John McKay rolled up to the El Chavo Cinco De Mayo party for our interview with a Funny or Die posse. The bromance was real. John and his bud Lawrence deliberately bought and wore the same denim button up out that night.
“We went to The Grove and bought matching shirts! Best friends forever! Hashtag BF! F!”
We could tell we were in for a wild night… Fiesta!
Funny guy John McKay is from Seattle. He went to Seattle University, where he studied history and was in a frat. “I really embraced the lifestyle... I lit a couch on fire one time… had numerous run ins with the police...never got arrested though.” [congrats!]
He started doing stand-up comedy his senior year when he was 22 at the oldest comedy club in Seattle, the Comedy Underground. He loved it, and started spending nearly every night of the week out at comedy clubs. His grades suffered drastically and his last semester of college he got a 1.9 GPA.
He comes from a family of lawyers and had planned to become one himself. In between undergrad and film school he worked at his dad’s law firm, but knew it wasn't for him.
“I can’t do the 9-5 thing. I just thought, ‘What am I gonna do? If I stay, I’m either going to be a teacher, or I’m going to apply to law school…’ And I wouldn't even trust myself to keep me out of jail, I would have been a horrible lawyer! So I applied to film school.”
He got integrated in LA’s comedy scene through a series of high-profile internships during graduate school at Chapman University, beginning at NBC’s The Office, and then moving onto Conan, Funny or Die and then Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Interning is a comedic experience in itself. From never quite knowing what’s going on, not having enough responsibilty and struggling to hide your boredom, to being assigned cryptic tasks and having to figure out what the hell you’re supposed to be doing, intern life is rough.
“I wasn’t even allowed to answer the phones at The Office, which just made me look like more of a piece of shit - just staring at ringing phones…”
Mirroring the show, an internship at The Office sounds like it was completely awkward. Craig Robinson, Master of Towels, picked on him daily, walking past him saying things like “This intern’s got all the bitches,” as John awkwardly stood with his female supervisors. And he was there for Steve Carrell’s last episode. “Everyone was crying and hugging, and I was the token intern standing in back like, ‘Does anyone need a tissue?”
Maybe it’s the fact that John interned in comedy, or maybe it’s the fact that his life is just truly comedic - but John has the best intern stories of anyone we’ve ever known. As a Conan intern, he got to chat with Alec Baldwin, the real life Jack Donaghy, on the same day of his Words With Friends plane incident. And as an intern at Fallon, he moved to New York City for the summer of 2012.
“On my first day of Fallon, I figured I could walk there because the building was only a mile from my apartment. Except it was 90 degrees out, with 87 percent humidity. I wore jeans and a light blue button-up… By the time I got there I was totally pitting out. Horrible. I went through security, got to the elevator, and just as the doors were closing Brian Williams walked in. And I’m sweating down my chest, under my arms, visibly nervous... and he just looks at me, chuckles and says, “You’re not from here...are you? Welcome to humidity.”
“My first week at Funny Or Die, I thought I was going to get fired because I dropped Don Cheadle’s phone call. I answered the phone and heard, “Hey, it’s Don Cheadle, is Kristin in?” She wasn’t, so I said, “I’m sorry Mr. Cheadle, she’s not here, can I take word?” and he just said “No, I’m good,” and hung up the phone. Two minutes later a supervisor walked up and was like, “Who the fuck just took a call from Don Fucking Cheadle?” I confessed and she just grilled me. The shoot ended up getting pushed three weeks because I didn’t connect him to someone. I was terrified to answer the phones after that. But then I just learned that if I ever did anything like that again, I just wouldn't tell anyone... They’ve told that story in the FOD internship orientation ever since.”
He transitioned from being an intern to working as a production assistant on Funny Or Die shoots, to eventually writing and appearing in his own spots with his friends Devin Das, Parker Seaman and Wes Schlagenhauf. Their spots are some of the most popular on FOD, getting tens-of-thousands and even millions of views, and include Christmas Carol Wars with Brittany Snow, Rainier and Dreams, The Hand Bra, and Tinder Too.
He briefly worked in the writing department at Comedy Central on the new popular show @midnight, but decided to leave due to their schedule because he wasn’t able to audition, “Which is still something that I’m doing. Which is a horrible thing. It is horrible. An emotional rollercoaster.”
Lately he’s focusing on his stand-up career and developing his own voice as a comic.
“For a while I felt like I had to follow a certain formula of set-up, punchline, set-up, punchline - and I didn’t really like it. I’ve figured out that I like freely telling stories. Talking about subtle shit that’s funny, that’s when I feel comfortable.”
Every successful comic has performed in LA. It’s humbling for these young guys to perform at legendary venues that are the hardest to get up at, such as the Improv or Comedy Store. For them, it’s an incredible opportunity to be on the same lineups as comics more established than they are. It’s insane for them to hang out at the same places that people like Sam Kinison and Robin Williams got their start.
Even with an incredible resume like John’s, working in comedy is competitive. There are always setbacks, but it’s uplifting after a rough day, to still be on the same stages as the people he looks up to. And for John, things are going great. To him, none of it feels like work.
Who else gets to hang out with their best friends and make funny shit for a living? We were exhausted from laughing for 4 straight hours hanging with those dudes. They’re the up and comers in comedy - they’re hilarious, and just getting started. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for John - a cameo in Blended 2 perhaps?
Top Five Comics:
That’s really hard. Jim Gaffigan... Really, some of my favorite comics are people that are just getting the large-scale recognition they deserve now: Kyle Kinane, Ian Karmel from Chelsea Lately, Solomon Georgio, Owen Benjamin, Ahmed Bharoocha.
Favorite Brunch Spot and Go-To Meal:
The Hudson on Santa Monica and North Crescent Heights. Fatty’s on La Cienega. And eggs benedict. That’s why I’m not skinny. I was in NYC one time, and went to some fancy spot in the Upper Westside, and got eggs benedict with a lobster claw, peeled, and everything over it. It was the most amazing thing in the world. But I was also living off very small funds that summer… I got the bill and was just like, “What am I doing??” But it was also bottomless mimosas, so it was like, “It paid for itself!”
Mimosas or Bloody Marys:
Mimosas. I’m not the biggest bloody mary fan. there’s something about the acidity of tomato juice, like if you’re going to spend 4 hours - I don’t know, maybe my brunches are longer than most - at least a few hours - drinking only bloody marys, I’d want to tear out my esophagus.
Guilty Pleasure Music:
Just like, some loud-ass Calvin Harris. I love funky Soul Night at Short Stop and Bootie LA at The Echo, but I don’t know if what I do is dancing… it’s more like a drunken “I’m going to peer through your soul~”
I come up with a lot of shit hiking Griffith - I try and do that 3 days a week. Just walking around aimlessly with headphones in, listening to podcasts like WTF or Comedy Bang Bang. My playlists make no sense. It’ll be like, Sam Cooke and then… something real bad… some Calvin Harris. Or it’ll be like The National and then some loud-ass SchoolboyQ - just like, ‘Yea fuck it.’ And I’m walking distance to the Comedy Store, so I’ll walk there, grab a beer and watch sets.
What is your involvement with Blended?
No involvement with Blended. While at the same time, all involvement with Blended. But seriously, Blended...