In 2013 the Saints decided to go in a new direction with their entertainment team. One of the changes was the hiring of new entertainment coordinator, Brian Kelly. Brian has been an entertainment veteran for almost twenty years working with Comedy Sportz, Tony and Tina's Wedding, Triple Espresso, and The Mystery Cafe comedy dinner theater, along with acting in commercials. I was able to sit down with Brian for an interview after the season ended to talk about his entertainment background, howhe got his position with Saints, a reflection on the 2013 season, and his vision for next year, the last season at Midway.
Brian's beginnings in the entertainment industry started at a young age. "I had always wanted to work creatively. When I was young I was a cartoonist, I had always thought that was going to be my thing. I also played around with film a lot in college and got really interested in video and editing. When I graduated from college I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. A buddy of mine got me interested in performing with Comedy Sportz, which is improvisational comedy, and found I had a particular talent for it and really kinda fell in love with doing it. Of all the creative things I had done I realized it had always been sorta behind the scenes. You can draw a funny cartoon and have it published and maybe people laugh at it, but you don't know. The response was so immediate being on stage that I just was like, oh my gosh, this is the thing. It's what's so fun about performing and creating with the Saints. If I have a idea that I think is funny and put it up and people respond to it, well you know, it's awesome." Brian draws some of his creative nature from his hero, "My first creative hero was Jim Henson, and actually I think more than I maybe would like to admit his work probably influences mine a lot. If you think about the ushertainers they really are like big broad Muppety characters. I was always as familiar with who the performers were and what characters they did as I was the names of the characters and listening for those similarities in the voices, and hearing the voice behind the voice. I was really interested in the performance side of what they were doing as well." Comedy hero's though out the years for Brian include Phil Hartman, Phil Silvers, Mel Brooks, and Peter Sellers.
Prior to being hired as the entertainment coordinator, Brian first interviewed for the P.A. announcer position with the Saints. "Andy Crowley (Saints musical director) and I have done Comedy Sportz for a number of years together and he knew that the Saints were looking for a fresh approach to the entertainment side of things. He thought I would possibly be a good fit for it. Initially they had an interest in me doing the P.A. job, but I don't really know a lot about sports. Even if it's not color commentary that your doing, ultimately you gotta know a little bit about baseball if you going to talk about it." (Prior to this year Brian had been a self admitted non sports fan but learned to like baseball as much as the entertainment side as the season went on. In fact, he made a point to watch the end of the games as a fan when his shift was done.) "As we talked a little bit more, and they talked about what they wanted, I started to think about people I knew that would be really good for it. Then I got to thinking that maybe something they have been lacking is an entertainment coordinator. It had always been in the past that the guy who does the P.A. oversees everything and comes up with all the concepts, and from what I've experienced this year with two P.A. guys, there is a lot they have to do in a game." After talking more with the Saints about it they agreed and created the entertainment coordinator job for Brian. This new position put Brian in charge of bringing in new P.A. announcers, Lee Adams and Halsey Lindquist who didn't even know each other prior to the Saints season but Brian had faith they would work well together and feed off of each other, and also a few new ushertainers. "I put together what I consider sorta my dream team, people that I've known over the years who I thought would be really good."
The 2013 Saints season started with Brian, and Sierra Bailey (new promotions manager for 2013) being hired on just a few short weeks prior to opening day and learning their new positions on the fly. With the promotions schedule preset for the year their jobs were to come up with entertainment for the games off of already in place themes. "Mostly what I'm trying to do is honor the theme. When Comic book night comes we need super hero's there, that's a given, and if we got a bunch of super hero's there well, we should have a hero villain tug of war. That just makes sense to me. The better the theme the easier it is to come up with ideas and concepts. I sit down with the promotions director and we start riffing. There were quite a few where I had a germ of an idea and she would top it and say 'what if this?'. That's the lovely thing about collaboration. Ultimately I figure out how to dress it up and make it funny and she's the one who executes it. Every game there is at least one thing I'm super excited about, I'm just kinda gitty because I had this stupid idea and we get to do it today." When asked what his favorite moment from the season was Brian had two from the end of the year that stood out. "I think my favorite moment is sitting on my mantel right now. We had fan appreciation day the second to the last game. Usually what we do at the beginning (of the game) is we talk about the theme, some sort of skit that presents whatever the theme is. This time around I bought this little silly greeting card and I say hey Halsey will you sign this card? He's like sure, is it's somebody's birthday? No. Is it a get well card? No. Who's it for? Well them. Who's them? Well everybody, the fans cause it's fan appreciation day. So I got this card, I don't know if you can see this (to the fans), but it's got this banana on the front and inside it says 'You're the best of the bunch'. And Halsey's like, Brian nobody can see the card. Well then I'll tell you what, I'll just start over here in start in section A and start passing it, just make sure everyone gets a chance to see it. That was the joke, that's all it was ever meant to be. Then a little later on I just kinda got curious about it, like what ever happened to the stupid card? So I'm like where's that card at? And somebody in section G is holding it up and pointing at it and I'm like oh my gosh the card is actually making it's way around, people are actually looking at this silly thing, that's kinda awesome. Then later I said, hey when that card gets all the way around bring it back here because this women came in late and she didn't get a chance to see it, you know, again just making a joke. And eventually somebody brought the card over to me. At some point somebody must have started passing a pen around with it and people began signing it. It was all things like thank you for a great season, we think you guys are awesome, love you guys, marry us, and one person wrote I don't know what this is for, which really made me laugh. But it just was this unbelievably overwhelming sweet gesture and it was totally unexpected. I didn't imagine it happening. Everything was absolutely positive, and that's what the Saints experience is to me. You know, it's just positive, it's fun is good. And then of course the other more obvious one was when both teams did the Harlem Shake. That was unbelievably awesome. I opted to stand back and watch it because it just seemed like it would be to unbelievable to miss."
With the final season at Midway Stadium looming Brian is looking forward to getting a jump start on the upcoming 2014 season. "I would like to have a few more epic nights this coming season, it would be ambitious to suggest one per home stand, but that's kinda in my mind as to what my goal is. One of the opportunities we have is not unlike Saturday Night Live where they produce something every week, we pretty much have games every week, where if something happens that's in the public consciousness we have an opportunity to use it, or reference it, or do something with it. I'd like to see more of that. Also we're talking about somehow getting people aware of the themes before they even come so they can anticipate and look forward to them and even on there own participate in them. Anything to amp up the excitement about what's happening at the stadium." As for sending Midway off at the end of next year, "I'm looking forward to next year, and one of the aspects I'm really committed to, and I think is important is saying goodbye to Midway. I think it's really important to honor the end of an era. I'm a very sentimental person, and even though I've only been really involved for a year, I'm already like I love that park, there's so many memories attached to it. I just want to make sure that that landmark is memorialized and that the torch gets passed."
I'd like to thank Brian for sitting down with me for this interview, and for the very fun evening we had talking about the Saints, his career, and the future. It truly was a blast.