Robert Kelly on Overcoming Childhood Struggles, Being a Ward of the State, Getting Sober at 15


1 year ago



Robert Kelly

1 appearance

Robert Kelly is a stand-up comic, actor, and host of the podcast "You Know What Dude!" His latest comedy special, "Robert Kelly: Kill Box," is available exclusively at


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Dude, I was 350 pounds. I believe you said it best. I saw the one with you and Louie and Joe, and you were like, Bobby ate himself into a shape. Well, when I first met you, you were young and thin and good-looking. I was gorgeous, but I remember I've met you twice. That was so funny, too. It was such a perfect description. I met you at UFC 100, and you came out of the back. You looked at me and you go, what happened to you? I was like, hey, Joe, how you doing? No, it's been an addiction for me since I was a kid. It was my first addiction when I was a kid, was food. I remember when my mom... I had an abusive stepdad for a while, five years, and I had nobody. I remember I found food. I would wake up in the morning and say goodbye to my mom in sixth grade, go out the front door, go around the back, crawl into the basement, and in the corner of the basement, I had a little pillow and a blanket, and I would just sit there all day, and I would eat. So you'd pretend you were going to school? I'd pretend I was going to school, because I was just so afraid. I had no friends. I had nobody, and I was in a major depression. I didn't know it. I was in the basement, and I remember I would just eat food, like Susie Q's and ring dings, and it just made me feel almost like a friend. I just had a problem, and I remember I got real big, and then my sixth grade teacher, actually, Mr. DiPersio, got me into running. All of a sudden, he became my dad. He kind of took me under his wing, and we were at the Olympics. Remember the sixth grade Olympics? It was just a horseshit thing, but I remember we had to do the 440 all the way around the track, and I remember he came up to me and he goes, Kelly, you got to win. I want you to win. I remember I was like, I'll win. I'll fucking... I just wanted somebody to fucking believe in me. You know what I mean? I remember I was racing against this skinny black kid, and I was the fastest lightning, and I remember we were running, and I fucking won. I remember I beat him. Everything I had, and I won, and I just felt fantastic. I started jogging. I started doing marathons, but then I got into drugs. After that, I found drugs very shortly after that, in seventh grade, and then I, of course, went to jail. I think I went to jail the first time, 13. Yeah, that was terrible. What did you go to jail for? On Ambarabri Assault and Battery and Malicious Destruction, Trespassing and Breaking and Bobation. Holy shit. Breaking and probation at 13. You were on probation? I was on probation at 12. Oh my God. For what? I robbed a canteen truck of cigarettes and fucking, I think, Twinkies. Wow. So I got on probation for that, and then, yeah, it was terrible. I remember we went to jail at 13. Yeah. My bail was, I think, $10, and my mother didn't pay it. Because the judge said, she said, what do I do? And he was like, let him go through the system. Jesus. Let him go. And my mother listened to him. Oh my God. Yeah, it was bad, because I remember I was in the jail cell, Somerville, courthouse. The jail cell's downstairs. The regular prisoners and the juvies stay downstairs. I had my own jail cell. And I remember I was looking at it like, pay the fucking money. Because all my friends' moms paid. And they got out. They got out, and I went, they take you downstairs, and she came down. And I walked up to her, and I was just crying. And she was like, Bobby, she's crying. I'm so sorry. Blah, blah, blah. And I just turned around and started doing push-ups. And then they came and got me, and they throw you in the van. The regular prisoners would be in the back of the van, and the juvies are in the front, behind the drivers on a bench. And I just remember the real prisoners, just, hey, little bitch. You know, just, I was shitting my pants. And they take you up to Danvers State Hospital. Danvers State gave, there's a, the morgue they gave to the detention, the juvenile detention. So you go up there, it's called intake. And you get up there, and there's a bunch of other kids. They strip search you, and you got to get naked and do jumping jacks. I'm 13, you got to bend over. It was embarrassing. It was terrible. You go into this room, and there's all these other kids, of all nationalities, just in this room, watching this one TV. I remember they came in with a box of deli sandwiches and chocolate milk. And everybody ran over and grabbed, and you grab a sandwich, and they had these purple onions on top, these wet onions, because I think they were old sandwiches that they would donate to the juvies. And they all took them and threw it on the ceiling. And I looked up on the ceiling, and it was just years of onions. Oh, God, the ceiling was fucking terrifying. And then the kid comes up, he's like, hey, man, when they call you out, ask them where you're going. And if they don't tell you, it's somewhere bad. If they tell you, it's somewhere good. So, like, Kelly, I went out, they start shackling me, and they handcuffed me, and I'm like, where am I going? And he just looked at me, and he shook his head. And they shackled me to two other 18-year-olds. I was 13. And they took me to the Charlestown Y. So, the Charlestown Y, the bottom floor was the Y, but the top floor was a juvenile lockup. So, you had to go through the gym, go upstairs, and they take you into this room. And they, again, I got strip searched, I had to get naked. You go, and then you have to take a shower. I was 13. I had a little pecker. I think I had, like, you know, four pubes. And I'm showering with these 18-year-olds next to me. I was scared shit. That night, some kid got a pencil in his eye from another kid. And then you go into this room with just bunk beds, steel bunk beds filled in the room. And the highway, I don't remember the Charlestown Y, the highway with 93 was right there. So, it's just cars, like, as close as me and you, were just whipping by on the highway all night long. And, yeah, I went to jail, and from there, you just go to another jail, another jail. I think it was until I was 15, I was going in and out of Juvie jails and foster homes. Jesus Christ. For, uh, for, because once you're in, you're in. So, if your mom had just paid that 10 bucks, you would have never been in jail. I'd probably be dead. Really? I'd probably be in jail, jail. Real jail. That saved me. And, you know, there's that thing where it's like, I don't know if you've heard that thing, where, you know, you don't know, is it good or bad? I don't know yet. You don't know if something's good or bad yet. You got to wait. You know, you think something's terrible, right? But you don't know. It could be good. You just don't know yet. It feels like shit, and it felt like shit. But if she didn't do that, I wouldn't have got sober. I got sober at 15. I went to a place called The Road Back. I got arrested again, upstate New York. They shipped me back to Boston because I was a ward of the state. You're owned by Massachusetts. So, they shipped me back down. I went back to jail. And then I finally realized, like, look, drugs and alcohol, that's what it's not people, places, and things. It's my drinking. It's my drugs. I go, I need to go somewhere. What drugs? Everything. I did everything. Anything you put in front of me. I wasn't doing drugs because I like drugs. I was doing drugs because I didn't want to be alone anymore. I didn't want to go back to that basement by myself. You know what I mean? Yeah. I didn't want to be that anymore. That was terrifying to me. So, if I had to do drugs or I had to drink, I would do whatever the fuck it took to have friends, you know, to have a group of people to belong. Because I didn't have anybody. So, these kids, you know, I got to the point where we would move around. Like, I'd get out of the jail. I'd go to a foster home. And then I would go home from there. And my parents were somewhere else. Like, they were in Spencer Port, New York. They were in Ben Salem, Pennsylvania. And what I would do is I'd go on the first day of school and I would get into trouble, go to detention. Because those are my kids. So, I'd get in trouble, go to detention, and I'd always have weed. I'd always have a couple of joints. And as soon as I got to detention, I'd lean over to the toughest looking kid. I'd be like, you want to smoke some weed? Friends. Immediate friends. Yeah, sure. We'd smoke weed. And those are my guys. And then I'd hang up with them for the duration until in Ben Salem, I wound up running away and getting arrested again. And then in, what was it? Spencer Port, New York was the last time. I got drunk. We fucking stole gumball machines. I went to jail for gumball machines. It was stupid. It was terrible because, you know, I mean, I drank a half a bottle of scotch. I drank a bunch of beers and we did whippets. And they were like, I want these gumball machines. So, I just took them and smashed them. And the cops came. I remember I was running from the cops down the railroad tracks. I hopped the fence. And as soon as I hopped the fence, there was a shotgun right in my face. And the guy made me get down the cop. He was like, freeze, get down the ground. And he goes, if he moves, shoot him. And I was like, it was gum. Oh, my God. They took me to jail up there. And it was that was the worst jail ever. Rochester, New York was the worst jail ever been in. And, you know, they put me in a room. And that was the first time I literally asked for help. I was just like, help me. Please, just help me. I'm done. I know I know it's drugs. I know it's alcohol. Please help me get help. I need it. Whatever. I just gave up. I gave up the first time I was like, this is it. And then I went to jail to Boston. They flew me on a plane. Remember smoking on the plane. I asked the flight attendant, can you give me a light? She just got me a light. I lit up in the fucking place. You could smoke on planes. I was 15. And right when I got off the plane, there was two state troopers waiting for me and they handcuffed me, took me to jail. And then I met I met this guy in NFI Shelter Care was this Yitzhak. His name is Yitzhak. He developed this system for juveniles that it was called open door setting normalization. There was no locks on the doors at NFI. There was no, you know, guards. They had people there at night, but you could run. You could leave, walk right out the fucking door. But they incentivized you. 30 days, you got steak. 60 days without a run, lobster, dinners. They incentive. They gave you responsibility as a kid. And they we all kind of formed together to kind of keep each other in check to to receive these benefits. And they gave you, you know, help. You know, they they talked to you instead of these other places. Just went in and did your time. This place was all on you. We had school. We could go. We went. They took us to the beach. They load us in the I remember they took all these Juvies. We'd load up in a van and go to Gloucester, a wingersheek peach. And we just sit on the beach and have fun. They gave you these incentivized things to not leave. And then the guy came up to me. He's like, you can go to rehab. We got you set up. You can go to six months coed or you can go to a year all boys. And I was like, what do I do? He's like, knowing you year all boys, if you go with his girls, you'll fuck up. You'll fuck up. You'll try to bang the chicks. You'll try to have sex and you'll fuck it up. So I did. I listened. I was like, OK. And I went to the road back. It was a house again. Normalization. No bars. No nothing. I showed up and I was sitting in this room. This guy, Tom Tompkins, used to be had a lot of money. His wife was a famous opera singer. He was in show business and he lost it all from alcoholism and drugs. So he started this house called the road back. And I remember I was sitting there petrified and all of a sudden he comes down. There's all the staff and there's this one kid fucking being fucked this place. I don't want to fucking be here. Fuck this. I want to fuck out screaming and yelling. And he came down the stairs. Old dude, gray beard, psoriasis. He had a misty cigarette, you know, those little slim and sassy just smoking it. He came down. He goes, where's this fucking fuck up? Where's this cocksucker that wants to leave? Because like me, he's like, you want to fucking leave? You want to get the fuck out of here? Get the fuck out. There's the door, you fucking pussy. And one of the councils, the new councilors was like, hey, maybe we shouldn't go. Fuck you. You're fired. Get the fuck out. Because you want to go fucking leave. There's the fucking door. OK, I'm trying to save your life, you little fuckhead. I'm trying to save your life. If you want to fucking live, stay here and shut the fuck up. If you want to leave, get the fuck out. But I care about you and I don't want you to fucking die. And the kid starts crying and he's like, yeah, OK. Are you staying or leaving? Because I'm going to stay. He goes, great. I'm glad you're staying because you're going to you're going to save your life now. And then he goes, where's Kelly? I'm like, right here. And he goes, meet me upstairs. And I went upstairs, the sweetest human being I've ever met. I mean, he was he just saved my life. This guy was the best person I've ever met in my life. He he used to take us to his house to build entertainment systems and he would fucking give us Elio's pizzas and little cakes and shit. I thought he was trying to fuck me. You know, I mean, because every once in a while these kids would just take off in the van. Oh my God. It's like, Kelly, come on, let's go. I'm like, I got to fucking suck this guy's dick out. Fuck. Fuck. I'm going to have to blow this old guy in his house for cakes and pizza. You know what I mean? But he didn't. He was just fucking wanted us to get better. You