Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spotlight: Kevin Pollak's Chat Show

When I think of Kevin Pollak, I think character actor extraordinaire. Dozens of movies come to mind. A Few Good Men. Avalon. Indian Summer. The Usual Suspects. Casino. Deterrence. In fact, his body of work screams for a 5 Best piece. He's a welcome presence in many, many movies. Pollak is also a gifted comedian and one of the best impressionists I've had the pleasure of seeing, both live and on TV specials.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this little gem a few months ago. Kevin Pollak's Chat Show is a weekly talk show that features Pollak and his guest swapping anecdotes and riffing about the joys and frustrations of being a working member of the Hollywood industry. The show is heavily influenced by Charlie Rose and Tom Snyder in that Pollak provides an intimate setting with 2 hours of unfiltered conversation. No commercial interruptions. No censorship. No shilling for their latest projects. These are genuine, frank conversations between an insightful, well-informed host and celebrities from all walks of the entertainment world. I can never watch Leno and Letterman again. Pollak allows his guests to really open up.

The Chat Show premiered on the web in March of 2009. To date, he's had over 100 guests on the show, ranging from Henry Winkler to Eddie Izzard to Martin Mull to Billy Bob Thornton. My personal favorites: Jason Reitman is refreshingly candid about being an up-and-coming director under the shadow of his famous father, Ivan. Neil Patrick Harris, at the height of his busy career, stops in to talk about his new twin boys and his revolving workload in movies, TV and on stage. Director Mike Binder chats with Kevin about their experiences working together on Indian Summer. JK Simmons, who played Colonel Jessup in the original Broadway run of A Few Good Men, swaps stories about Aaron Sorkin and the differences between stage and film. Matthew Perry and Lisa Kudrow, in separate conversations, share hilarious anecdotes about their experiences on Friends. Jason Lee talks in depth about his life before becoming an actor. Titus Welliver talks about Boston, his respected stage career and Lost. Other memorable conversations with Kevin: Leonard Maltin, Paul Rudd, Kevin Smith, Bradley Whitford, Nathan Fillion, Colin Hanks, Lauren Graham.

His impressive catalogue continues to grow. I am eagerly anticipating his upcoming chats with Damon Lindelof, Rob Reiner and Eugene Levy. With the lengthy running time of his conversations, Pollak allows himself to tap into the creative energy of these fascinating and talented artists.

Not everything works, though. Pollak plays the Larry King Game with his guests, which was funny at first but has grown tiresome since. He urges the guest to 1) Make a bad Larry King impression, 2) Have Larry reveal something on the air that shouldn't have been said, and 3) go to the phones, ending with a funny-sounding city. King is now retired, so Pollak should do the same with the Game. Who Tweeted?, another game he plays with the guest, is a time waster that is never funny. Only 3 Degrees of Kevin Pollak is consistently amusing, but unfortunately it makes a sporadic appearance on his shows. His Ask Kevin segments and riffing with his usually off-camera sidekicks, Jaime and Samm, are mildly entertaining. No doubt, the show's strongest suit is the always the main event: Pollak and his guest.

The show is available on iTunes and on his website - You can listen to its audio-only podcast, or watch the videos. The show works very well both ways. New episodes are free, and the archived ones are divvied into seasons which can be purchased for a small fee. KPCS is easily worth your time and investment.

Thanks for reading. Now... get out of my face.

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