Multitasking treadmill painter connects with YouTube masses.
Sometimes nepotism has its benefits. My younger brother John Kilduff’s daily Internet TV show, “Let’s Paint” (streaming live on stickam.com), is part art instruction, part multitasking (he treadmills and mixes drinks while painting) and all goofy. Clips of the madness have garnered over a million YouTube hits and led to tours of Australia, Canada, and the United States. He’s also appeared on shows like “Tyra” and “America’s Got Talent.” In the early ’90s, John, aka Mr. Let’s Paint, caught the TV bug when he went looking for a change in his career as a plein-air landscape painter, and stumbled into the local cable access TV studio. He wound up hosting a skit show, which eventually morphed into a live, on-air painting seminar. He brought in the treadmill and his life changed forever. I called the Skyline High grad recently at his Van Nuys studio as he prepared for his appearance this month at SF Sketchfest.
Paul Kilduff: This is a little awkward, isn’t it?
John Kilduff: We’ve already begun then?
PK: Do you prefer Mr. Let’s Paint or can I call you John?
JK: You can call me John.
PK: Your slogan is “Just throw the paint down.” What exactly does that mean?
JK: Ignite the canvas. Let’s just get some paint on there and get going. It doesn’t apply for everything. If you’re making a stained glass window or something where you have to be careful about everything you do, maybe you better not just jump in. You better do some planning.
PK: Right. Like when you’re building a house?
JK: You don’t want me to build your house.
PK: Wouldn’t be the most plumb house on the market.
JK: No. But I think novices who are interested in art think the only tools they have are the perfectionism tools, and there is another whole world out there.
PK: What you’re saying is, the whole process is a journey, and you have to begin it without being too uptight about what you’re doing.
JK: I like to promote that, but I’m a little hesitant to say that you have to do it that way because I’m well aware that we’re all kind of different.
PK: So if you were into photo-realism, you wouldn’t be doing the kind of show that you do now?
JK: Probably not.
PK: You flunked out of [improv group] the Groundlings, how does somebody flunk out of improv class?
JK: Well, they just didn’t pass me on to the next, higher level that’s all. I got a lot of laughs when I played the angry guy. Also I learned that I’m not a good listener.
PK: You don’t play with others well. I seem to remember that being a problem. No, I’m kidding.
JK: Yeah. I am sort of a lone wolf.
PK: Your act started off mainly with the painting thing and now it’s incorporating mixing drinks. What are you trying to get people to do? Should we all be multitasking more?
JK: Embrace it. There’s a big effort for people to slow down. Too much technology. Focus on one thing. But let’s also embrace the crazy. Let’s go for it all and make it work. We are not cavemen. We’re evolving. We are constantly ingesting. We can do five things at once. Git ’er done!
PK: Larry the Cable Guy. Exactly. Do you ever take a day off from self-promotion?
JK: I don’t know. It’s called the Internet and it’s really a device for people with obsessive-compulsive disorders. But it is nice to just take a break. I mean I don’t have one of those iPhone things where I would be checking my emails all the time. I’m old school. I have the prepaid [cellphone plan], and this is a great deal, guys. It’s about $8 a month.
PK: Yeah, sometimes I’ll be talking to you and it cuts off in the middle of the conversation because you’ve run out of money [on your plan].
JK: Well, maybe.
PK: I wonder how many people going to see you at Sketchfest or watching your show know that there is this other side of Mr. Let’s Paint TV. You’re a pretty serious landscape painter. When you get into that mode, are you a different person than we see on TV?
JK: Well, not so much in terms of the way I’m handling the paint, but I must say, as Chris Rock famously said, “You got to save your funny.” You can’t just be on all the time. So when I’m out painting, I look more like a homeless guy. I do it purposely so that no one comes to talk to me, because painting is an introverted kind of deal. And as my brother, you know that I’m actually probably more introverted than extroverted.
PK: And that you do have kind of a homeless wardrobe working.
PK: You got like seven closets full of that stuff. You have more than a million hits on YouTube, but do you ever get recognized?
JK: No, not at all. I think because I never leave the house.
PK: You’re such a fame hound I would think that you would want to be more recognized.
JK: Fame is not what it’s all meant out to be.
PK: What do you mean by that?
JK: I don’t know. People say that, right? Famous people talk about it.
PK: So the goal for you is not necessarily to be famous?
JK: Well, I mean, it’s awkward. Sometimes I’ll go to an art opening and that’s where people will know me at times. I must say it is kind of awk-ward to talk to people about what I do. But it’s actually kind of nice to get that kind of acknowledgement. I just want a little of it.
PK: You are in the cradle of show business there in Southern California. If some network executive were to call you and say, “Hey, you know, I love what you do; we want to do a commercial TV show,” would you do it?
JK: I would be bouncing off the walls.
PK: Could I be the announcer?
JK: Yeah, definitely. I’m trying to get the whole family in.
PK: What do you think, did Mom always like you best?
JK: I don’t know. Wow! That’s deep. Maybe so. Possibly. She definitely always steered me into making art and taking art classes.
PK: She sort of doted on you.
JK: I get the sense that could have been the case.
PK: Do you feel guilty about that?
JK: No. It’s just sort of how the cards were dealt, right? What about you?
PK: I’m still in therapy.
For more Kilduff, visit the “Kilduff File Super Fan Page” on Facebook.
Age: 47 | Astrological sign: Virgo.
Motto: “Just throw down the paint!”
Book on nightstand: No nightstand, so no book. But if I did, it would be the book I am writing, And Then You Die.
SF Sketchfest (Feb. 1, 8 p.m.): SFSketchfest.com