Q&A: Tony Cavalero
Actor. Comedian. Director. Eagle Scout. Nice guy: Tony Cavalero! You've probably seen him in HBO's The Righteous Gemstones, where he plays Keefe Chambers, a former Satan-worshipping born-again Christian who has a heart of gold, as well as a giant 666 tattoo on his chest. Here he tells us what it's like working on The Righteous Gemstones, as well as how he got into comedy in the first place. Not only is his character, Keefe, MY favorite part of The Righteous Gemstones, but he's pretty much everyone's favorite part of TRG, including Dax Shepard, who recently gave Tony a nice shout-out on his Armchair Expert podcast, so that's pretty cool.
You went to “The West Point of The South,” VMI — are you from a military family? Why choose the Virginia Military Institute?
Both of my grandfathers are veterans and I just have so much respect for them. Their presence in my life totally played a role in my decision to attend VMI. I knew I was going to need financial aid wherever I went to college and VMI offered that as well as an offer to fulfill my dream of playing Division I lacrosse! The coaches at VMI were amazing and it had such a prestigious background, so it was always top on my list. Plus I’ve always been a wildman with a “road less travelled mentality.” What really sealed the deal was the atrocities of 9/11 my senior year in high school. Although I ultimately decided not to go into the military, the idea of serving my country was one I thought very hard and long on. I’m so humbled, grateful and proud of all those who serve our country.
As a VMI cadet, I’m guessing you had plenty of opportunities to try some MREs (meals ready to eat) - did you have a favorite, and/or least favorite?
Definitely have a love/hate relationship with the beef stroganoff.
Why improv? Why comedy? I was obsessed with Letterman growing up, and would daydream of the day I could be interviewed by him. Am I insane, or did you have similar delusions? Despite being the “class clown” most of my life, when I finally started doing stand-up people were like “That’s crazy! Why would you do that?!” Is that a normal reaction, or should I get new friends? Did your friends & fam have similar reactions?
I grew up with the funniest parents and they always seemed to be the center of attention in any room! So, I was definitely a class clown like you and I was a fat kid, so I was always fighting against that. I grew up watching Three Amigos, Ghostbusters, SNL, Tommy Boy, Laurel & Hardy, Moonstruck, and so many other classics. I remember thinking that I would like to do something like that, but I never believed it to be a possibility. And then I graduated from a military college and decided to move to Hollywood and actually go for it. I would say most people thought I was crazy but my closest family and friends thought, “if anyone can do it, Tony can!” I love them for that undying support!
You’re an incredibly fit dude. What’s your diet like? Is it super strict? Any favorite comfort foods?
First off I’m blushing and thank you very much, but really we can thank my childhood obesity for that! I’m really into intermittent fasting right now. I love to do low carb, limited gluten, and high protein meals between 2pm + 8pm. My wife and I eat lots of homemade chicken and pasta (ok, not low carb at all!). In addition I drink a gallon of water and I do short HIIT workouts with weighted dumbbells daily. I’m not super strict because I love to throw down lemon cake from SusieCakes and donuts from literally anywhere!
Do you enjoy cooking? If so, what’s your favorite thing to make?
Homemade spicy fried chicken and pancakes on Sundays (I love birch benders brand).
Is working on The Righteous Gemstones as much fun as it looks? It must be surreal working with those people — especially John Goodman! Like, wow.
It’s absolutely incredible! Danny really makes it a family atmosphere. There’s always group hangouts on the weekends so it’s really friendly and casual. Surreal is exactly what it is because sometimes I find myself bowling next to John Goodman, boating with Danny McBride, or slamming down barbecue with Adam Devine.
You portrayed Ozzy in Netflix’s “The Dirt.” What was the most difficult thing about that?
Really nothing was difficult about it at all! It was a seriously radical experience. To have that be my first job after Nickelodeon’s School Of Rock got cancelled was such a gift. It was like, “watch out kiddos, Mr. Finn has left the building and here’s the Prince of Darkness!”
I just got a gig as a volunteer firefighter, but haven’t started my FF training yet — as an Eagle Scout, do you have any knot recommendations I can work on before my training starts? I don’t want to look like a total newb/asshole when I show up to class
My go-tos are two half hitches, the bowline and the sheets bend! Good luck brotha!
Your Top 5 influential records: what are they?
Pretty Hate Machine
Led Zeppelin 2
Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Well I directed a podcast/web series that my wife stars in and created called SLOP: The Podcast. Subscribe to it on Apple Podcasts and YouTube pretty please. I also have a part in season two of Miracle Workers with Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi as well as a little part on a new Hulu movie called The Binge with Vince Vaughn and Skyler Gisondo from The Righteous Gemstones! Thanks for having me bro!