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We Talked to Jon Daly About the Respectful Way to Make Fun of Celebrities

Jon Daly is a comedian and actor who does a killer Anthony Kiedis impression and enjoys dressing up as a tree. I caught up with Jon for coffee to chat about jet skis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and vaccinations.

by Grant Pardee
Jun 4 2014, 9:54am

Photos by Megan Koester

Jon Daly is a true comedy renaissance man. He’s had some high-profile acting roles—a supporting part in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the stand-out character on Amazon’s Betas—but Daly is probably best known for his sketch-comedy work. He’s the co-star of Kroll Show and a fixture of Comedy Bang Bang and the UCB Theater as a master of bizarre characters like Bill Cosby-Bukowski and Sappity Tappity, the Drunk English Rollerblading Christmas Tree.

The day he was set to headline the comedy show I run in Silverlake with other VICE LA writers, I caught up with Jon for coffee to chat about jet skis, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and vaccinations.

VICE: So you just came back from jet-skii’ng with Kurt Braunohler for his Kickstarter?
Jon Daly: Yeah. I just got back from St. Louis. We did a thing where we jet skiied down the Mississippi River. Well, he’s doing the whole Mississippi River. I joined him from one leg of the journey in St. Louis. 

I saw some pictures of you guys on the jet ski. Looked pretty wet and wild.
It got pretty gnarly. It was a disgusting river made of gasoline and detergent, apparently. We went 25 miles on a jet ski down the river. I dunno if you’ve ever been on a jet ski. It’s the best thing in the world. It’s incredible. There’s nothing more fun than that. 

Yeah, jet skis do give you a weird feeling of calm and power. 
It’s a boatercycle. It gives you tremendous personal power. I’m in the water, and I want to get from here to there. Let’s do it at 30 mph on this fuckin’ Honda Turbo Waverunner. It was incredible.

And this was all for charity, right?
Yeah. He’s doing this to raise money for 500 goats and 1,000 chickens to send to Africa.  Apparently a goat can change an African village’s entire outlook because a goat provides milk and companionship. We did a stand-up show, and 60 people came out. We gave everyone ribs. I just came out and was his hype man. I called him the New American Bono.

That’s a great nickname; I hope that sticks. Seems like you’ve been busy yourself, though, between Walter Mitty, Kroll Show, Betas
I’m shooting Kroll Show season 3 now. I just finished a movie called Lost In Austin with Linda Cardinelli and Craig Robinson—an indie movie. But I don’t have anything else going on [laughs]. My other show was canceled. 

Is that the official word on Betas?
It was up in the air, but it went through all these phases of dying, but then it finally died, unfortunately. It was a dream job.

It was cool seeing your face on all the billboards everywhere.
It was cool for my parents too. It was like, “Hey, see? I’m in show business.” And they were like, "Oh, hey, it’s really real."

Then RHCP2014, that fake Red Hot Chili Peppers song you did, this past Super Bowl, was amazing. It was spot-on.
Ah, thanks. I have been doing a Kiedis impression for like 25 year, but it’s also my buddy Cyrus [Ghahremani], who played bass and did Flea.  

So many people thought it was real.
It wasn’t too far away from something that sounds like what they would actually do, if you’re just casually listening to it. If you listen closely, it makes no sense—in an aggressive way. But it’s not far away from it—like if you listen to the Chili Peppers, they are just ding-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding-dong [laughs]. I have respect for them. I hope they weren’t insulted by it. I mean, anytime you’re making fun of someone, that’s a possibility. I think they would agree though that they kind of deserved it. Chad Smith from the Peppers tweeted it out with the message “hahahaha,” so he liked it. 

Yeah, that’s gotta be validating.
It validated it less than I wanted because what I wanted was to be invited into the band to sing. Just Kiedis with Jon Daly singing. 

Y’know, I could probably play sax. I’m a good sax player. I’m pretty fuckin’ good. Kenny G thinks I’m pretty good. We traded riffs on his porch.  He gave me one of his soprano saxes. He has his own line of saxes. He gave me a black sax, and we played back and forth. It was great. We jammed a bit. It was a hot jam.

That was your second “Imaginary Friend” video, right? The first one was Fabio; then you did Kenny G. 
I’m trying to find the perfect person to do the next one. There’s a pattern established with Fabio and Kenny G: They’re the nicest guys in the world, and they both have long hair. That’s the pattern. I’d love to get the Gosling. But yeah, I’d love to do it with Madonna or Mr T. It has to be the perfect person.  Kenny G was my perfect choice; he’s who I always wanted. I happened to know someone making a documentary about him, and then it just happened. It was a dream. We ended up shooting on his patio; I got to play sax with him. It was incredible. He’s a pretty bad-ass guy.

It seems like you like poking fun at a certain kind of celebrity, but you’re also keen to make sure they’re in on the joke.
I don’t want them to be offended, but I am making fun of them. Now I’m doing Mall McCartney, which is just Paul McCartney, but he’s singing all about malls. He just sings about malls and mall stores.

That seems like something he would actually just do.
Yeah. We’re going to try and get a mall, or part of a mall, rented out and stage a concert and just have Mall McCartney singing dumb stuff about mall stores. “When I get to the bottom, I go back to the top of the Gap.” 

I love that way of doing celebrity characters where you sort of just take them and turn them into this original thing rather than a straight-up parody or mockery. Like your Bill Cosby Bukowski.
Right. Well, with Bill Cosby Bukowski, I was already just doing a Cosby impression, but I wanted it to be disgusting. I just wanted a way to do my Bill Cosby impression but also be disgusting, and, you know, I’m white, so I just made it Bill Cosby Bukowski.

You retrofitted it. 
I retrofitted it, yeah.  

One thing I didn’t know until I looked at your IMDB earlier—you were in a Disney movie with Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné in 2008.
So, that director, Roger Kumble, he directed Cruel Intentions. Do you remember that movie? 

Of course. Plus it had that Verve song!
[hums opening of "Bittersweet Symphony"] God, I love that movie; it’s so stupid and great. So I just kissed his ass. and he needed to cast a small role, so he cast me in it. Yeah, I got to work with Martin Lawrence. It was an acid trip, dude. I got there at 6 AM and I was just sitting there being lit because it’s just a small part, so there’s no stand-in. I’m just standing there while the lighting guys do their thing. Then this guy, who’s super cool—this black dude with dreadlocks, just effortlessly cool—comes up, and he’s like, “Hey, man, you’re Jon Daly, a comedian. That’s awesome. This is cool, huh?” I was like, "Yeah, this is great." Then he goes, “I’m about to introduce you to the one and only Martin Lawrence.” I mean, he says it sarcastically, but he’s like, “The one and only...!” And then Martin Lawrence comes up and is like, “Hey, man whats up?” Then he just goes to his mark and starts the scene. [laughs] I realized that Martin Lawrence has his own personal hype man. 

See, that’s the job I’m hoping for someday.
Haha, right? So we go to start the scene and Martin’s improvising, then I’m improvising—and we’re both cops—so Martin is like [in the scene], “Hey, man, you’re not a real cop; you’re a campus cop. If you’re a real cop, what’s a 417?” I go, “That’s an overturned fruit cart.” And he lost it. He starts laughing harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s laughing and yelling out, “Cut, cut!” Just breaks the scene. Then the rest of the day, everything’s so easy, he keeps being like, "Man, you so funny. Overturned fruit cart.” He loved it. 

Did that make it into the movie?
Nah. Got cut pretty short. There was too much other great stuff to get in there. [laughs]

That almost sounds like—I could be wrong—is that a movie-star move? Was he blocking you from one-upping him or something?
Nah, I think he just thinks it was funny. He just recognized it as funny. He wants it to be funny; he wants it to be good. But he’s Martin Lawrence, y’know. He’s an animal; he’s a great stand-up. I watched Runteldat; I'd never realized how amazing he is. He’s one of the best stand-ups of all time but doesn’t really get recognized as such.

People forget where you come from after doing so many family-friendly movies.
Hopefully that’s where we’ll all be. Aw, people think I lost my edge. I got this $2 million and people forgot about me. Guess I better do more improv shows.

Definitely a high-class problem. Speaking of—anything you want to plug?
Yeah! I’m doing the new season of Next Time on Lonny. It’s this great webseries with Adam Scott, Paul Scheer, me, from Ben Stiller. And I’ll be in Drunk History next season. I got to do an awesome one. I don’t want to give it away. But it’s so, so good. So ridiculous, so fun.  Oh, and I’m gonna bring back Austin Powers. "Yeah, baby"—that’s gonna be my thing. 

'Bout time!
Oh, and I don’t believe in vaccines. I read a book from Alicia Silverstone. Tea Loni came to me in a dream and told me that mumps vaccines give people AIDS, so I’m not gonna do that anymore. 

Follow Jon Daly on Twitter.

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