RIC Graduate gets “wicked” serious about comedy

For Brendan Kirby, ’04 Rhode Island College graduate, the ability to make people laugh isn’t just a talent; it’s a passion that drives him forward, even though the only compensation is the satisfaction of a job well done. Using his growing experience in the field of late-night television, Kirby has taken a fond pastime and turned it into a well-received local media gem.

Kirby is the host of “Wicked Late with Brendan Kirby,” a nighttime comedy/talk show that airs on Cox Cable’s public access channel. The show follows the established routine of some of late-night’s biggest acts, such as David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, with an opening monologue, guest appearances and filmed sketch segments.

Kirby interacts with Eric Montaquila, his sidekick and drummer.
“I always knew I wanted to start my own show, even if it was just at the local level,” Kirby says. “I had wanted to be a sportscaster originally, or a newscaster. I don’t know, though. Triple homicides don’t really crack me up. Call me weird.”

Kirby, with a pleasant timbre to his voice and the faint crinkle of a smirk on his lips, laughs. Throughout the interview, he cracks jokes, pokes fun at others and himself, and relates his life with an outlook that is nothing but hilarious.

His passion for writing, speaking and comedy led Kirby to major in communications at RIC in the fall of 1999. “I’m not sure if my number is still on the ladies room wall in Alger,” he jokes.

Kirby’s family lineage has its educational roots at Rhode Island College: His parents, brother, aunt and grandmother all graduated from the college.

“There’s a lot of RIC love going on,” Kirby adds with a smile.

In 2003, Kirby was able to set up an internship in New York on David Letterman’s “Late Show,” an opportunity from which he has gleaned the majority of his experience. He witnessed almost every aspect of the show’s production and gained a respect for the planning, effort and execution of a successful late-night talk show. He even made a handful of runs to fetch Letterman’s lunch.

“When I got back from Letterman, I thought, maybe there’s a way I can get credits for this. Then I found out that I could do an independent study for my final project,” Kirby elaborates.

Kirby, right, pictured with the cast and crew of "Wicked Late."
That final project aired as the first episode of “Wicked Late” on Dec. 1, 2003. It took three months of production and the collective elbow grease of Kirby’s volunteers to bring the episode together, but Kirby knew he wanted to continue with the show.

“I’d have to be locked up if I couldn’t do it. It’s the only thing I want to do,” he says of his drive to keep producing “Wicked Late” episodes. As of today, 76 episodes have aired on local television. Each features local celebrity guests, satirical monologues and pre-taped sketches that have Kirby visiting a menagerie of Rhode Island locales.

The show airs on Cox Cable (Channel 13) and Verizon Fios (Channel 32) every Sunday at 10:30pm, with one new episode premiering on the first Sunday of every month. While that may not seem like a heavy production schedule, Kirby puts his efforts into perspective: “I’d like to think that what I do by myself once a month with a few volunteers is almost equivalent to what (the big names) do on an everyday basis with a crew of 80 to a 100.”

The comparison seems apt, considering the show is written, filmed, produced, edited and funded by Kirby and this band of people.

Though he is the show’s sole writer and overseer, Kirby has found loyal help in the volunteers that come together to make Wicked Late happen. Fellow RIC graduates, longtime friends and even a married couple make up the show’s behind-the-scenes ensemble.

“(The show) shouldn’t be a priority for the crew, because they’ve got their own jobs, and they’ve got their own lives,” Kirby says of his help. “But they still come once a month, every month, which is a testament to their continued dedication and friendship.”

Though he commits himself monthly to the project, Kirby sees no revenue from his late-night brainchild. Works that air on local television use their own funding to produce shows.

However, Kirby’s ultimate goal is to get “Wicked Late” on a network station, something he hopes to do in the coming year.

With a budget of its own and a larger crew, Kirby is confident that his show’s quality would rival that of the larger, nationwide talk shows he so fervently admires.

“It brings me a lot of joy,” he says of “Wicked Late.” He adds, with a chuckle and a faux dramatic flair: “And a tear to my eye.”

Information, contacts and other video samples are available at the show’s website, www.wickedlate.com, or at www.facebook.com/wickedlate and www.twitter.com/wickedlate.