Famous Kansas Citians: Actor Paul Rudd
By Diana Lambdin Meyer
When comedic actor and Kansas City native Paul Rudd returns to town, the first thing he does is settle in at his parents’ Leawood home for a cup of tea and a bagel. That tradition is a nod to his parents British and Jewish heritage, but don’t think for a second that his Midwestern roots aren’t ever present in the roles he plays.
“I love coming back to Kansas City and hearing people say things like ‘have a nice day’ at the grocery store,” he said. “I live in New York and spend a lot of time in LA, but people in the Midwest keep me grounded. I’ve been told I’m a pretty polite guy and that’s because of Kansas City.”
A graduate of Shawnee Mission West High school who attended the University of Kansas, Rudd is often first recognized for his role as Michael Hannigan who married Phoebe Buffay in the last two seasons of “Friends.” In addition to Lisa Kudrow and Jennifer Anniston, Rudd has worked with Julia Roberts, Kathryn Heigl, Ashley Judd and Reese Witherspoon. That these women are considered some of the hottest women in Hollywood is not lost on the boy from Johnson County Kansas.
“I can’t believe that I can find work, and then to work with these women, wow!” he said.
Rudd delights in introducing his hometown to the rest of the world through his work. In the 1995 movie “Clueless” he wears a KU hat in several scenes. To other movie sets he brings posters of his favorite bands that play in Lawrence and Kansas City nightclubs.
A huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, Rudd returns home often, particularly during football season. Among his proudest professional accomplishments was narrating the 2007 HBO Sports documentary “Hard Knocks” when the show focused on the Chiefs’ training camp.
He also lends his voice as Derek in the 2009 Dreamworks animated feature “Monsters & Aliens,” a project that he believes let his personality shine. “I’m really a big doofus and doing a voice over really allows you to be bigger and goofier than most screen work.”
Rudd enjoys returning to Kansas City events such as the annual Irish Fest over Labor Day weekend and the Kansas City Improv Festival, as well as the Art of Improv Comedy Fest in Lawrence.
“I love flying into KCI and seeing the farm fields, and those terminals,” he said. “It’s the greatest airport to get around in and that’s one way I know I’m home.”
Photos: Sam Urdank/Universal Pictures