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2010
SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2010
Live at Radio City Music Hall

What's Up, Kevin Chamberlin? The Addams Family Tony Nominee Knows Good Things Come in Threes

What's Up, Kevin Chamberlin? The Addams Family Tony Nominee Knows Good Things Come in Threes

Kevin Chamberlin

Awards do not pay the mortgage.

It would be a cheap—but fitting—joke to say that The Addams Family’s Kevin Chamberlin is over the moon about his third Tony nomination. The versatile actor, who has made a name for himself on Broadway with performances in Dirty Blonde, Seussical, The Ritz, Chicago, Triumph of Love and more, is both pleased and perplexed about his latest Tony nod. He’s pleased for the usual reasons, and a little perplexed that his hit show did not receive more love from the Tony nominators. Nevertheless, the affable actor chatted with Broadway.com on a recent afternoon about the joys of being a three-time nominee, and the word he wants to make popular.

So, you’re a three-time Tony nominee now!
Yeah, thrice-nominated. I’m using the word "thrice' now. I’m trying to bring it back; it’s never used anymore.

How does it feel to be thrice-nominated?
It never gets old, I’ll tell you. Hopefully I won’t be thrice-nominated, though; I’ll be twice-nominated, with one win.

You are the elder statesman of your category.
Yes! I’m the oldest in the category. That should count for something, right? It’s like the Equity rule: I should win just by the number of weeks worked.

What are some of the perks of being a Tony nominee?
Well, we don’t get the Tony gift basket anymore. You used to get incredible swag—there was like $5,000 worth of stuff. I remember getting an MP3 player, gift certificates to restaurants, a three-year gym membership. There’s nothing like that now.

Do you feel a great responsibility in representing The Addams Family at the awards?
Yes, [composer] Andrew [Lippa] and I are representing. If I do win, I will definitely be all about sharing it with the company. We are a tight-knit group—it is a true ensemble. It was very hard to come into work on that Tuesday after the nominations came out because I wanted to be really happy and enjoy it and be pure, but I also felt a lot of people were looked over.

Were your castmates supportive?
Oh, incredible. How could they not be? It’s so not up to us, and we’ve been actually enjoying our underdog status.

Is it strange that this show can have “underdog status” in terms of awards when it’s such a hit at the box office?
It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it?

The cliché that you’re laughing all the way to the bank seems to hold true here.
Yes, we are. Awards do not pay the mortgage [laughs].

What are the challenges in playing a character based on a cartoon?
You want to pay homage, but you want to also put your own mark on it. I think that was helped by the writers who really gave Fester a heart. I wanted to expand that heart and make it a three-dimensional character as opposed to a cartoon. Because really, that’s what these characters are: They’re based on one-panel cartoons. I went back to the original drawings and looked at all the Fester cartoons. He always comes from a place of glee.

Are you having fun being the narrator and getting to address the audience?
It’s a double-edged sword. If the scene doesn’t go well, I’m the one who has to direct myself and say, “OK, what am I going to change tomorrow night because that joke didn’t land?” Whereas if you’re in a scene with someone, it’s usually, “What is that person going to give me tonight that’s different and how is that going to change the rhythm of the joke?” Especially with comedy, it’s such a scientific thing. I call it my PIT theory: Pitch, intention, timing. I just made up that acronym. I’m going to start teaching classes, “The PIT technique with Kevin Chamberlin,” and charge $1,000 a class. I think it’ll be very valuable for the young kids.

You’re working with some very adept comedians. Do you guys crack each other up?
We try not to. I’m the worst. I get angry at myself because I don’t want it to become like the Harvey Korman/Tim Conway show. I always want to stay in character. Sometimes I have to go to a very dark place in my head to stop myself from laughing.

What makes awards season meaningful?
Hearing from people from your faraway distant past—that’s the most moving for me. Getting calls from the people who believed in you early on, like Claudia [Shear]—she and James Lapine are responsible for this. They put me on the map as an actor who could star in a Broadway show [with Dirty Blonde in 2001]. I wish my parents were around for all this.

Did they see you make it to Broadway?
They saw me in My Favorite Year [Chamberlin’s Broadway debut in 1992], yeah.

But they had no idea you’d be thrice-nominated.
No, they didn’t. Bravo, by the way—good use of the word "thrice."