It’s a story as old as the entertainment industry.
As a young actor in L.A., Liam Sullivan knew his passion was in sketch and stand-up comedy, but he struggled to make a name for himself and garner any kind of attention. Instead of succumbing to a life as a waiter or a number of other odd jobs that chew up and spit out those with the best of intentions, Sullivan, now 35, turned to the Internet and created a site for sketch comedies he wrote and performed with friends. LiamShow.com was launched, and in 2006, his sketch “Shoes,” featuring the character Kelly — an awkward, short-tempered, foul-mouthed teenager with a penchant for shoes — found its way to YouTube and has since been viewed more than 16 million times. “Shoes” nabbed a People’s Choice award in 2007. Sullivan has since added many more videos and characters to the site, and is on the road opening for Margaret Cho’s “Beautiful” Tour.
Sullivan says his inspiration for Kelly came from different girls he grew up with in Massachusetts. As for Kelly’s strange pronunciation of “betch” and “deck” — which have become catchphrases of the show — he says, “When I first started developing the character, I imagined her with braces. So I was talking as if I had braces, and that just eventually led me to pronouncing them that way.”
When he developed Kelly, he had no idea she would be a hit. But an overnight sensation the sketch was not. “I guess I didn’t even imagine it, because YouTube wasn’t invented yet,” Sullivan says. “I thought I’d do a live show here in L.A. and then just take it on the road. So the YouTube thing really helped out. It’s all in the timing I guess.”
Sullivan has posted several more videos featuring Kelly, including the hilarious “Let Me Borrow That Top” and “Text Message Breakup.” Sullivan says he’s thankful people have reacted so positively to Kelly and is not worried about her jumping the shark. “It’s a good character … I don’t know, I think it’s funny, and if that’s what I’m pigeonholed as, that’s fine. I know I can do other stuff — I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Some of the other characters include Kelly’s stern mom, played by Pam Cook; Aunt Susan, a lesbian who totes a guitar and a Spanish-speaking girlfriend; and Mother Grandma, an old woman with a slight drinking problem and no self-editing skills. While Sullivan is working on an album that will feature kumbaya songs by Aunt Susan, he says Mother Grandma is his favorite character to portray (he plays both). “She is constantly wasted, and she says whatever is on her mind at the moment. She’s one of those people that just blurts out anything, even if she really doesn’t understand what’s going on. She has kind of an interesting relationship with Kelly’s mom — the two of them hate each other. So it’s fun to play off of Pam Cook.”
Sullivan says he’s interested in pursuing work behind the scenes, producing, writing and directing. He’d love to find his way to the stages of “Saturday Night Live,” he says, as some of his favorite comedians include show veterans Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Rock and Chris Farley.
So Mother Grandma loves her whiskey and likes to offer it up to any and every guest to the family’s home. But for Sullivan’s trip to Kentucky for the show Saturday night, I had to ask if there was any way she’d consider switching to bourbon.
“That’s a tough order. She loves her whiskey, and you know how people can get with their particular booze,” Sullivan says. “I have another character I’m working on who loves bourbon. His name is Bob, and he’s an aging talk-show host who can’t stand his job. He’s loosely based on David Letterman. I’m still writing his stuff, so I don’t know. But I know he loves his bourbon.”
Margaret Cho w/ Liam Sullivan
Saturday, Sept. 20
625 S. Fourth St.
$29.50-$42.50; 8 p.m.
Listen up, betch
Kelly dishes out fashion advice
We got a few minutes with Kelly, so we had to talk shoes, of course. Here’s a list of 12 — some that suck and some that rule.
Reebok Cross-Trainers: Suck!
Old-school Adidas, black and white striped: Rule!
Ironic hipster Nikes that look like they’re from 1984 but were actually made last week in China: Suck! Obvious suck!
Manolo Blahniks: Rule!
Boots with the furrrr: I’ll go with rule!
Jimmy Choos: Rule!
Birkenstocks: Suck! Unless you’re Aunt Susan, then they rule!
High-top pink Converse: Rule!
The standard flip-flop: I’m gonna go with rule, only because sometimes that’s all you feel like putting on. Especially at the beach. And the beach rules!
What music do you like?
I like Peaches because she’s rad.
Can I borrow that top?
Absolutely, but I’m not wearing one now.