If you’ve ever thought the art world had a bit of an ego, then John Kilduff, AKA Mr. Let’s Paint, is its literal running antithesis. Kilduff is best known for his public access TV show, Let’s Paint TV, which is equal parts painting tutorial, performance art, and unscripted comedy. While some may write off the show as absurdist comedy, Kilduff’s intent is actually quite noble: he wants to encourage you to paint – and even if the finished piece isn’t perfect, at least you tried. The process is what’s most important.
This kind of perseverance and full acceptance of failure is exemplified on his TV show, whether Kilduff is running on a treadmill while simultaneously blending health drinks and painting, or riding a bike while shaving and painting.
To add to the spontaneity, Kilduff takes live, unscreened calls during his shows, which sometimes results in callers citing gang affiliations or shouting rude comments. And all of this is edited in Kilduff’s signature psychedelic style. It’s no wonder Kilduff is the inspiration behind comedian Eric Andre’s The Eric Andre Show.
Beyond his comedic chops, John Kilduff is also a talented artist who received his degree from Otis College of Art and Design in 1987, a MFA in Painting from UCLA in 2008, and has exhibited at galleries across the United States, including, most recently, the Daniel Rolnik Gallery in Los Angeles. He paints all types of subject matter – from the farcical to the serene (Kilduff is a gifted plein air landscape painter).
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Zeus Beard: When did you know you wanted to become an artist?
John Kilduff: In high school, I realized I was not going to be a pro football player and I was really starting to get into making art.
ZB: Which artists influence you?
JK: At first I really liked Edward Hopper, then it was the Impressionists, Monet, Cézanne….then I moved on to the Bay Area Figurative Movement stuff and German Expressionism.
ZB: Let’s talk about your cable access/YouTube show, Let ’s Paint TV . How did that get started, and what do you want viewers to take away?
JK: I had been doing the Jim Berry Show for about 5 years and was running out of ideas to do with it, and I thought, why not do a “how to paint “ show, because I never really liked any of those shows and I figured I could at least give it a try. Painting is what I do for a living, so why not show everyone how I paint? Also, 9-11 had something to do with it too……I want the viewer to feel free to experiment, fail, and laugh!
ZB: Tell us more about The Jim Berry Show, the precursor to Let’s Paint TV.
JK: I started doing the Jim Berry Show in 1995. It was my attempt at making a sketch comedy/SNL type of show, with more of an artistic, DIY approach.
ZB: You were a former member of The Groundlings! Did your experience doing improv inspire you to create your shows, and did it influence the way you created art?
JK: I only took the beginning class at The Groundlings (which was a step above the Intro class) and I ended up failing the class. I learned something there for sure. In fact, I think improv classes need to be part of everyone’s education growing up. I think improv (even if you are bad at it) makes you more willing to take chances and jump off the deep end. Which in terms of creativity and performing is usually a safe thing to do…..not so much in real life.
ZB: A lot of your shows are done live. How often do you make mistakes and have to
work around them? What was the worst thing that’s happened?
JK: Failure and mistakes are part of my show, so when I do make a mistake, it’s all part of the plan. Most of the time, I start saying made-up stuff without knowing where I am going with it….sometimes I can connect the dots, and other times I can’t. But I just move on. The scariest thing that has happened was when I was bicycling, blending, and painting and I crashed into a cyclone fence. There was nothing I could do; I was going down and a broken something was going to be my payment….but luckily, I just had a few bruises.
ZB: Some of the stuff you do is absolutely crazy, such as riding your bike or running on the treadmill and painting. Does it ever get scary while creating a video?
JK: I am usually pretty safe with the videos I do. Nothing is really that dangerous, and if it seems like it’s not safe, I won’t do it.
ZB: You’ve also done movie reviews while painting. Do you have any further plans for doing new things while painting?
JK: I have just started doing the weather lately while painting.
ZB: You have a way of blending art and comedy. Have you ever tried being solely a comedian?
JK: In some way that was what the Jim Berry Show was about. I look forward to going back to that kind of performing, sans paint.
ZB: How does it feel knowing that comedian Eric Andre described you as his idol?
JK: I get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that. :)3>
ZB: Which episode has been your favorite so far?
JK: I don’t really have a favorite, although the ones where there’s a lot going on tend to be the best for me.
ZB: What are you currently working on, and what are you future plans for the show?
JK: Right now, I am treading water (or in my case treadmilling). I’m not sure who, what, where, etc. the show is going to. I do have some shows coming up in NYC in June (Ace Hotel NYC, WFMU). And I have been talking with various television companies about somehow producing the show. There’s also a possibility of an Art Museum show in the works. But I am not counting my chickens just yet…