Five questions with Jamie Kennedy

Jamie KennedyBy Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
March 8, 2002

Jamie Kennedy is nowhere to be found. At first, you wonder whether he’s wandering around in disguise as a bellhop, waiting to fool you as he does on his TV series, “JKX: The Jamie Kennedy Experiment,” which airs at 7 p.m. Sundays on WGN-Channel 9. On this twisted homage to “Candid Camera,” Kennedy dresses up as different characters and fools people into thinking he’s some funky Valley Boy taking their daughter out on a blind date or an insensitive boss who makes his temp fire the entire staff.

But then you recognize the tall, slender Kennedy entering the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton. With his disheveled hair and sly smile, he looks more like a rock star than the comic geek he insists he is. With a slew of films (the “Scream” trilogy, “Three Kings,” “As Good as It Gets”) to his credit, Kennedy is enjoying the reality-based aspect of his series.

“I love getting to play all these different characters and getting people to believe it,” says Kennedy, 31. “It’s a different experience for me than any of the other roles I’ve done.”

Q. You’re famous. Do you really expect us to believe people don’t recognize you?
A. I’m not that famous. I’m like the guy people think they went to high school with, but they have no idea where they know me from. It’s not like I’m Tom Cruise trying to wear a disguise. He’s pretty distinctive.

Q. Are you secretly disappointed when people don’t recognize you?
A. No, because that would ruin the bits. I want them not to recognize me, although when they do it’s flattering. This is the perfect time for me to do this show. If I was too famous I couldn’t do this.

Q. When you are recognized, do you just give it up?
A. One time I was doing a bit where I was playing an accountant. A guy said, “You were really good in ‘Scream II.’ I said I wasn’t in it and he said, ‘Yeah, you were. You were really good. What are you doing working here now?’ I just told him my residuals had dried up and he was happy with that answer, so it was still kind of funny.

Q. Has anyone ever gotten angry when they found out you were doing a bit?
A. Yes. One woman thought she was being hired to open mail and type letters and file. Then we told her she’d have to fire people. When she figured out what was going on, she got really pissed and said it was mean. We said we wouldn’t use the segment and that she would be paid for her time. She ended up holding out for more money, which we gave her, and she was more than happy. We still weren’t allowed to use her segment, though, ’cause she said she didn’t want to be portrayed as someone who fires people.

Q. Do you try to fool your girlfriend?
A. Yes, all the time. But she won’t have it. But I try to scare her a lot, too, and she puts up with it. I have all these masks and I’ll put them on and jump out at her when she comes out of the bathroom. I’m a ball of fun.

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