From Justin to Kelly is back in a big way, and you can catch them tomorrow night at iO West. But lest you think American Idol alums/movie stars Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini have forsaken pop stardom and who knows what (respectively) to take up comedy, pump the brakes: This Justin is Justin Peters, and this Kelly is Kelly Buttermore, two alums of NYC’s Magnet Theatre who have taken their act on the road.
Peters and Buttermore might be the first improv team to tour the U.S. without the blessing (or bankroll) of an official company, although they can’t be sure—“I haven’t called every duo in the country to confirm,” Peters says. But the hope is to blaze a trail that will bring improv to the masses. “With indie music, you build an audience by going out and touring,” he says. “That doesn’t happen with improv. So we decided, fuck it, if a touring circuit doesn’t exist, someone’s got to invent one. It’s time to start bringing this shit to the world.”
“The closest thing to touring is improv festivals,” Buttermore adds. “But we wanted to see what we could build around this.”
Justin and Kelly sat down with us to answer some hard-hitting questions ahead of tomorrow’s show. Here’s what they have to say about comedy crushes, Glenn Close, and Post-It notes.
Justin Guarini or Kelly Clarkson?
JP: I gotta go with Justin. I sympathize with the guy who tried and then failed.
KB: I have to say the same thing. He should run for Congress like Clay Aiken did.
JP: I want a Guarini/Aiken ticket for 2016. The American Idol rejects ticket.
SNL or MadTV?
KB: SNL for me. I have a lot of love for it.
JP: MadTV. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just contrary.
KB: Someone has to say MadTV.
Worst scene suggestion you’ve ever gotten?
JP: “Foundry,” which is like an iron works factory. We were doing a show in Philadelphia where this drunk guy yelled, “foundry!” for four sets in a row. Maybe he was a union man or something.
KB: We once asked for a location that would fit on the stage, and a nine-year-old girl all the way in the back row yelled out, “gun store!” It was amazing. And once, in Providence, we got a suggestion of “hot tub” from a woman who then left in the middle of the show.
Three comedians you’d invite to dinner, dead or alive?
JP: Jack Benny; Allan Sherman; and Kelly.
KB: Abby Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, who I’m counting as one; Justin; and Jonathan Winters. Because I want as weird of a dinner mix as possible.
You’re stuck in an elevator with Louis C.K. What’s your opening gambit?
JP: No, really, what does C.K. actually stand for?
KB: Mine’s basic. I just want to know how he comes up for the ideas for his show. Like the episode where one of his kid’s friends insisted that he could only eat raw meat, and so Louis fed him raw hamburger. And then the kid took a bath, and the whole tub filled up with diarrhea.
Whose line is it, anyway?
JP: That’s a great question. If you have to ask, it’s no one’s line. It’s what the scene demands.
KB: That’s what I was going to say.
JP: But in an entirely different sense, it’s always Wayne Brady’s line.
Go-to character on stage?
JP: Overconfident Stupid Guy. Like a guy who’s convinced he can park there even though it’s clear that he can’t. That and Italian Guy. Kelly hates Italian Guy.
KB: What do we call mine? Sassy McBitch. I’m not a bitch in real life, but I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of being a stone-cold bitch on stage.
JP: You’re also Off-Menu Lady.
KB: Oh yeah, that’s my favorite. Like, “Do you guys have spaghetti and meatballs? Does it come with meatballs? It does? Great, I’m going to get something else.”
Fill in the blank: 185 Post-It notes walk into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve Post-It notes here.” And the Post-Its say…
KB: “Well we’ll stick around in case you change your mind.”
JP: “Duly noted.”
KB: Jack McBrayer. I used to watch him at UCB. He is so funny.
Del Close or Glenn Close?
JP: Del Close was sort of an alcoholic and a misogynist. Yes, he invented long-form improv, but I have to say Glenn Close. I bet she’d be a great improviser.
KB: Del Close is the guru of improv, but I have to give Glenn Close props. Even though I always confuse her with Kyra Sedgwick.