Brian Howe reveals the spark that makes Kevin Can F**K Himself work so well

Brian Howe as Pete - Kevin Can F*** Himself _ Season 1, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC
Brian Howe as Pete - Kevin Can F*** Himself _ Season 1, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC /

You might recognize Brian Howe as the grizzled former priest known for giving unsolicited advice and sitting comfy in a living room chair on AMC’s new breakout dark dramedy Kevin Can F**K Himself.

Howe’s character, Pete McRoberts, is Kevin’s (Eric Petersen) father and based on his regressive sense of humor and the way he always goes along with Kevin and Neil’s (Alex Bonifer) latest moronic endeavor—even to the detriment of his daughter-in-law, Allison (Annie Murphy)—it’s easy to see where Kevin gets all of his, er, charms!

But while Pete might not be the person you want to let housesit for a week, Brian Howe is a perfectly lovely, talented, and all-around charming guy who I had the chance to chat with about his work on the show, the cast, and what he thinks makes Kevin Can F**K Himself work so well!

An industry veteran with an impressive resume featuring projects like The Pursuit of Happyness, Westworld, and The Newsroom, Howe knows finding a cast with the right amount of chemistry entails, especially for a project as bold and daunting as this one.

Keep reading to learn about his audition process, the behind-the-scenes bonding, and the show’s fascinating dynamic between sitcom and drama!

Kevin Can F**K Himself
Alex Bonifer as Neil, Eric Petersen as Kevin, Brian Howe as Pete in Kevin Can F*** Himself Season 1, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC /

Chatting with Brian Howe, who plays Pete McRoberts on Kevin Can F**K Himself.

Show Snob: Kevin Can F**K Himself is so fun. I love that it’s basically two very different shows in one.

Brian Howe: It really is. The idea was, “what’s the other side of this world?” I love the conceit of Kevin’s world being bright, and he gets laughs, and everything he does is hilarious. But we go outside that world when Allison exits the room, we follow her, and suddenly it’s real.

What are the real-world implications of Kevin’s world? It’s not like anything I’ve worked on. I’ve had some great adventures, but all in fairly traditional storytelling and this show was not that. It was exciting from the get-go.

Show Snob: I was going to say, looking at your resume, it looks like you’ve done everything over the years. You’ve done comedy and drama. You’ve done traditional sitcoms. How is this experience really different for you?

Brian Howe: That’s a great question because when we started, I approached it as I would any sitcom. Instinctively, as an actor, you make choices to go a little bigger. Normally there is a live audience. There couldn’t be this time because of COVID.

But when we had everything fully blocked and were ready to tape, Craig [DiGregorio, executive producer] and Valerie [Armstrong, creator and executive producer] and the production would bring in some “laughers,” [Laughs] to be off in the corner of the soundstage. The reason for that is because it really informs your pacing.

It’s not enough to say, “well, this might get a laugh so you might put a pause here.” You never want to do that. You don’t want to wait for a laugh; you want to hold for a laugh, which is a whole different thing. In sitcoms, you hold for a laugh. It was a little weird at first but thank God we had that little pocket of laughers because you deliver a line, and yes, there would be a laugh, so it would allow for that timing to take place.

That was the COVID challenge. People in the build-up to the show were saying, “there shouldn’t be a laugh track,” but yes, there should be a laugh track! A laugh track is lame, and it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be for the wacky sitcom scenes.

Show Snob: One thing I did think was interesting about the show is that the sitcom scenes are so heightened it makes you reconsider the way you watch sitcoms in general. It’s interesting to see that contrast.

Brian Howe: It is. When you have that perspective from Allison’s point-of-view into the real world, and then you go back into the sitcom scenes, they become a little cringey. Yet because of our brilliant writers, you can’t help but laugh. Then there will be a shot of Allison, and you’ll be like, “oh no, that’s terrible what they just said.” But you can’t help but laugh at him and this crew being buffoons.

Show Snob: You make a good point. It makes the audience complicit because they’re laughing at the sitcom, and the editing is so precise with how the tone shifts. What drew you specifically to the role of Pete, and what was it like working with Alex Bonifer and Eric Petersen, who play Neil and Kevin? 

Brian Howe: When I first auditioned, which was my last in-person audition before COVID closed the world down, and I was in the great Felicia Fasano’s [casting director] office, and I gave an audition, and what I love about the in-person stuff is I get to talk to the casting director and the producers. Valerie and Craig were there, and we got to talk about this guy Pete.

In the [casting] sides, Pete wasn’t fully fleshed out. There was a reference to him no longer being a priest because he kept seducing the nuns. [Laughs] Including the one that became his wife! Then I had a callback audition. Eric and Alex were present for that. I had the experience of working with those guys in Felicia’s office before we hit the stage.

The three of us got to interact, so I got a sense of what Alex was going to do with Neil, which was hilarious and how Eric was going to play Kevin. On paper, I didn’t like Kevin. I told Eric this. [Laughs] But then I saw how Eric was going to play him, and he’s thoroughly charming and goofy. I was like, “Oh my god, you’re like Jackie Gleason.”

We had a hint of what it was going to be like, and then we would occasionally get together on Zoom, and we would do a readthrough of the script, just to play, because there was nothing better to do! We were all stuck where we were because of COVID, but we really all got to know each other with Valerie and Craig, and the lovely late Lynn Shelton joined us for a few. That was really fun. That was really great. Everyone, for some reason, had a really good Zoom connection. We got to see how we were all going to play this and laugh and get to know each other.

I was trying to contain my fanboy enthusiasm for Annie Murphy, who I’d just finished watching in Schitt’s Creek and then boom! There she is on my computer screen talking to me. I had to be a professional peer. I couldn’t be a fanboy!

When we finally got together in mid-September, early October, it was our first time physically together. It was really a hand-in-glove situation, so we got to the stage and were already familiar with each other.

Kevin Can F*** Himself
Alex Bonifer as Neil, Brian Howe as Pete in Kevin Can F*** Himself Season 1, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Zach Dilgard/AMC /

Show Snob: I think it comes across, too, that you guys had that bond already.

Brian Howe: I think it does too. There was total comfort right away. The only torture was that being on stage was the only time we were in physical proximity to each other! Because you would have to go back to your apartment and stay there.

Show Snob: With sitcoms, the chemistry really has to be right, more so than any other type of show.

Brian Howe: Yes, you can sense when something is being forced, and you can sense when there is a comfort factor. The best example of that is Friends. You can tell they all became personally really comfortable with each other. There was an effortlessness to that, and it translated like crazy. We’re having a blast with each other. I think that comes across too.

Show Snob: Your character is known for giving unsolicited advice. Have you ever had someone in your life like that?

Brian Howe: My mom, God love her. She always had some wisdom. She always thought that I could be a cameraman or a newscaster if the acting thing didn’t turn out. She was big on “Plan B,” Which is kind of backhanded, [Laughs] but I understood what she was saying because how often does it work out for someone? It’s a crazy profession I’m in.

Oh, and this is something else. When periods would go by or a couple of weeks would go by, Mom would suggest that I drive onto one of the lots and maybe just walk onto a set, like that’s something you can do! And offer to get coffee for people just to be near the director.

Then maybe the director would see me and say, “Let’s put Brian in the show.” And I’d go, “Mom, thank you, I’m amazed I didn’t think of that already. Not one of those things can be done! But I’m loving the ideas and the innovation. Thank you, mom.” [Laughs].

Show Snob: Yeah, you might get escorted by security in that case!

Brian Howe: Oh escorted, yes! [Laughs] They’d have pistols drawn as I crashed through the security gate.

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New episodes of Kevin Can F**K Himself air Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC. You can also stream the show by subscribing to AMC+.