After two careers as a chamber of commerce executive and banker, Dick started his professional comedy career in the early ‘80s. At
Houston’s Comedy Workshop he worked with the likes of Bill Hicks
, Kevin Nealon and T. Shaun Shannon of SNL fame.
Dick dropped out of the comedy scene in the early ‘90s but continued to do charity shows and talent nights on cruise ships. One of the talent night shows got him a paid gig on Norwegian Cruise Lines in 2002 and he has been back performing on cruise ships and comedy clubs ever since.
His favorite gig now is working with and opening for Billy Gardell who stars as Mike in the hit comedy, Mike & Molly.
Dick just recently finished shooting, The Last Word,
a horror film where he plays a catholic priest being consumed by the “curse.” It is due out in 2017.
Dick is also a published author. His book, “Nobody Told Me I’d Have To Sell
,” published in ’96, gave him national recognition as a speaker and trainer.
As a 39 year friend of Bill W., Dick has garnered many good lines in meetings around the country. He will occasionally pepper his comedy with a few of these if the audience is right.
Dick’s stint as a professional comic during the ‘80s improved his training and speaking immensely but his first love was always stand-up. With that background, Dick’s easy style on stage gives the audience the feel of having had a wonderful evening of laughter with an old friend.Recovery Comedy:
What were you like as a kid?Dick Kendall:
Making my mother laugh was my number one goal. I knew I was safe if she was laughing. So I would listen to Bob Hope Radio Shows and make notes. The next morning I would perform the show for my mother. She was usually a good audience. I also listened to Abbott and Costello, Red Skelton, The Great Gildersleeve, Jack Benny, etc. (we didn’t have those boxes with pictures in those days).
I memorized Phil Harris’s “Darktown Poker Club,” record to perform for my mother’s father who was a Baptist preacher. The song would have been banned for racism today, but this was the 1940’s and churches were totally segregated. He loved it, laughed a lot and had me recite it for friends and family. I loved my grandfather and my mother worshipped him. To please him was heaven.
In school I was a frightened kid and learned to fend off bullies with humor. Often in groups the humor at the offending kid could be vicious but effective. Among my most grievous character defects, using humor to hurt was probably at the top of the list. Hopefully, God has removed that one. It took a while even in AA.Recovery Comedy:
What made you decide to become a stand-up comedian and how long have you been performing?Dick Kendall:
The description of my childhood above probably answers the first part of this question. In high school speech class I memorized a humorous reading and performed it in class and at various church functions. At a church retreat prior to entering Baylor I signed up to do the reading at a talent event. I used my Bob Hope experience to humorously make fun of the shortcomings of the retreat. I thought I would try the bit and if it didn’t work I would go into the reading. It worked. And I was hooked on comedy.
I had gotten a date that night with the most beautiful girl on campus. She was sitting next to a friend of mine and after my show she said to him, “I have a date with him
tonight.” Humor gets you women. It really works.
I performed some in college but was not good at new material. My biggest competitor at Baylor was Grady Nutt, a naturally funny man who later starred on “Hee Haw” as the prime minister of humor. So my act faded away.
A wife, kids and making a living took precedence for the next many years. In 1984 my kids were grown, my wife and I divorced and I decided it was time. I did an open mike night at Houston’s Comedy Workshop and continued to work there and travel some to other clubs. Sam Kinneson had moved on to Los Angeles by then but I worked with Bill Hicks
, Kevin Nealon, T. Shaun Shannon and others who had good careers that followed. I still could not make a living at it so went back to my consulting work in l989. Bill Hicks and I got well acquainted in those years. I could not say we became friends. He was drinking and I was sober. End of story. (He later got sober and then got famous-in that order).
I continued to do charity shows and talent nights on cruise ships. A friend took a video of one of the talent night shows. I sent it to Candy Casino in Florida and she booked me on a Norwegian Cruise to Norway. It was my first paid gig in 13 years. Someone should have told me to get more experience before going 5,000 miles to do comedy. I did OK on that cruise but see below for the next one.Recovery Comedy:
Were you performing stand-up comedy before you got into recovery?Dick Kendall:
Not in comedy clubs. However, I did a lot of public speaking and somehow knew that if I drank before the speech I would lose my timing. I had seen others do that. I always got plastered after the speech, however.Recovery Comedy:
Does your comedy have a message and if so what is it?Dick Kendall:
Laughter. Laughter is the best medicine. It has been proven that laughter is better for your heart than exercise. Look at Dick Chaney. Have you ever seen that man laugh? And how many heart attacks has that guy had? He shoots lawyers and doesn’t laugh and that’s funny stuff. Sobriety without laughter would be glum indeed.Recovery Comedy:
Who are your comedy idols?Dick Kendall:
Shelly Berman was my first one. I used to play his recording for all my friends. Billy Gardell, of Mike and Molly fame, is my friend and all-time favorite now, the funniest man I know. There are many others I have learned from: Ellen DeGeneres for timing, Bob Newhart for brevity, Richard Prior for audacity and proving that humor can break down walls of distrust. Mark Lundholm
for showing me that his humor has helped more addicts to recovery than I have in sponsorship in over 39 years. And of course, Bob Hope, George Burns, Jack Benny and many more for inspiration.Recovery Comedy:
Where does your inspiration for material come from?Dick Kendall:
Life, sober and otherwise.Recovery Comedy:
What is your joke writing process?Dick Kendall:
I take an idea into the shower with me and come out with a new bit. Sometimes I run out of hot water before it happens. I see humor everywhere. Like the kids calling their tattoos “tatts” so they can save time in their text messaging. If you can sit for three hours in excruciating pain in a tattoo parlor, you’ve got time to put two more “OOs” in your text message.Recovery Comedy:
What is your kryptonite?Dick Kendall:
Fear that the audience won’t like me. Through the use of steps 4 through 7, I no longer have that fear. Through the steps and my sponsor I saw where I was putting the audience in place of God to receive my value. By the way, I have a step 6 ½. Step 6: God I’m entirely willing to have you remove this shortcoming. Step 6 ½: You know I’m lying. Step 7: please remove it anyway.Recovery Comedy:
Is your family supportive of your comedy career?Dick Kendall:
I’ve outlived or divorced any who might have been critical. My tee totaling Baptist mother would never see my shows because they were performed in bars. However, a few months before she died she had a fall. It was a couple of weeks before my Norwegian cruise. When she called me to take her to the hospital the first thing she said was, “Dick, whatever happens to me you have
to go on that cruise. It’s the chance of a lifetime.” So I guess she had come around.Recovery Comedy:
Is comedy part of your healing process?Dick Kendall:
I hope laughter is part of everybody’s healing process. It certainly was for me. If I can help with that process for others, than it will continue to help my healing.Recovery Comedy:
What was your worst experience performing comedy?Dick Kendall:
After a relatively good experience on my Norwegian cruise, Candy booked me on a Princess cruise to Hawaii from Canada. The cruise director wanted me to do 15 minutes the first night out. I had not slept for 24 hours and neither had most of the audience. The cruise director was a frustrated comic himself and did 15 minutes of raucous joke telling before introducing me. I did not have the experience to handle that and people walked out of my show. When I did my full show almost no one showed up and those who did left very quickly.
When you bomb on a cruise ship you are at sea with those same people for another week-pure hell.Recovery Comedy:
What was your best experience performing comedy?Dick Kendall:
Last night, and I hope I can always say that. Though I don’t need them to give me value, sharing love and laughter with an audience is its own reward.Recovery Comedy:
What is your favorite joke?Dick Kendall:
Being single at middle age has its problems: learning to date all over again after 25 years is perhaps the worst. I want you to know I was a gentleman about it, though. I was not looking for a slam, bam, thank you ma’m type relationship. However, I did have a couple of dates looking for a stick, stir thank you sir. (Not used in the squeaky clean shows).Recovery Comedy:
What is your comedy dream?Dick Kendall:
Sharing the love and laughter with an audience is
its own reward. However, continuing to make a living at it is pretty nice, too.
To find out more information about Dick Kendall
or to book him for your next Recovery Convention
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