Jen Kirkman stops by Cedar Cultural Center

Jackie Renzetti

The self-deprecation in Jen Kirkman’s humor doesn’t seem to match up with her career. 
 
In addition to stand up, the comedian has written a New York Times bestseller titled “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From A Happy Life Without Kids” and runs a podcast called “I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman Podcast.” She created a Netflix special, “I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine),” which premiered last month. This week, Kirkman begins touring the United States and performs at the Cedar Cultural Center on Wednesday.
 
Before embarking on the tour, Kirkman took the time to chat with A&E. 
 
So is there anywhere overall that you might be looking forward to go see?
 
No, when I’m on these tours, I’m in a different city every night, so it’s travel all day, go to my room, maybe work out, eat a little bit [and] prepare for the show. For me, it’s really important to just save all my energy for the show. … By day three, I’ll probably be like, “I don’t know where I am.” Luckily I’m not in a rock band, I don’t have to yell out, “Hello, Minnesota.” 
 
I guess that sort of reminds me – I was watching your Netflix special – that’s similar to what your friend was saying in the beginning, “Oh, let’s hang out,” but you were like, “No, I’m working.”
 
When I did Acme, I was there for five days and I didn’t sight-see then, only because I was writing a book at the time. So the only sight-seeing I did was [when] I went to all of your lovely coffee shops and sat there writing. 
 
But there are times where I’ve totally been a tourist [when] I have nothing else to do. I’ve wandered around cities. … When I was in Australia last year, I didn’t go to a zoo at all, but I pretended I did because people were like, “Did you see any kangaroos?” And I’d go, “No,” and they’d get so sad. … So I should just lie and say, “Yes, I’m going to see everything.”
 
Well, I appreciate your honesty. So can audiences expect some of the bits from the special but also some newer material?
 
Yeah, the tour is like 95 percent new stuff. I made a huge mistake calling the tour “I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine).” I didn’t even think I needed to name it. I’m doing a million things at once. I got a call from my agent, “Is there a name for this tour?” And I’m like, “‘I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine.’” And then I went, “Oh no, people are going to think I’m doing the Netflix special.” But basically the Netflix special is the way you retire all that material, and it’s exciting because people have found out about me from it.  
 
As a side note, were there any other names that you wish you could have called [the tour]? 
 
I wish I had just called it “An Evening with Jen Kirkman.” From now on, everything I book that’s being announced later is going to be called that. I just like the sound of “An Evening with Jen Kirkman.” It sounds a little pretentious, which is kind of the joke; it’s not like I’m a symphony.
 
But yeah, that’s what I wish I had called it. It’s turned out fine though; I don’t think people have stayed home because they think I’m doing the special. I’ve been getting the word out like Paul Revere.
 
Gotcha. So I was wondering about the all ages component, at least for the Minneapolis show; I didn’t know if that’s something you chose?
 
No, but I don’t mind it at all. Basically for this tour, with the one nighter situation, I chose venues that [are] small theatres or rock clubs, just so I could get in and out in one night and cover as much of America as I could. Because comedy clubs, they want you for the whole week and that kind of thing. … My agent is really the one that decides the venues. No, I didn’t pick all ages, but I really love when I find out that a venue is all ages because now I have fans of all different ages, so now people that are 20 and in college can come see me, and the price is a little lower.
 
How did you get into comedy? 
 
The real answer is I don’t know. I have a million answers. Getting into comedy, there are so many things that led up to it. … I will say this, what I have finally decided, is [that] I think what got me into comedy was that all the adults in my life seemed miserable and angry and serious. And I looked anywhere else I could to find adults that seemed like they were having a good time. I am also angry and miserable and serious, but I want to have a good time and relieve myself. I never thought any adults would want to relieve themselves of this burden of being alive. It was little things here and there. …
 
There was this one moment where I was in my parents’ kitchen and they were playing the oldies’ station with songs from the ’60s, and there was a Beach Boys song called “Barbara Ann” and I think they were all drunk or something. They didn’t edit anything out, and they all started laughing and got the rhythm wrong and were singing off key for like two seconds. And I thought that was the funniest thing when I was little. I was like, “Oh my god, these adults are having such a good time. I want to be like that.” …
 
Then I go through life, and I want to be an actor, a poet, in a band. I wanted to be everything that you could think of when it came to entertainment. Then eventually, it just narrowed down until I’m 20 in college. … 
 
Honestly, it was like I wanted everything else except comedy until it was the last thing available. And once I did it, I realized it was there all along — that I loved it.
 
That’s how I came to it, if it makes any sense, just a life of loving performing and feeling like, “I hope when I grow up it doesn’t feel so awful.” 
 
You mentioned you hung out in comedy clubs in college. Your show is pretty close to the U of M campus, so I was wondering if you have any advice for college comedians? 
 
Here’s my advice: There is no advice. And if a comedian is a type of person that wants a blueprint, they’re going to fail.
 
They should just do it, figure it out for themselves. … You just have to suck for a while and be humble enough and be weirdly confident enough to do it.
 
Listening to stories is more important than getting advice. You can listen to all these professional comedians’ podcasts and hear stories from the most famous comedians working today. I think people should just listen to stories and absorb it. …
 
I think special people pursue this thing. You have to be special. Don’t be boring and ask for advice.