From standup to stardom

Though Hollywood legend is replete with stories of stars who spent years working dead-end jobs before finally catching their break, few have struggled for a share of the spotlight with the perseverance, creativity and not-so-quiet desperation of Jamie Kennedy.

Kennedy, 36, who will be appearing at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco on Sunday, reached the depths before the heights after dropping out of Pennsylvania’s Delaware County Community College for an acting career in Los Angeles. Though he did snag an uncredited role in “Dead Poet’s Society” before he turned 20, he couldn’t be content with sporadic work as an extra. Short-lived gigs at Red Lobster and Humphrey Yogart

weren’t cutting it either. Soon, after failing to make the rent at his $90-a-month apartment, he found himself living out of his car.

It was miserable, sure, but it also provided material. Kennedy funneled his frustrations into standup comedy, testing early routines on crowds at venues like the Laugh Factory and even L.A.’s star-studded Scientology Center. He also invented an alter ego — Hollywood super-agent Marty Power, inspired by real-life über-rep Marty Bauer — to pitch his services to the studios. With a gravelly Bronx accent and tall tales of Tinseltown glory, Kennedy’s fast-talking schmoozer worked the phones day and night, and his tireless self-promotion paid off. In 1996, Kennedy landed a supporting role in Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet.” Months later, he made himself known to ageneration of teens as video-store nerd Randy Meeks in Wes Craven’s “Scream.”

These days, Kennedy’s plate isn’t just full, it’s overflowing. In May, the “Malibu’s Most Wanted” star launched his new MTV series “Blowin’ Up,” in which he and sidekick Stu “The Jew” Stone attempt to take the rap world by storm despite their goofy rhymes and white-boy self-consciousness. A week later, he released “Unwashed,” a comedy album culled from a recent standup gig in San Jose.

Yet Kennedy insists he’s still committed to acting. “I wanted to do one comedy rap song, then I did two and then we made an entire album,” he says. “The way we were collaborating was funny, and we thought it could become a show. But what I want to do most is make movies. I love stand-up, but I really love to act, and there’s less pressure in that environment.”

Fans at Sunday’s one-night stand at Cobb’s can expect a 45-minute set filled with Kennedy’s spot-on impressions and playful jabs at the Catholic church. (“I always thought they were offering the ‘booty of Christ’ … I’ll pass on that part of the chicken, father.”) There will be plenty of new material, mixed with time-tested routines from “Unwashed,” all delivered with an eye toward keeping it fresh. “I like to do standup, I like to improv with the crowd,” he says. “I tell stories, jokes and I always keep mixing it up. The fans will get what they always get from Jamie — unpredictability. You never know where I’m going to go.”

Comedy show preview

Jamie Kennedy

Where: Cobb’s Comedy Club, 915 Columbus Ave.,

San Francisco

When: Sunday, 9 p.m.

Tickets: $25

Info: www.ticketweb.com or call 415-928-4320

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