Chatting With Kevin Pollak
Photo by Amy Puzia
Call us gullible, but when Art Attack received a phone call from none other than Alan Arkin last Wednesday, we were a tad surprised. Perhaps it was the few beers we'd just had at Cactus Music while watching Austin indie quartet Oh No Oh My. Maybe we were willing to believe because it was our birthday just a day earlier, and who knows? After all, it's possible that Alan Arkin could be doling out birthday wishes for a hundred bucks a call, or something like that.
Whichever way we spin it, our skepticism sets in fairly quickly and "Arkin" lets on that he was calling on behalf of his friend Kevin Pollak. "He's much too busy and too much of a lazy fuck to call you, so he asked me to call and talk to you about the Larry King Game. I know all about it," Arkin declares.
"Nah, I'm just kidding," the caller reveals, his voice changing abruptly, and we realize immediately that Pollak has severely duped us. He is, in fact, calling to talk about the game, and furthermore, his weekly online talk show, Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, which just turned two.
The Larry King Game is just one of many bits involved in the chat show, and Pollak attributes it to his co-writer, girlfriend, and ever-present personality on the show, Jaime Fox (not Foxx). The idea to force the game upon every guest came thereafter, and now fans can write in and submit their own attempts.
There's far more to the show, though. Pollak opens with a monologue, often employing his litany of celebrity impressions, before taking questions from his fans. It's refreshing and a tad astounding to see how inter-connected the show is with its viewers. Guests have even been brought to the show by mere mentions - on Twitter - by Kevin's fans badgering them to appear.
As for the guests themselves, a quick look at the archive page reveals a laundry list of famous personalities - often those working in the comedic arena, be it stage or screen, but not limited to such. While original episodes showcased a pair of guests, current installments are devoted to a solitary appearance. The interview features several games mixed in - Larry King, Tweet 5 (in which guests are presented with 5 "this or that" choices submitted by fans), and Who Tweeted - in which Kevin and his guest go head to head deciding whether a tweet came from Paris Hilton, Tyra Banks or Demi Moore.
Aside from the games, though, the episode's length lends to an impressive, in-depth interview with each guest. This provides a real opportunity to learn a lot about the person, as opposed to nightly talk shows that might give guests ten minutes of airtime. "It's basically the longest interview these people have ever done," says Pollak. It's a revealing, often humorous, and compelling look into the showbiz industry, overseen by a seasoned veteran of "the business." We ask who his favorite guests have been, but Pollak exclaims, "that's pretty much a Sophie's Choice."
On top of that, the show is quite affordable: "The seasons are $4.99 on iTunes, and that's 25 episodes per season, so that's 50 hours of programming for your five dollars," Pollak states. Scratching out a quick bit of math boils that down to twenty cents per episode, or a single, scant cent per six minutes. A few of the most recent episodes are kept available, in full, for free, and the upcoming schedule includes Rob Reiner, Peter Weller, John Cho and Alison Brie, among others.
Before hopping off the phone, we ask Pollak to play the Larry King Game for us, to which he replies with a smug, "I believe that's on you right now." So, on the spot, still slightly buzzed and a bit bewildered by the surprise phone call, we embarrass ourselves thoroughly with a bland showing that really does a disservice to one of our most beloved actresses.
"Sometimes," we begin, "I wish I could dig up JonBenét Ramsey's body, so I could put Helen Mirren's head on it. Then I'd have her bring me iced tea while I sit in my pool. Poughkeepsie, New York!"
"That's pretty good, I think you did fine," was Pollak's response, clearly humoring us.
Yes, we did indeed resort to a JonBenét joke. Who does that anymore? We'll blame it on seeing a copy of former local hardcore band The Jonbenét's album Ugly/Heartless at Cactus - which didn't happen, by the way, but it's definitely worth a listen.
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.