Perhaps you know Kirby Heyborne as Elder Calhoun, the earnest missionary who traveled from Oklahoma to Holland, barely speaking a lick of Dutch and sporting horn-rimmed glasses and a folksy accent. Or maybe you know him as Jared Phelps, whose prospects of marriage, a steady job and a college education vanished when he returned from his Latter-day Saint mission.

Better yet, you might remember him as Kirby Laybourne, the sandy-haired scrapbooking specialist turned member of boy band Everclean. Heyborne has worn a lot of hats, from Latter-day Saint movie star to Teddy in “The Three Stooges.”

But Heyborne and his friends agree his best role yet is, well, Kirby Heyborne — he stars as himself in the BYUtv series “Making Good.” Though it’s the role he now sees as his dream role, it’s not where he thought he’d end up.

While Heyborne remembers performing road shows with his family growing up, he has a faint memory of one in particular. Along with his dad and brothers, he said he donned a sailor costume and they were harmonizing on stage. He thinks he was 5 or 6 years old at the time, but he can’t quite remember.

What he does remember is bonding with his family and hearing the audience laugh.

Laughter permeated his childhood. Heyborne was born in Evanston, Wyoming, and grew up in Sandy, Utah. He remembers parking in front of the television with his younger brother to watch “Saturday Night Live.”

Heyborne said he heard someone once say that when you’re watching something funny or shocking, you want to turn to the person you care most about in the room and ask them if they saw it. He would never watch it by himself, only with his brother, and he said, “When we would watch it together, we would turn to each other and ask, ‘Can you believe it? Oh, that’s so funny!’”

But for Heyborne, watching “SNL” was also homework.

“As a kid, as a teenager, I wanted to be on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” said Heyborne, explaining that watching the show helped him develop his sense of humor — he doesn’t like mean humor. He would study the characters they portrayed and learned from the show’s actors like Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Chris Farley.

Kirby Heyborne smiles for a portrait in front of his film setup in his home in American Fork on Friday, April 12, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

This kind of experience is something Heyborne thinks might be lost to society now. As a teenager, he and his family would have to clear their schedules to sit down and watch a show together. Back then, you were “sitting down with people you care about, so that you can look at each other across the room,” he said.

But moments like those propelled Heyborne forward, as well as the experience he picked up on the stage. In addition to acting, he was student body president at Alta High School and earned his Eagle Scout award.

Unlike the fictional characters he has played who served in Idaho and Holland, Heyborne served his mission in the Dominican Republic from 1995 to 1997. Then he attended the University of Utah, where he started studying music, but later changed to economics. It was during college he married his high school sweetheart, Trish — they had originally met in seventh grade.

Heyborne landed a job in finance (later, insurance) and started working to support his family. With his family as a motivation, he enjoyed the work, but soon that changed. It wasn’t fulfilling him. He started pursuing music in a regional band (that opened for ’N Sync one time) and even acted in a play.

Heyborne credits divine providence for the play because people he worked with helped him get an agent and he soon landed an audition for a movie known as “The Singles Ward” (2002).

The film’s basic premise is a Latter-day Saint stand-up comedian gets divorced unexpectedly and is thrust back into a singles ward — a term Latter-day Saints use to describe a church congregation made up exclusively of unmarried people. Heyborne played a character called Dallen Martin, and the movie launched his Latter-day Saint movie stardom.

Lincoln Hoppe, “The Singles Ward” co-star, actor and comedian, said that’s how he and Keyborne became friends. “I met him at the table reading for that film,” Hoppe said. “And he just seemed like a nice, innocent-seeming guy.” As time went on, Hoppe said he found out that Heyborne was hilarious, genuine and sincere.

“I keep using the word light — the opposite of heavy or depressing,” said Hoppe, explaining that he thought Heyborne embodied light.

From Hoppe, Heyborne learned how to do improv. “He came over to my house and we did improv for several hours, and that was it,” Hoppe said. When Hoppe and Heyborne lived in Los Angeles together, they started an improv group called “The Society.” They also continued to have some crossover in Latter-day Saint films.

“The Singles Ward” led Heyborne to star in other Latter-day Saint cult classics like “The R.M.,” “Saints and Soldiers,” “The Best Two Years,” “Sons of Provo” and “The Singles 2nd Ward.”

“The Singles 2nd Ward” even has a self-aware joke of how Heyborne became the leading actor for Latter-day Saint flicks.

“I laughed a ton on ‘Sons of Provo.’ That was improvised and we just tried to push the absurdity as far as we could with each take,” Heyborne said.

Maybe it’s time to rewatch ‘Sons of Provo’

Both Hoppe and Corbin Allred, another actor with whom Heyborne has worked on films and improv, told me that Heyborne resembles the characters he plays. “There’s a lot of Kirby Heyborne in the character in ‘Best Two Years’ and even in ‘The R.M.’ and other projects he’s done,” Allred said. “But what a lot of people don’t know is just how quietly thoughtful and intelligent he is.”

Kirby Heyborne mocks his audio recording setup for a portrait in his home in American Fork on Friday, April 12, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

His success made him into something of a bona fide Latter-day Saint celebrity. A lot of people over the years have told him how much they loved these movies and whenever they do, Heyborne said “they already are treating me like a friend” and he feels like he’s part of their families.

Allred said he’s been at book signings, music events, movie premieres and improv shows with Heyborne throughout the years and has observed Heyborne drop everything to talk to fans and really listen to them. “I can’t tell you how many times Kirby has stopped up an autograph line … because Kirby will be talking to someone and he will let them share as much as they want and he won’t interrupt. He’s genuine about it.”

People have told him that they watched his movies on Sundays as a family activity, which is something he treasures. “I think it’s just the tradition of it and what it meant for people for their special Sundays to be able to bond as a family,” Heyborne said, explaining that the movies have been passed down across generations.

By the time he was making several of these movies in the early to mid-2000s, he had moved to Los Angeles and was pursuing his comedy dreams.

“Then, God put in my path commercials and I didn’t want to be a commercial actor,” Heyborne said. “I wanted to be the main character in a sitcom or I wanted to be on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

But he did the commercial work anyway. It paid the bills and at the time, commercials often were abbreviated stories or sketches, which aligned with Heyborne’s interest. It was his commercial work that helped him land a regular cast role on a sitcom called “Free Ride” alongside Josh Dean, Dave Sheridan, Erin Cahill and Allan Havey. It felt like a heaven sent opportunity.

After six episodes, the show was canceled.

Heyborne wasn’t dissuaded and pursued other opportunities, including a play, which he felt God encouraged him to do. Plays are not his favorite, but the sound designer for the play was also an executive for a major audiobook producer. The executive asked him if he ever thought about audiobooks and Heyborne’s initial response was “I’m going to be an actor — the main guy on a sitcom or ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

But Heyborne took the opportunity anyway and more than 2,000 books recorded later, it’s become an important part of his career. “My whole life has been me thinking it’ll be one way and God saying, ‘I can make you so much more and I can help you provide for your family, so be open to it.’”

Los Angeles was good to Heyborne and his family, though working as an artist presented challenges. He said he didn’t like the late nights filming because he was away from his family, but he enjoyed the work. He had the time of his life working with Bobby and Peter Farrelly on “The Three Stooges” (2012) and won numerous awards for his audiobook narration.

I rewatched ‘The R.M.’ Here’s why I think you should, too

Allred recalled what it was like to film “Take a Chance” (2006) with Heyborne. A lot of the film was made up as they went, said Allred, but it was “some of the funnest filmmaking I’ve ever done in my entire life.” There’s a scene where Allred and Heyborne were pretending to eat badly cooked food. Heyborne started improvising and Allred said, “We could not shoot the scene because I was laughing so hard.”

Kirby Heyborne mocks his audio recording setup for a portrait in his home in American Fork on Friday, April 12, 2024. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News

Comedy seemed to be what Heyborne was destined for, but then another zigzag appeared in his path. This time, it was one that Heyborne said combined everything he wanted to do.

Heyborne became the host of the show “Making Good” and his family moved from Los Angeles to Utah County to make the show happen.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the show will make you laugh and make you cry. Heyborne travels around the country and the globe to do service activities and speak with the organizations who are out on the ground helping others. He said he’s fallen in love with every single organization he’s worked with and the show has changed him.

“It’s not about me,” Heyborne said. It’s about the people he meets and the organizations he works with, and he said he no longer asks how he can be the main guy on the sitcom. Instead, he asks “What can I give?”

Heyborne told me about one early episode where he traveled to Wilmington, North Carolina, after Hurricane Florence in 2018. He met up with Operation BBQ Relief to deliver meals to people who were impacted by the disaster. It’s Heyborne’s custom to write a song for the people he serves with and that time was no exception.

This song sparked tears from the group and Heyborne left North Carolina energized and contemplative. It’s not the career he set out to have in some ways; instead, it’s something better.

“I would much rather be known as someone who is kind than who is not,” Heyborne said, adding the show gives him that opportunity.

Heyborne is the kind of person who sacrifices his time and comfort level “to bless the world with kindness, with love, with humor and with joy,” Allred said. The two have been friends for decades and Allred said Heyborne’s the real deal — kindness is his guiding philosophy. Hoppe said the same, that Heyborne’s a genius at improv, but he’s also “just wonderful.”

Coming up next for Heyborne is a movie called “The Faith of Angels,” and he’s going to continue doing his show “Making Good” and recording audiobooks.

But the real story of Kirby Heyborne isn’t just his career, it’s his faith and family.

When Heyborne spoke to the Church News about becoming the emcee for RootsTech, he had a simple answer: “I’ll do anything for the Church.”

Heyborne reaffirmed his comment and said, “The most important thing is being a disciple of Jesus Christ.” It has “always felt right, always just felt good to just believe,” he said.

For Heyborne, being a disciple of Christ means being there for his wife and children, being kind and lifting others up. “We talk a lot about being husbands and fathers,” Allred said about his friendship with Heyborne. “At times where we’ve been together, we talk often about the most meaningful things in our lives, which is our families.”

A conversation with Kirby Heyborne (+video)

When Heyborne jets off for work, he counts the days until he’s back with his family. His family life is simple. He loves to have gospel discussions and make healthy food for his family. With his family, he loves to sing songs and laugh. During the most recent general conference, he spent the weekend making them food while listening — chocolate waffles and basil mozzarella burgers (he went as far as to make the buns).

Heyborne is something of a bread baker and grinds his own wheat (reportedly, he makes a really good sun-dried tomato and feta loaf). He has a whole philosophy behind bread making and has read numerous books about it. “It’s a spiritual experience,” he said, adding that he thinks about Jesus as part of the leavening process.

As Heyborne has reflected on his life, he no longer wants to go on “SNL” and doesn’t necessarily need to end up the star of a sitcom. The best role he plays is himself. “My faith,” Heyborne said, “that’s who I am.”