On Oct. 13, just minutes after Richard Kind strolled onto the stage at Pennsbury High School’s Orange Auditorium, he took a question from the student co-presidents of the school’s Thespian Troupe 830.
But before launching into his answer, the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actor (he plays Larry David’s cousin, Andy) futilely tried to stop himself from sounding like a 65-year-old father of three.
“If my children were here, they would sue me, because everything is going to sound like advice, and they are tired of hearing advice,” Kind said to the audience of between 50 and 100 students, parents and staff members.
Over the next hour, as Kind took questions from interested students, everything sounded like advice. But unlike the actor’s children, the Pennsbury kids were sitting on the edges of their seats, ready to hear every word.
Addison Blumberg, a senior and one of the troupe co-presidents who hosted the interview, got to greet Kind when he got out of his car before the event.
“He’s such a genuine person,” Blumberg said. “He was willing to laugh with us and talk to us.”
Kind is, as he described himself, “a working actor.” He has been in a Coen brothers’ movie, “A Serious Man,” that was nominated for Best Picture; he has been nominated for a Tony Award; he has played supporting roles in two network sitcoms, “Mad About You” and “Spin City,” that lasted several seasons; he has been in several Pixar movies; he has played annoying but hilarious characters in both “Curb” and Nick Kroll’s hit Netflix series “Big Mouth.”
The Jewish actor graduated from Pennsbury in 1974. He was returning to Fairless Hills to be inducted into the school’s new hall of fame alongside former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent and others. He agreed to do a second appearance after Jason Kaplan, a theater troupe member, reached out to his social media director on Instagram.
His appearance raised enough money from ticket sales to help the troupe pay for its upcoming shows and send members to a national event for theater students. But for the students, it was also an hour of life lessons from a man who’s made it.
“Doing the extracurricular activities is so important”
As a student, Kind got good grades and prominent roles in school plays. He ascribed both to his ability to suck up to teachers. But it’s also similar to the role — smart actor who plays interesting parts — he ended up taking on in real life.
“Go and expand your life,” he said.
“I wanted to be an actor”
Growing up in Bucks County, Kind would take the train from Trenton to New York City to see Broadway doubleheaders. But by his upperclassman years, he was supposed to go to law school.
One Sunday afternoon, though, his father’s friend was over to watch football. The man told Kind to give acting a shot.
“He said, ‘Defer for a year,’” Kind recalled. “’When you’re 40, you’ll kick yourself that you didn’t try.’”
“You’re only being sustained by your love of the work”
Kind spent four years in New York and then four more with the well-known Second City improvisational troupe in Chicago. By the time he got his first television role, he was already in his 30s.
“I was very lucky,” Kind said. “But I had sort of paid my dues already.”
“The people behind the table who are hiring couldn’t care less”
The working actor acknowledged during the conversation that he is not a star. So for his entire career, he has had to audition…the acting version of interviewing for a job. And when he walks into those rooms, he knows that the people listening want one thing: “Seinfeld money,” as Kind put it.
Therefore, it’s on the actor, or the applicant, to sell himself.
“Go in there and say, ‘You need somebody who can play this role; I can help you; I can make this role great,’” Kind said. “’Watch this.’”
“Go up and do what you love to do”
During the talk, Kind told a story about an acting student who was not putting enough spirit into his role that day in class. The professor responded with a monologue that seemed straight out of a play.
“There may be nobody else for the rest of your life who’s going to give you the opportunity to act!” Kind shouted. “And I’m saying get up there and do what God put you on the planet to do.” JE