Craig Pullin, Deputy Trudy Wiegel’s bespectacled, slack-jawed boyfriend in the cult comedy “Reno 911!,” isn’t who fans thought he was.
Pullin, played by comedian Kyle Dunnigan, is a serial-killing mastermind hiding behind a clueless veneer in both the Comedy Central half-hour sitcom and the feature film Reno 911!: Miami. But Dunnigan, who’ll perform at The Southern Café and Music Hall on June 7, set out to create a character who’s just straight up clueless.
And indeed, Pullin lives on to this day on the actor’s YouTube page, not as the Truckee River Killer, but as a dimwit who lives with his mother, plays the violin (poorly), cuts his own hair (poorly) and generally acts a fool (very well).
“I saw him in a different way,” Dunnigan says. “In my mind it is more of an innocent character. I tend to do stupid characters that don’t know they’re stupid.”
The crowd at the Southern will likely get a chance to see for themselves. Dunnigan, who’s also known for his work as a writer and actor on “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Cedric the Entertainer Presents” and Howie Mandel’s “Howie Do It,” says he likes to intersperse his stand-up with character sketches, music, crowd work and impersonations (e.g. Donald Trump, Perez Hilton, Caitlyn Jenner).
In addition to seeing Pullin, Charlottesville’s comedy fans might glimpse Dunnigan as Carl, a bucktoothed, mullet-sporting redneck who gets into all kinds of trouble, typically while trying to do something nice for his overweight girlfriend. Or maybe they’ll see Del, a charming octogenarian enjoying every minute of his tranquil senility.
Dunnigan says he’s been developing characters such as Craig, Carl and Del since he was a kid. His work with sketch groups over the years has only helped him flesh out those characters, each of whom is taken from “pieces of people” he’s come across in his daily life.
But, whatever the source material, most of them share a thread.
“I guess it’s a running theme, I just never really thought of it,” Dunnigan says. “[The characters] feel no shame or embarrassment. I often feel shame and embarrassment.”
Take, for example, Dunnigan’s dating history. He went out with Sarah Silverman from 2011 to 2013 and is more recently coming off a fling with colleague and collaborator Amy Schumer. You might say it’s not a bad track record for a guy who’s known for playing dweeby dumbasses, but Dunnigan would probably prefer you not.
“I mean, that makes it sound like I’m some kind of hunk, but I just like funny women,” he says. “I have definitely dated above my station in life.”
Dunnigan also seems to have a knack for congenial breakups. He says he and Silverman are working on a project now—“I love her,” he says—and he’s still gainfully employed at “Inside Amy Schumer,” which recently completed its fourth season on the comedy network that seems to pay most of Dunnigan’s bills.
The latter employment will be contingent on Schumer’s schedule next year, Dunnigan admits: “It’s supposed to go for another season, but you never know. Amy is just so busy.”
Dunnigan says Schumer’s own meteoric rise in the comedy universe is due to her hard work and being the right kind of comedienne at the right time.
“She’s really funny, obviously, and she has tapped into a group of people that didn’t really have a voice,” he says. “She’s also good on social media—she doesn’t really have a weak spot.”
Dunnigan, himself a Jack-of-all-comedic-trades, could only hope other comedians would say the same about him. In addition to his television successes, he’s dabbled in promotional videos, script writing and podcasts, hosting “Professor Blastoff” on the Earwolf podcasting network with Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger from 2011 to 2015. He won an Emmy for “Girl, You Don’t Need Make Up,” a song he penned for “Inside Amy Schumer.” And he’s currently developing a new show for Comedy Central set in a superhero academy where he plays a professor whose superhuman abilities Google has rendered obsolete.
Then there’s the stand-up. Dunnigan’s been featured in Comedy Central half-hour specials, appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He’s also performed at dozens of comedy festivals, and although live performances are only a small part of his job description these days, Dunnigan says they’re still critical.
“It’s a great job,” he says. “The only thing about it I don’t like is traveling. You do everything by yourself. If I was in a band it would be a lot more fun. But I’ve had other jobs, and this a great one.”
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