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.



Do you think it hurt your career?I don't think so. No, I think that I definitely think that I have big regrets of my own, as far as my career goes, but it has everything to do with holding myself back in the years right after The State broke up because of a lack of confidence, a lack of understanding exactly what my voice was to be and I think what I should have been doing and what I now understand was to be simply forcing myself to be getting up onstage every night just doing what I had to do.

So what was it like for you after you guys broke up? I did a heck of a lot of auditioning and a heck of a lot of writing these character pieces that I do. But I wasn't having much luck making anything stick. So there was a period there where I actually quit and I started writing for magazines. I wrote some for Premiere and just did some magazine work at like Spin and Rolling Stone. So it was kind of like a cop-out really for a few years there. Finally I got to a point where I was like, "What am I doing? I can feel in my bones what I should be doing. I wrote an essay lately when I said, "Look, I know that if I were working in an office somewhere that I'd fuck that up. If I were working as a garbage man somewhere, I'd fuck that up. And if I was working as a comedian, I'd fuck that up and kind of already have. But it's the one area where I have faith that I can fuck up upwardly."

Was there a dark period? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I call it the "belly of the whale" period where I had to quit drinking. Because The State broke up in '96, so from '97 to 2000 was definitely a dark period for me.

What brought you out of it? It's interesting, what brought me out of it was teaching. I was offered a job teaching sketch comedy at a place called MediaBistro. I actually still teach a class there this summer. I had so much fun doing it, it sort of got all of this desire to be doing it riled up in me again. The process of teaching is so interesting because you learn so much from teaching. Just how to put into words what you know kind of reinforces things for you, and you start to learn new things. It was through teaching that I really sort of started to re-create myself. Now I'm at the point where I'm kind of hoping the show will take off and leave me less time to be teaching because I've been teaching for a while now. It would feel good just to move on.

The Statehas a huge cult following. Does it still follow you today?I was so pissed off when I was on TV because gay people didn't know about The State . I guess SNL was known at that time to be such a frat-boy thing, I think a lot of gay people thought The State was sort of the same thing. People recognize me all of the time now. And people are always like, "Oh, I hate to bother you," and I'm like, "You can bother me away." I met my husband that way, actually. I guess there is one gigantic exception to that one. It was '93 when he was a fan of The State and I was at a gay pride parade in New York and I was just standing there on the street. He's a little martial arts dude. He had climbed up a telephone pole like a monkey and was watching the parade from there. We kept smiling at each other, and I said to my friend, "Well, I can't really say hello to this guy. He's all the way on top of a goddamned pole!" So about three years later, we pass each other on the street and smile at each other. And I didn't recognize him, and he said, "Do you know we smiled at each other about three years ago at the gay pride parade?" And I said, "Holy crap, I totally remember that." He said, "Yeah, I'm a fan of The State ." So we went out on a date, and we've been together ever since.