SEAN Kelly is not a man easily missed.
The ever-smiling, ever-shouting auctioneer off hit TV show Storage Hunters isn’t acting when he’s on our screens – he really is that larger than life.
We caught up ahead of his night of stand-up and charity auction at the Palace Theatre next week.
So just what are we going to get from this big, bald American’s show I ask?
“The biggest challenge we’ve been having, is trying to communicate is that me, Green Mile and T-Money, have been stand-up comedians for 19 years and that we started off in comedy at the comedy store in California,” he explains.
“People don’t realise Storage Hunters came much later. I got in the auction business about seven years after I started doing stand-up, and when I learnt how to make money at the storage auctions that’s when I taught T-Money how to come and make money.“And then I needed a security guy and Green Mile was the biggest guy I knew. So, I hired him. And then when I got the offer to do the TV show it was just natural to bring the two of them on the show with me.
“So, people know us from the TV show, but what they don’t realise is that for 19 years the three of us have been doing comedy together and for eight years we had a comedy club in San Diego where the three of us did seven shows every week. So, when we come out on this comedy tour, people are going to see a proper stand-up comedy show.
“And then the three of us come out together and do a charity auction for Help the Heroes where we ask the audience to bring old tat from home and donate it and then we auction it back of and we give 100 per cent of the proceeds to Help for Heroes. And then for anyone that wants to meet us, stick around, coz we’ll meet everybody in the audience.
“What I love is when people go, are they funny? Well T-Money he recently won the LA comedy festival. Green Mile won the Detroit comedy festival and I just did the Edinburgh Fringe and I got two 4 star reviews. So, yeah, we’re funny!”
Why does he think the show that made him instantly recognisable to millions of people, Storage Hunters, proved so popular?
“When I first came up with the idea for Storage Hunters I was not looking to create a storage auction TV show, I was trying to come up with ideas to create some kind of comedy show, because we wanted to become famous as comedians,” he recalls with a chuckle.
“But this one day, these two guys got into a fist fight at my auction and I thought, hold on this is my show! This is Antiques Roadshow meets WWF. I’m like the Jerry Springer of the auction world.
“What the viewers love about it, is all the things I love about it. It’s kind of gambling. No one knows what’s behind the door. You’re basically blind-bidding. It’s very emotional, because people want to try to win, so they might be bidding more than what the stuff is even worth.
“And I’m really good at raising that pressure cooker. People stop making rational business decisions and they start make emotional decisions and when you start making emotional decisions with your money you might be in trouble.”
Has he ever gotten caught up in auction fever himself?
“Oh yeah,” he exclaims. “At my own auction. Once in Los Angeles it was a rainy day – I know in the UK it rains a lot but in LA it does not and so I go in when we would have had 100 – 150 people show up I had six people show up.
“So instead of cancelling the auction I did it, but I had like 60 units to sell.
“So, when I got down to last 17 units those six people were just out of money. And so, I went to the owner of the facility and said, I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you 100 bucks per unit and I’ll buy all 17 of them. And he goes, ‘deal.’
“We shook on it and I bought all 17. And then I realised that, oh God I don’t own a truck! I had to go hire a truck.
“And then, oh God I have nowhere to store it. I’ve got go rent a storage unit to put it all in. And then I’ve got start going to sale and sell all this stuff. It was hard work.”
At the age of 16, Sean was living on his own in Germany. His first job was as a forklift driver.
Since then he’s been undercover store detective, he’s worked for the US military intelligence with top secret clearance (as a German translator, listening in to East German communications.) He was squad leader in the US Army running intelligence operations during desert storm in Iraq. He managed the fifth largest weekly newspaper in the United States for three years. He’s created four TV shows – the longest-running of which was Storage Hunters.
It’s seems like he’s been everywhere. Is he looking forward to coming to Essex I wonder?
It turns out he’s actually a bit of a fan of our county!
“We actually filmed some episodes of Storage Hunters UK down in Essex. I’ve done some stand-up comedy in Essex and I also discovered, spending as much time in London as I have in the last three years, that almost every single one of my taxi cab drivers who loves Storage Hunters, they live in Essex.
“When we go to Essex, it’s just one of those areas where we find a lot of people who enjoy Storage Hunters. I love it.”
So, what’s next for this veritable whirlwind of a man?
“I love doing stand-up comedy so I don’t ever see myself not doing that,” he says.
“I’ve always wanted to try and create another TV show – I have some ideas about entrepreneur shows that I think will be better than storage hunters.
“Then I want to do motivational speaking, I want to go and talk to troubled teens, to young adults who are struggling and I want to tell them about my journey. I really want to inspire young people.
“And then I’d like to try and do more charity auctions where I raise money for non-profits because that is extremely rewarding.
“You know, in 2013 I raised millions of dollars for non-profits doing charity auctions – just that one year. It made me realise that just through doing that all the lives that money would impact, people I will never meet.
“When I go to my grave I want to be able to look back and think I tried to give back more than I took from this life.”
Sean Kelly and the Stars of Storage Hunters is at the Palace Theatre, London Road, Westcliff, on October 5. The show is 12+. Tickets start at £24.50. To book call the box office on 01702 351135.
This feature was first published in the Echo newspaper on Friday, September 29, 2017: www.echo-news.co.uk