The history of late night TV talk show hosts is — well, pretty similar.
From Jack Paar and Johnny Carson through Jay Leno, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, guys* sit behind a desk. There’s a comfortable chair or sofa, an interesting backdrop, and (hopefully) interesting guests.
Zach Galifianakis broke the mold a bit. “Between Two Ferns” is a cult classic, available online.
If you liked his deliberately goofy approach — think early days of public access TV — you’ll love “Ten Minutes With.”
It too is on YouTube — not network TV. The set makes even the two ferns look lavish (guests sit in a lawn chair).
And it’s produced right here in Westport.
In Brian Kelsey’s garage.
Though he’s mined fellow Westporters as guests — CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and actress Stephanie Szostak — he also snagged singer Gino Vanelli (“I Just Wanna Stop”), en route from a show in Fairfield to the airport.
Stephanie Szostak and Brian Kelsey, on “Ten Minutes With.”
Sure, “Two Ferns” got President Obama. Just give “Ten Minutes” time.
Despite the home-grown nature of the show — Kelsey built the set himself, wrote and recorded the theme music, runs 7 cameras and adds all the sound effects — he is no Trevor Noah wannabe.
Kelsey has spent his career both in front of and behind cameras and mics. He’s done New York radio; has a thriving YouTube channel, focusing on do-it-yourself home renovations; hosted Martha Stewart’s Sirius show; did voice-overs, and works full-time as video senior editor/producer for a financial services firm.
He had the equipment. He had the background. He had the garage (and lawn chair). He built the set (a plain desk with a rotary phone; behind it, a generic city photo).
Brian Kelsey, on set. Yes, that’s his washing machine on the left.
All he needed was guests — and selling them on the idea.
This being Westport, he has contacts up the wazoo. And the format is perfect.
Guests drive over to his Cross Highway home. His assistant. Pete Scifo, lifts up the garage door. Kelsey offers a coffee (or beer). They chat for — literally — 10 minutes. Then Camerota is on to her next CNN spot, Szostak films her next movie, Vanelli does his next gig, whatever. It could not be simpler.
The banter is like most talk shows: some fluff, some substance. Kelsey probes into each guest’s work and life.
A regular feature: Kelsey reads rejection letters he’s gotten from potential guests (usually, their agents).
The garage door, leading to the “Ten Minutes With” set.
YouTube is driven by algorithms. So when a guest links to “Ten Minutes With” on their own social media, views spike — and YouTube recommends it to more people.
Next up: NBC news anchor (and Westporter) Craig Melvin.
Kelsey — who is also a drummer — has a soft spot for musicians. Among the guests he’d like to snag: Michael Bolton, Nile Rodgers and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads.
So if any of you guys are reading this: Call Brian Kelsey.
The lawn chair in his garage is waiting.
*Notice a gender pattern?
(Click here for the Ten Minutes With homepage.)