop out. She said of course not you’re just going to have to work differently to memorize your material. She said if you really want to do this show then you’re going to have to find a different way that works for you. I started recording the monologues and playing them over and over until eventually I learned them.

AL: What do you have planned next?
JK: I am working on the book version of “Brain Freeze” right now. I also have had thoughts of making this a movie. As for right now my focus is on the book which is turning out to be very visual. I think this could help with a screen play in the future.

Click here to purchase your copy of “John Kawie: Brain Freeze”

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