Jen Kirkman, Comedian
Comedian Jen Kirkman doesn't think humanity could handle world peace. After all, there's people who can't even handle raising kids and keeping track of whether they live on a flat or round planet. And the fact that those people are on TV while a comedian capable of telling stories as hilarious, unique, and honest as Jen's is not is plain wrong. Sure, Jen's been on VH1's Acceptable TV, Comedy Central's Premium Blend, and provided her voice to a number of animated programs such as Home Movies, but that's not enough for a comedian of Kirkman's talents. Luckily, you can see her perform all over LA or buy her CD and enjoy her comedy whenever you want.
You recently released your first CD, Self Help, through Aspecialthingrecords. What sort of effect has it had on your career?
I've gotten some writing jobs from industry people listening to it and saying, "I like the way your mind works. I bet you'd be good writing for my such and such a thing." It's also helped me get booked at places around the country because I can just mail my CD to them. Of course, it helps put an extra couple dollars in my pocket when I sell them after shows. It's just baby steps right now.
How are you feeling about selling the CDs after shows?
It's the most horrible, awkward thing. I'm the one who has to stand there selling it. It feels like I have a lemonade stand. At the last show I did, the bartender literally said to me, "You're on your own," and I had to make a handwritten sign, "CD, ten dollars," and I taped it up and stood behind this makeshift booth for an hour. The people that are buying one will line up as though it's a Starbucks and I'm serving them, and the people that don't want to buy one will come and stand next to me almost behind the booth, and so I already know by their body language that they're just trying to talk and that they're not buying anything. I might do something passive aggressive and go, "Hang on a minute. Is anyone buying this? I'll let you get out of here."
Did you have a lemonade stand growing up?
My friend wanted to have one, and I felt embarrassed by the idea even then. My dad worked on a golf course and we actually lived on it, so I would have been able to pull of a prime spot right in front of the fourth tee, where the golfers would always pass. But I was just too embarrassed about doing it, because the golfers would make fun of me, like, "Tell your dad to give you an allowance!" And then I just felt weird about it, like, "Really? A car is going to stop and get out and buy shitty lemonade from a kid?" But my friend insisted that we had a lemonade stand, and, of course, nobody was buying it, so I went and got my Dynamite magazine-- I don't know if you remember Dynamite, but it was like a combination of Teen Beat and something in the doctor's office that was educational. There was a big pullout poster of Fonzie and I said, "We should do this marketing thing where whoever buys lemonade gets this poster," and it worked. One person bought it, and they got the poster, and then I was shit out of luck on the poster. I feel like my instinct for marketing was pretty good, but I just felt too embarrassed sitting there. It's like being homeless. Nothing is wrong with that, but if you're not homeless, I see no reason to sit on the street selling shit.
You've never thought about just making stuff and selling it on the side?
Actually, I think about it every time I'm not working or waiting for a check to come in the mail. I've contemplated being a candle maker, I've contemplated being one of those people that holds signs on the corner, but I'm like, "I cannot do this." I'm really paranoid about not having enough money for things. I was doing focus groups while I was on Acceptable TV on VH1. I would go and do focus groups, and they would be like, "Are any of you actors?" And I wouldn't raise my hand, and they would deliver a speech, "Don't worry, you'll all make it someday if you're actors, but until then focus groups are a great way to make money." And I would sit there like, "Thank God no one watches the show I'm on because they would recognize me and I wouldn't get this two hundred dollars in cash."
What are some ways to make money without actually having a day-to-day sort of job that you've discovered?
I find that writing for online magazines is kind of a good little chunk of change, but that's still kind of showbizzy. I'm a really good typist, so I've been transcribing from home as needed. I type ninety-nine words a minute. That's a great way to make money if you can discipline yourself and work from home. I sign up with temp agencies, but every time I call in my availability I thank God that some other job comes up and I don't have to do it. I feel like the world is saying, "You've temped enough. We're going to step in and help you." "We" meaning spirits and the world. That's my version of The Secret.
As someone that's spiritual, were you worried when The Secret came up that it would give spirituality a bad name?
Yeah. The worst is people who didn't even read the Secret but just saw the quick excerpt on Oprah, and they're like, "I'm trying to manifest stuff," and they just sit around trying to manifest stuff and then go shopping hoping that they'll manifest a way to pay off their debt.
If it were that easy just to make things happen, what would you make manifest?
I would manifest the complete disappearance of all Hummers and make everyone drive the same type of environmentally safe car. I would manifest the reverse of global warming. I would probably manifest peace. I would manifest that people have not quite no feat, but just enough that to keep them from walking in front of a bus, but nobody's irrationally afraid. But see then, I feel like with all the good stuff I'd make happen, I would probably make more horrible things happen because people would get really apathetic. So I would manifest something to make sure that my manifestations didn't go against me. And then in my own life, I would manifest perfect teeth, awesome clothes, and peace of mind.
Why only "probably" world peace?
What if world peace brought about way more destruction than we've ever seen? Because I feel like that's the secret of life, which is that we make it more difficult than it has to be. So what if we couldn't handle world peace? What if it was too peaceful, and people started fucking shit up again but on a much larger scale. Maybe what we have right now is a good amount of disruption and it's the only thing keeping people from purposely fucking their lives up because they need the drama. I don't know if the human race as a whole is like that, so I'd make world peace only if we could handle it.
You recently blogged about a similar idea, which is that you'd like a TV show called Life Coaches where the premise was that four life coaches help you improve your life. What are some aspects of your life that you think need fixing?
Well, I definitely need a TV show, so that would solve that. And I'd like to lose some weight. I want to fix my teeth, like I said earlier. This is all very shallow. I'd like to get into politics. I'd like more money. This is all very horrible stuff, I can't even think of anything good. Maybe they would just kick my ass about the way that I think.
What steps have you taken toward getting involved with politics?
None. My step would be to go the Al Franken route, which is to be a big comedy writer or performer, and then just get old and perhaps a little irrelevant in comedy, and then be super smart and able to write funny, witty political stuff and then run for senator. I think that's what I would want to do. I'm just letting time handle that one for me.
Have you gone to any protests?
I've never attended a protest, which is probably bad. I totally feel like I want to be one of those people who's like, "It starts locally, and I'm on my town thing." They were about to build this nasty high rise in my neighborhood that would totally ruin the parking, and they said, "Neighbors, you have to come," and I was totally going. I wrote it on all my calendars, felt very passionate about it, I told people I was going and I couldn't hang out with them, and I never went. And the whole time I knew I was never going to go; I just wanted to know what it would feel like to be one of those passionate people who would go to a thing like that.
Why didn't you go?
I found out that they were really only going to take seriously the opinions of people who owned their own building, and I'm renting an apartment. My landlord would've been the one to go, but I suppose if I was a badass I could have lied and said, "Yeah, I own it. Wanna see the paperwork?"
Did you try to convince your landlord to go?
I mailed him a flyer, but he lives almost two hours away, so he's not going. And he has kids, which is the ultimate thing that keeps anyone from making any progress, I think. No offense to kids.
Are your friends starting to have kids?
A lot of them are, except for my derelict friends. They're the sort who won't even have a frying pan to their name in ten years. But the people I know who have kids are actually pretty cool about it. They're still living their lives, and I don't mean that in an annoying, "They're still getting high and going to concerts," sort of way. They're just not these people that are like that woman on the View who was saying she didn't know if the world was flat or round, you know, Sherrie Shepard. Some how the topic came up about the roundness of the Earth and she said she wasn't too sure about it and Whoopi asked, "Well, what do you think?" And she answered, "I don't know. I'll tell you what I do think about: putting food on my table and taking care of my kids." Shut up. Sometimes people act as though it's so hard to take care of kids that they can't even pay attention to anything else that's going on in the world. No one can be a good citizen because they're busy having kids. Are you kidding me? It's easier than ever to do everything at once. And I can only imagine the people that built this country while having kids, who explored and pioneered it all while having kids. They weren't like, "I can't go West; I have kids."