Comedian Chris Roach on "Ronkokomo," working with Kevin James and his Long Island roots
A native Long Islander, Chris Roach remains close to his roots when playing Mott on the CBS hit Kevin Can Wait. Arguably the first network sit-com ever filmed on Long Island, Kevin Can Wait is taped in front of a live studio audience at Bethpage's Gold Coast Studios. But Kevin Can Wait is only one facet of Roach's career, as he is also a busy working stand-up comic and a voiceover artist. Roach also achieved some local notoriety with the viral music video he recorded for "Ronkokomo"; the clip is something of a parody of The Beach Boys' "Kokomo" while paying tribute to the Suffolk County town of Ronkonkoma. Roach also makes time to play guitar in a band.
On behalf of No Place Like Long Island, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Roach -- had a who had a recurring role as Rodney the loveable mental patient on the soap opera One Life to Live -- as arranged by the Rick Eberle Agency. For live dates and other news on Mr. Roach, click on over to www.chrisroachcomedy.com.
Which was the first club you performed stand-up at?
Chris Roach: It was McGuire's in the Bohemia, NY. That was 14 years ago. I was trying to get a grip on a bad public speaking fear and was immediately hooked after my first show.
Had you ever filmed anything on Long Island before being cast on Kevin Can'Wait?
Chris Roach: A few independent films and a short for Comedy Central. I also wrote and filmed my own short with some friends. It's called Umbrellas Kill. It's a mockumentary about one man's fight to ban oversized umbrellas from New York City. I came up with the idea after being struck in the eye with a golf umbrella on a crowded city street. There are a lot of great places to film on Long Island.
How did the Kevin Can Wait opportunity come to you? A traditional audition? Did you know someone putting together the show?
Chris Roach: I was at McGuire's Comedy Club in Bohemia on a Wednesday night when Kevin James walked into the club with Rock Reuben and Danny Guire as I was about to walk on-stage. I didn't know it then but they had considered me for the part right then and there. I eventually auditioned for the character of Mott and it was a perfect fit. It just felt right.
What is the vibe like on-set? I ask because when most people think of a film studio, they think of multiple soundstages, people riding on carts between sets, and network and studio people hanging around. Yet I can't imagine Bethpage has most of those trappings...
Chris Roach: I love being on-set. I never want to leave and am usually the last one to do so. There's a dressing room with my name on it there. It's everything I've been working for. The vibe on-set is amazing. It's a laid-back atmosphere. No attitudes or egos anywhere. From security to craft services we are one big family.
So far, has there been a highlight for you with working on Kevin Can Wait?
Chris Roach: Yes! The first scene I ever did. There were executives from CBS and Sony there. They were waiting to see not only if they had a hit show but if Kevin was right on taking a chance on some unknown actor/comedian from Long Island. I remember during the first take Kevin messed up his lines and the audience loved it. I felt a tremendous weight removed from my shoulders immediately. I knew then it was ok to mess up. Sometimes I wonder if Kevin did that on purpose. He's a kind and caring guy like that. After we finished the scene I was walking to my dressing room when Kevin saw me. He gave me a fist bump and said, "Bro, you nailed it!" I can safely say that was one of the most incredible moments of my life thus far.
Speaking of filming on Long Island, where did the idea for "Ronkokomo" come from? Did you hear "Kokomo" randomly and think up the pun?
Chris Roach: I think I was on the train coming home from an audition and it just came to me.
How long did it take to film the "Ronkokomo" video? I see it was shot in several locations, including a LIRR train.
Chris Roach: We filmed it over a period of six weeks. John Trueson of Governors [Comedy Club] really did most of the work. He's a great guy who has always believed in me.
Who else is on the LIRR train with you in the video?
Chris Roach: Just a bunch of comedy fans and friends that are always up to doing something fun. I love working with people like that.
Aside from Kevin Can Wait, what's coming up for you?
Chris Roach: Working on Kevin Can Wait is a dream come true for me. It's everything that I've been working for. But I do have a screenplay that I wrote that I'm very excited about. I'm also working on my first one-hour comedy special.
What do you like to do when not busy with the show or stand-up?
Chris Roach: I'm in a band called Ridgehaven. We actually had our first gig recently. It was the first time I played my guitar in front of more than one person. I loved it!
Do you have a favorite restaurant on Long Island?
Chris Roach: All of them! Piccolo's in Huntington, Chris and Tony's in Syosset and Pizza Stop in Ronkonkoma, to name a few.
Finally, Chris, any last words for the kids?
Chris Roach: Run towards what frightens you. Step outside of your comfort zone every day.