Kenneth Keith Kallenbach, a name known only by long-time fans of Howard Stern, first appeared on Stern’s syndicated television show of the early ‘90s after writing a letter that claimed he was able to blow smoke out of his eyes. Stern brought him in, and the six minutes of failed attempts was funny. Kallenbach became a regular guest, known as a member of The Wack Pack. He returned for many bits, such as another unsuccessful attempt of smoke out his eyes that ended with him vomiting. He also had the genius idea to light firecrackers taped to his genitals. How the staff of the Peabody Awards overlooked his body of work is mind-boggling.
Playing off his Stern notoriety, Kallenbach has created a 90-minute DVD out of a number of skits, phony phone calls, man-on-the-street interviews, and footage from his stand-up comedy act and band gigs. While he does occasionally do intentionally funny things, most of the humor is laughing at how unfunny and untalented he is. Kallenbach provides links between the material by disguising himself as a reporter and interviewing himself with questions that make it seem like Kallenbach is already a comedy legend. At one point he reveals, “I just enjoy acting — acting stupid and crazy on TV.” Truer words were never spoken.
The skits run from dumb, like his “The Douches of Hazzard” parody, to insulting and racist, “Towelheads” is a take on Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” using band names like Rush and Inxs. His phony phone calls are annoying to those on the other end and only occasionally entertaining, depending on the other person’s reactions; they don’t come anywhere near the hilarity of Red at The Tube Bar. During the calls, Kallenbach is shown at a pay phone, but he makes no attempt to move his mouth, so the visual made no sense until he hung up the phone when the call was over.
The stand-up material is passable for an amateur night. He basically does the same act twice. His jokes are goofy and some sound familiar, as if they came out of a humor book. It’s hard to tell if the crowd is laughing at the jokes or at him, but he does get a better response with the second version and his timing is much better.
Kenneth Keith Kallenbach – American Icon is essentially 90 minutes of cable access programming. There’s little to no production value. During his interview, the set is dressed with a chair, a tree, and a black sleeping bag as a backdrop. It’s hard to watch the whole DVD in one setting and only Howard Stern fans will be likely be interested. Stern limits the airtime of guests like Kallenbach, who do much better in small doses, and this DVD proves him correct. Drugs and alcohol may help, but you are going to need a good amount.
To see if Kallenbach is your cup of tea, a lot of his clips, including some from the DVD appear at YouTube.