Straddling controversy and critical acclaim, CBS Monday night sitcom 2 Broke Girls pushes the limits of acceptability with jokes about sex and race.
Many of those not-so-subtle double entendres are uttered by the shows Ukrainian chef Oleg, an oversexed character who as played by actor/comedian Jonathan Kite has become an over-the-top fan favorite.
Kite begins a three-night stand at The Comedy Zone Thursday. He recently spoke to The Observer about his comedy roots, his knack for impressions and Russian accents, and his role on the CBS hit.
Q. How did you get into theater and comedy?
I grew up in Skokie, Illinois. My father is an old film buff, and I grew up listening to radio and watching black and white classics. He really opened my eyes to that aspect of the industry. My mother took me to theater. In high school my buddies and I would go see comedy (in Chicago). Chris Farley and Tim Meadows people we admired from Saturday Night Live came from where we came from. That was really huge for us.
Q. Where did the voices and impressions originate?
I think it came from liking radio. If I had to pinpoint the seeds of it, it was hearing it with my father people doing multiple voices. Peter Laurie in Casablanca was my first. I really enjoyed the character in his voice. He really sounded like a guilty man.
Q. How did you get the part of Oleg?
I knew the casting director from something else. She said the only Caucasian male part in the show is a 45-year-old bald Russian guy. I thought, If I know any Ill send him your way.
Q. But you knew you could pull off the accent?
Id grown up around so many Eastern European families in the Chicago-land area. Many of my friends were first generation. The first accent I learned was some sort of Eastern European. I read (the script) and I laughed out loud alone in my room.
Q. Do people expect you to have an accent?
Yeah. When I grow my hair out, a lot of different cultures claim me as their own depending on how long my hair gets. I rarely am asked what I am in terms of ethnically or culturally. Someone the other day said, You from Greece, right? Im not Greek, but I grew up next to a family that was Greek and we had similar eyes and curls in our hair.
Q. Why do you think Oleg is popular despite being kind of a perv?
(Audiences) know that guy. Theyve worked with someone similar to that. Theres charm and humor about how campy he is about sex. In our country we arent quick to highlight that. In other countries (sex is) even in basic television advertising. Hes from that world. I feel like a guy like him who grew up in Eastern Europe is used to another set of rules.
Q. Are you surprised by what 2 Broke Girls gets away with?
I think its about being clever. Its 2012. Young girls talk like the girls on the show. Young women relate to these two women. They arent these 50s stereotypes. I dont think the jokes on the show are out of character.