The Redhead Gay

Kevin Allison, the lone gay of the '90s sketch group The State , dishes on the group's formation, their fallout with Les Moonves, and bouncing back after hitting bottom.




So that didn't work so well with your unspoken pact I guess? Right. But now that we're older, we look back and say, "You know what? Everyone was just trying to survive at that point." Plus, we love each other. We're like a very dysfunctional family.

Who are you in the family? It's odd. In psychology they say a person takes a role in the group that he takes in a family. I was the middle child in my family who was sort of always off daydreaming and was different and was the gay one. It was the exact same thing in The State. I was never a part of the little cliques that formed among the 11 of us, and in retrospect I thought, Oh crap, that sort of really fucked up my career later. You know, Stella formed and Reno 911! formed and all that sort of thing. I was always the floater. Also the timing -- everyone spent so much time socializing together while I was running off with my gay friends. You know what I mean? It was just a time when I needed to be playing with the boys. I was just naturally a little bit, just a little bit , alienated from the rest of the group that way. And of course, we had a system of joking with one another. Whatever was different about someone, we would rag on them for it. There were always gay jokes being made about me and Jew jokes about David [Wain] and Italian jokes about Ken [Marino]. Not terribly mean-spirited things, but um, you feel that you are kind of different in the group. Also sometimes, I compare my situation to Mel Brooks on Your Show of Shows . He was writing there with Woody Allen and Neil Simon and Carl Reiner and Sid Caesar, and they could never use Mel Brooks's sketches because they were just too ridiculous.

So the rest of the group was more adept at being savvy and going to all the right Hollywood parties and all that?Yes, just savvy with just not being shy about hanging out with the up and up sorts of people -- the executives and the agents and stuff like that. And also, yeah, it was a little bit like Survivor at some points. Like, I'll vote for your sketch if you..." that sort of thing. I was never the most strategic sort of guy.

What are some of the sketches that you did get through that you're very very proud of?Oh, a perfect example was the "Taco Man" sketch?

That was you? That is one of my favorite sketches. Yeah, that was an example of sketch, but David and Mike and I said, "You know what? Let's just the three of us talk to some of the people from the art department, knock on some people's doors, ask to use their front lawns." We totally shot that with a home video camera while everyone else was shooting a $5,000 sketch down the block. We cut it together, then presented it to the group. And they were like, "All right, it's funny." And of course, "The Jew, the Italian, and the Redhead Gay." The way that sketch came up was, I said to Ken and David, "You know, the three of us have never written anything together." So we were like, "great." After work we'll get some beer, we'll lock ourselves in an empty office and see what happens. And we're sitting there, unable to think of anything. I think Ken said, "What is a sketch that only the three of us could do?" And I said, "The Jew, the Italian, and the redhead gay." We were like, "Perfect!"

Naturally you felt a sort of outsider's tension in the group. Were you out to them in the beginning? I came out to everyone after we all did mushrooms in this tent. We went to this pond down by the woods in Pennsylvania that Ken Marino's family owned. On the way home, on the car ride home, I came out to everyone, and you know, it was absolutely no big deal. I feel like Ben hadn't been there on the car ride home, so I had to tell it to him later. I'll always remember. He was like, "Well, all right. What do you want, a ribbon or something?" So it was never a big deal. If anything, it was, "Oh great. A way we can make jokes and stuff." I have so many great doodles from Tom Lennon, which would probably be worth something someday -- they were usually a "What Kevin did this weekend" and it's basically a drawing of an amusement park where everything is made of cock.

What about when you came out in your other life? Oh, I came out to my family the summer before I came to NYU. It was so funny because I knew I was gay from day one. I was one of those the very first memory that I have was finding this little like Hummel statue of a little toddler crawling around and the back door of his PJs is open so you can see his butt. And I grabbed this statue and I ran around the house screaming, "You can see his hynie!"