Dust Bowl Kids


As long as there’s been a Hollywood, there have been young, wide-eyed actors relocating to Los Angeles in hopes of someday appearing on the silver screen. The hopeful talent may or may not be aware of the odds against major success, but they work themselves to the bone if even for just a small taste of the glory and the thrill of entertaining an audience. Today, with so many people competing to realize that same dream, it could be argued that that glimmer of hope has diminished even further. But the drive to answer the inner calling for a life in the world of entertainment continues to beckon those willing to make sacrifices in exchange for the mere possibility of their talent being recognized.

The Dust Bowl Kids is a group of young comics in Los Angeles willing to work against those odds. Comprised of Eliot Schwartz, Heidi Gardner, Garrett Johnson, R.J. Haynes, and Chico transplant Kiel Kennedy, DBK initially began broadcasting their web series back in October. Since then, the online sketch comedy group has been consistently posting original sketch comedy shorts every Monday. The production quality is impressive, utilizing high-definition cameras with experienced operators and non-linear editing, but what makes the series remarkable is the talented creative writing and enthusiastic personalities of the actors.

Before relocating to LA, Chico resident Kiel Kennedy was regularly performing stand-up at The Punchline in Sacramento. He took his routine down south and experienced success in several competitions, but has since gone on hiatus to focus on improv and sketch comedy training through The Groundlings School – the same breeding ground from which SNL scouted superstars such as Will Ferrell and Will Forte, two of Kennedy’s biggest inspirations. Currently, Kennedy and Gardner await acceptance into the final, “advanced” level offered by the school. In the competitive world of show business, however, it doesn’t do much good to just wait around. Kennedy explains, “We kind of are in this age now where everyone is pretty understanding that if you’re not making things happen yourself, then you’re losing.” Hence, the birth of Dust Bowl Kids. “We knew that we all wanted to be performing together so we could keep growing while we were waiting for this next class at Groundlings.”

The series nurtures a strange sense of humor, a la Tim & Eric, but not so bizarre that it’s inaccessible or disturbing. Some examples of their sketches include a parody of a failed Kickstarter campaign in which the writers of a half-baked TV series beg their nonexistent fans for the financial support necessary to acquire books teaching them how to write. The sketch that launched the series, entitled “Goo Goo Forever,” features a married couple who’ve based their entire lives together around an obsession with The Goo Goo Dolls, only to discover during a fight that they don’t even really like the band.

In LA it’s not uncommon for relatively unknown actors to garner attention via online comedy troupes and be presented with bigger opportunities. Gardner cites a few  examples, “There’s these guys called The Birthday Boys from the UCB Theater. They’ve been putting out videos and perform live as well. I just heard they got a pilot deal with Comedy Central, and that’s the same with the Workaholics guys. They were putting out videos for a few years, so if you can just stay consistent, hopefully you build a following.”

Speaking of Workaholics, DBK has welcomed cameo performances from Jillian Bell (who stars on the show), as well as from Ryan Gaul (who Kennedy claims is in just about every commercial on TV) and SNL cast member, Taran Killam. These cameos are great for DBK because they bring new life to the sketches and also dramatically increase the amount of hits on their YouTube channel. The sketch featuring SNL’s Killam has received by far the most hits.

It seems that Kennedy and Gardner have a pretty good thing going, but at the risk of sounding like a concerned parent, I persist in asking about the future of Dust Bowl Kids. Kennedy quickly fields the question with this response to conclude the interview: “My short-term goal is, ‘Let’s get to a year and have a sketch every single week.’ If we make it to a year, I feel at that point we’ll be so fluent and better and quicker at doing this. We’re all learning new things, like I just started editing my first sketch and that’ll help speed things along. The future is just to keep building an audience and keep getting better and then who knows what will happen?”

Dust Bowl Kids airs every Monday. You can find them on Facebook, directly subscribe to their YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/dustbowlkids, or for regular Twitter updates follow @beingeliot.


Nolan Ford grew up in Chico, California with great respect and admiration for Synthesis and its mission to provide an alternative voice on matters of music, art, and life in Chico. In addition to editing the paper and managing its musical content, Nolan performs with various bands around town including Perpetual Drifters, The Rugs, Pat Hull, and acoustic duo, Emma & Nolan.