Each week at 9 a.m., Brendan Kirby takes his seat in the co-host chair of "The Rhode Show" on WPRI 12, featuring Rhode Island news, happenings as well as live guests.
While sharing banter with his co-hosts Will Gilbert and Michaela Johnson, it becomes clear that Kirby enjoys being the funny guy. He's got the same big-kid silliness and boyish good looks as Jimmy Fallon. Add to that his love of entertaining an audience, and he's got you riveted to the screen.
"I've always loved laughing, ever since I was very young," Kirby says. "I thought everything was funny. I still do. The irony is that in high school I was so quiet I really don't think anybody knew I was there, yet in class I would be sitting there thinking up all kinds of jokes."
Throughout his four years at Rhode Island College, where he majored in communication, young Kirby would fill notebooks with jokes and comedic premises that might work for late night talk shows or SNL. "I thought if I could get my comedy to the right person, they might give me a shot at writing," he says. "I also harbored the idea of being in front of the camera someday as a host."
The gods were listening. In his junior year, Kirby applied for and won an internship on "The Late Show with David Letterman." For a full semester, he lived and worked in New York.
For the most part, he answered phones, opened mail and helped with anything guest-related. "I loved it because I was – and still am – a massive fan of Letterman, and I realized that even the most menial task I completed was going to help out in some way," he says.
He also got to stand backstage during the live show. "I would actually hold the door for Letterman as he flew by to meet the audience," Kirby says. "I could hear the band. I could hear the laughter of the audience. I could feel the energy and electricity in the room. It reaffirmed what I wanted to do with my life."
Fueled with ambition, when Kirby returned to RIC in the fall, he requested an independent study so he could create his own late-night talk show.
"It wasn't very good," he says, laughing, "but it was my first attempt, and I did it. I somehow got it on television, and I got the college credit."
A few months after graduating from RIC, Kirby would bring the show back as a monthly late night comedy/variety/talk show called "Wicked Late with Brendan Kirby" on Rhode Island public-access television. From 2003-2012 he was host, executive producer, writer and editor of the show, although the job didn't come with a paycheck.
"Still, it was preparing me to be in front of a camera, to manage cues, to deliver a line, to conduct an interview and it forced me to become a better writer and producer," he says. "From that experience, I knew that if and when the time came for me to have a shot professionally, I'd be ready for it."
Kirby's big break came in 2013 when he sent in his audition tape to The Rhode Show. Now, every day, he gets to re-live the experience he had backstage during The Late Show with David Letterman, only this time he is in front of the camera.
For those looking to go into a broadcasting career, Kirby says there are many more inroads today than there were when he was starting out.
"The avenue for me was the public-access studio down the street. For you, maybe it's taking out your phone and creating a YouTube channel," he says. "Whatever it is you want to do, just find a way to do it, even if you're not getting paid for it, because eventually either you'll find that you really like it or you'll find that maybe it isn't for you. If you do like it, stay with it and get better at it. Hopefully, someone will take notice of you or maybe you'll amass your own audience and be able to monetize on that."
A broadcaster's job also comes with a bit of celebrity. Kirby is often stopped on the street and asked if he would share in a selfie. "I tell them I'm Tony Petrarca," he says, jokingly. "Seriously, I really enjoy meeting the viewers and saying hello. I appreciate it when they say, 'Thanks for making me laugh.' It means a great deal." After all, it's what he was born to do.
Catch Brendan Kirby on WPRI 12 and on: