Celebrities head to Westport garage to spend ‘Ten Minutes’ on local man’s talk show

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WESTPORT — For the past two years, Brian Kelsey has been a low-key celebrity stalker.

The Westport resident has scanned local listings for appearances by famous comedians, singers and other performers. He has filled the email inboxes and voicemails for the publicists of celebrities who live locally or who plan to come to town. But Kelsey’s ardor isn’t anything to be feared — he’s just trying to put on a show.

Kelsey, 52, is the host of “Ten Minutes with Brian Kelsey,” an internet talk show that he hosts out of his home’s garage. As the title suggests, Kelsey spends about 10 minutes each episode chatting with a celebrity. Guests so far have included Craig Melvin, host of “Today” on NBC ,and CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, among others.

“It’s such a pleasant experience,” said Kelsey, a veteran of television and radio who has worked with such celebrities as Martha Stewart and Howard Stern. “When I see them opening the garage door and walking into my garage, they’re regular people.”

The venture began because Kelsey has had a longtime obsession with late-night talk shows, particularly “Late Night with David Letterman.” In the pre-internet days, he said, talk shows were something special.

“It was appointment viewing,” Kelsey said. “Nothing was streaming. If you missed it, you missed it.”

Kelsey started to wonder if he could host his own show, given his background and the fact that many celebrities live in or close to Westport. So he decided to go for it. He built his own desk “to the exact scale of Conan O’Brien’s desk,” Kelsey said, and decided to operate his own cameras and book guests.

He was already an acquaintance of at least two famous folks — Camerota and actress Stephanie Szostak. Kelsey decided to start with them and try to reach out to other celebrities.

That has been the tough part. Kelsey has had so many refusals that he has devoted segments of the show to reading polite, but firm, rejection letters from the likes of fellow talk show host Seth Meyers and actor Justin Long. But he isn’t discouraged.

“The fun of it is the chase — trying to get the most famous person I can to come to my disgusting garage,” Kelsey said. “It’s so hard convincing people. It’s like ‘Who the hell are you?’ ”

Yet when he manages to get a big celebrity, they’re often pleased to be there. One of the best examples of this, Kelsey said, was Melvin. “He said ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’ ” Kelsey recalled.

It was a cold day when the TV personality shot his episode, Kelsey said. And, due to the pandemic, Melvin was sitting outside in Kelsey’s driveway while Kelsey was inside in his garage studio. But they made the most of it, having a parka-clad Melvin sitting in front of a fire, sipping a bourbon.

Drinking is a staple of Kelsey’s makeshift show, a callback to the early days of TV talk when guests and hosts could share a drink or a cigarette during a segment.

“I always ask what a celebrity’s drink is,” when booking a guest, Kelsey said.

The answer is often something alcoholic, but not always. Either way, sharing a drink helps build the show’s fun, relaxed atmosphere. That helps, because Kelsey often tries to get his guests to do something silly. Most notably, he talked Camerota into letting him scan her cellphone address book and try to call other famous people.

That particular bit paid off, and led to an impromptu chat with TV host Geraldo Rivera.

Of course, being guest-dependent means there’s no set release schedule for episodes. Shows happen when they happen, Kelsey said, and if a guest cancels at the last minute, there isn’t a show. He’s also not sure what the future holds for his largely DIY enterprise. Kelsey said he’d like to go pro as a host, but he knows it’s difficult.

As for now, Kelsey continues to send emails, make phone calls and check out who’s coming to town.

“Whatever the future holds, I’m going to keep doing it because it’s fun,” he said.

To watch “Ten Minutes with Brian Kelsey,” visit https://www.tenminuteswith.com/.

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