In Part I of my interview with stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman, we discussed, among other things, her ongoing online interaction with Bernie Sanders supporters.
Today, we talk about Trump, but if you’re concerned that Kirkman and I are here to break down policy or alphabetically list this administration’s missteps, allow me to allay those worries straightaway.
I’m genuinely interested in how comedians handle politics in their acts and it often brings me joy to see the ways in which it can be done effectively. Getting the opportunity to ask stand-ups about it in a one-on-one setting is not something I take lightly, and bending the ear of a comic of Kirkman’s caliber is a unique thrill.
However, you won’t read about the military-industrial complex, tax cuts for the rich, climate change, sexism, racism or pick your least favorite ism in this column space today. That isn’t because Kirkman, who plays Durham’s Carolina Theatre on Nov. 1, and I aren’t aware of those things. It’s tough being a human American these days and not having an opinion on how Trump’s presidency is going, and that’s exactly what I wanted Kirkman to describe from a comedian’s perspective, which she did deftly.
There was also a Hallmark Channel discussion, lest you still harbored any illusions about whether or not I want work in political punditry.
Enjoy the interview, follow Kirkman on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
TC: I saw Jackie Kashian and Maria Bamford two weeks ago and Jackie opened her set by saying, “I wasn’t a political comedian, but I am now, because I’m a human being” and the crowd went nuts and I thought it was brilliant and funny. Are subjects like Trump almost unavoidable for you on stage too even if you’re not necessarily trying to go after those topics?
JK: You put it exactly. A lot of people have asked me if I’ve made a choice to do political comedy and I always say, “Well, if you’re a brain surgeon but there’s a real uptick in pancreatic cancer, and because of that, you think, ‘I better go do that.’” You’re not trained to do that. Doctors are probably like, “Yeah, we can do both.” I don’t even know if that’s a good analogy.
TC: I think it’s a great one.
JK: In my opinion, and maybe I have a little bit of an outdated opinion of what political comedy is, I think of it as quick jokes about the headlines of the day and that’s it. That kind of comedy would be impossible to do because things happen so quickly and who has time to write like that when they’re traveling? In that traditional sense, no, I’m not (a political comic). But in the sense that my life, which is what I talk about on stage, if it happened to me or if I thought it, it probably goes in the act. It’s not really observational. So I guess because most of my life now is walking around with just a cloak of extra heavy weight of, this is anxiety producing. I’m checking the news every second. Is he getting ousted? What’s happening now? I’m not addicted to what he’s saying, but I’m really addicted to what’s going on. We have a certain responsibility, those of us who aren’t being deported or targeted, to use our privilege for good. It found me and I’ve never had a situation where almost 100 percent of the audience is in the same boat. It’s something where, I think even your friend who said (Trump) is the lesser of two evils1 would be able to sit through my act and still say, “That’s a funny point of view.” He’d understand that there’s some badness going on.
I talk about the stress that it’s caused me, but I don’t really get into…I don’t even know if I say his name, but it’s obvious what I’m talking about. I talk about what I did on election night because I was so disappointed, but I kind of veer off into a territory where it really goes in a different direction. On election night, I was getting the champagne ready and then that slow realization of disappointment, and then I went immediately into a media blackout. I turned off my phone and put on the Hallmark Christmas Channel.
TC: [laughs] Did you really do that?
JK: Swear to God. I watched two of those (movies) and I knew that he won or it would be different in the morning because…I just didn’t wanna know. I didn’t want to be nail-bitingly watching it. I just didn’t wanna know and I didn’t know until the next day. I was like, “I can’t deal.”
So I talk about that, then I veer off into how amazingly, predictably, reliably ridiculous those movies are. [interviewer, Kirkman laugh] Then I talk about what my new life is, which is refreshing Twitter every four minutes. I follow all of those weird people who have their predictions and they say that they have inside info. They’ll say things like, “Tomorrow, something big is coming” and I believe it every time.
TC: As a person who has never watched the Hallmark Channel, I may have to start tuning in now just to get a break from reality.
JK: The movies are definitely not reality. Every movie is about a woman who is very busy with her job and she’s about to find love. Then her car breaks down in Vermont where some guy runs a Christmas tree farm and they fall in love so she quits her job. It’s always a happy ending and the woman gets everything in her life she ever wants. Maybe that’s why I’m watching them. This only happens now in Hallmark movies, where a woman is happy in society.
TC: She doesn’t have to worry about all the constraints that are still placed on women. Jen, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s always a pleasure. I’m looking forward to your show in Durham and I hope the tour continues to go well.
JK: You’re so welcome, and I’m gonna steal Jackie’s opening line. I’ll let her know. [interviewer laughs] I’ll start my show that way.
TC: Perfect! The Durham crowd loves it and Jackie seems like she’s a giving person so I’m sure she won’t mind.
JK: Well, I’ll try to think of my own between now and then, but I’ll see you guys soon. I’m really looking forward to it.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes:
Deleted Instagram off my phone two hours ago and I've already completed my masters
— Alison Agosti (@AlisonAgosti) October 4, 2017
- In Part I of the Kirkman interview, the author mentioned engaging in political talk on a golf trip and hearing a friend respond to a question about Trump by saying he’s the lesser of two evils. For clarity’s sake, Hillary Clinton is the other, worse evil, according to this friend. ↩