Rob Kemp, comedian, The Elvis Dead

It's a massive satisfaction to have seen through a ridiculous endeavour ...

Sometimes the best pairings occur when two completely disparate ideas collide. Take horror movies and the music of Elvis Presley, for example. They don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but catch UK comedian Rob Kemp’s award-winning show The Elvis Dead and you’ll wonder how the two were ever considered separately. Rob Kent is bringing his show to the Brisbane Comedy Festival soon –reinterpreting scenes from cult horror flick The Evil Dead to a soundtrack of The King’s most-popular tunes. Ahead of Rob’s arrival down under, we get in touch to find out how this idea came to be and what makes the music of Elvis and the story of The Evil Dead so compatible.

To start, we’d love to know how you first came to comedy. Do you recall where and when you caught the performance bug?
I made my debut as Joseph in a nursery Nativity play when I was three. I was ill, and there was no understudy, so I knew the show had to go on!

What solidified your decision to make people laugh for a living?
Their decision to start paying me. Prior to that, it was not a viable business plan.

What style of comedy – or what comedians in particular – resonated with you and inspired you when you were finding your feet as a performer?
This would be a very long list, but Eddie Izzard, Stewart Lee, and Dylan Moran are the ones who immediately leap to mind. Not that it is visible in my work.

The Elvis Dead is influenced by a couple of your other passions – horror movies and the music of Elvis Presley. What inspired you to mash up the two for the purposes of a comedy show?
It all stemmed from a conversation I had at a gig after I had watched another Bruce Campbell movie, Bubba Ho-Tep, in which he plays an elderly Elvis fighting a soul-stealing mummy.

On paper, Elvis and The Evil Dead seem an unnatural fit. How did you go about blending the music of The King with the movie’s iconic scenes?
I don’t know that it is that unnatural. Both Elvis and Ash have a certain swagger. The process was one of attrition, but an enjoyable one. Endless listening; numerous watches and re-watches; just searching for the fit.

The show seems like a considerable departure from the typical stand-up comedy format – what are the risks and rewards of putting together a conceptually adventurous show like The Elvis Dead?
There is a distinct possibility you’ll stand out, though you may look gimmicky. Your concept though unique, might be alienating to huge swathes of (unadventurous) people. It’s a massive satisfaction to have seen through a ridiculous endeavour.

If you could give any other recording artist and classic film a similar treatment, what combo would you pick?
I was giving serious consideration to a David Bowie meets The Thing show.

We’re excited to catch your show when you head Down Under for the Brisbane Comedy Festival. What can unwitting audiences expect from the show?
If they come with an open mind, they will have a good time. Oh, and don’t worry, nobody gets pulled up onstage.

Is there anything you’re itching to do while you’re in Australia?
I have a couple of friends who live down your way, and I hope to catch them. Surfing, wildlife-spotting, generally learning to chill out.

Finally, what is some of the best life advice you’ve ever received?
Whether you think you can, or think you can’t… you’re right.

Catch Rob Kemp performing The Elvis Dead at the Brisbane Comedy Festival on March 22–24. Purchase your tickets here.


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