Kyle Dunnigan has been “Craig” almost as long as he has been Kyle.
Dunnigan — a stand-up comedian, writer for Inside Amy Schumer, podcaster with Tig Notaro (“Professor Blastoff“) and actor — first appeared as Craig Pullin, Deputy Wiegel’s demented boyfriend on Reno 911! a decade ago. Now Craig has released a full-on Christmas album, Craig’s All Star, Rockin’ Christmas, You Guys!
But the character has been part of Dunnigan since childhood. “I have a picture when I was like 9 years old doing it,” he told The Comic’s Comic, sharing that photo (below). “I always did it. I don’t know. It was one of those things. I don’t remember ever starting doing it.”
“Maybe Kyle is a character that I’m doing and I’m actually Craig. There’s no way to know.”
Here’s the first track off of his Christmas album: “Fuck You, Mistletoe.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. Sure, it’s not safe for work. But it’s not all country. “No,” Dunnigan said. “There’s a hip-hop song. There’s all different stuff. I wanted to have an album where each song was a different genre of music.”
So what took so long? “I busy myself with a lot of different things. I have my own stand-up stuff. I’m writing on Amy Schumer’s show. I’m doing a Nickelodeon thing right now. I love doing music and this just was, I don’t know why it took so long.”
Do you have more plans for Craig? “The past three years I’ve had two development deals (based on him),” Dunnigan said. “I had a deal with Comedy Central to do a show. I had a deal with IFC. But shows didn’t get made. It’s never been turned into a show.”
What were the show pitches? Dunnigan said one idea had “Craig” living with his brother who was a country music star (think of “Fuck You Mistletoe,” shown/heard above). “The other idea was Craig was part of this church… I played five or six different characters in that church. That took up a lot of time. I like doing stuff myself, because you don’t get a lot of notes, and then you can actually make it. (But) that was three years of my life that nobody ever saw. Part of me doing this album was wanting to make something that people would look at, or hear, actually.”
You often do stand-up and start your sets in character, sometimes as a guy who is performing stand-up comedy for the first time. Do audiences always buy it? “I don’t always do that. I feel out whatever mood I’m in. It’s, usually the percentage of people who feel bad for me, think somebody is doing poorly, someone who shouldn’t be on stage, is about 50-50.”
The past two years have seen him working even more closely with his friend and comedian, Tig Notaro, both on their podcast together — “Professor Blastoff” — and for the first season, at least, of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. Notaro went through so much personally during that span herself. Did that have any indirect impact on you personally and professionally? “I’ve just been steady,” he said. “Personally it was concern for her. That was tough emotionally. But I think a lot of people do this, use humor, and optimistically think everybody is going to be OK.”
Everybody and everything has turned out OK so far. Dunnigan is in Los Angeles working out his Nickelodeon project but returns to New York City later this month and into January to complete his parts of Inside Amy Schumer‘s second season. “It’s really a fun job. Everybody is creative, funny and nice. There’s no drama. I have friends who write for other shows. They’re all very jealous of my job.” Does it feel even more different this second season? “I think it’s pretty much the same in terms of boldness. They added a couple of writers from Saturday Night Live. They’re really great. Bumped the writing up a little bit. It’s going to be a great season.”
And your Nickelodeon project? “It’s a cartoon I created. It’s basically based on Craig pretty much. But it’s a 9-year-old kid who’s not very smart, but he’s confident and adventurous. Working over there has been very fun. Again nice smart people. Sometimes when you get notes from networks… but they give pretty good notes. We’re finalizing the script. And they should be done animating it by February.”
Wait. So it’s really about your origin story? “I didn’t even think of that,” he said, thinking back to his earliest performances around the house as Craig. “It’s bizarre. It’s like Paul Reubens doing Pee-wee Herman at nine years old.”
How weird was it, then, to see someone else look and talk like your “Craig” when Napoleon Dynamite came out with Napoleon’s older brother, Kip? “I was so pissed when I saw that. Part of it is we look alike. I don’t think he stole it. They’re different characters. The look is just very similar.”
“I had done it on Cedric The Entertainer Presents (on FOX) in 2002. But it was a bummer. I changed his hair a little bit since that. It was really just we happened to look a lot alike. I have to constantly tell people that’s not me.”
If you think that’s something, just wait until people hear Dunnigan’s impersonation of Bill Maher. Dunnigan does voices for Maher, Donald Trump, Sir Paul McCartney and others on the 16-track Christmas album. Speaking of which…
Here’s another track from the new album, “My Baby Lamb Has Christmas Cancer.”
Get the whole thing on iTunes!