Myq Kaplan on Fatherhood, Autism, and Polyamorous Creativity
Myq Kaplan’s brand new album No Kidding is out today on aspecialthing records. Recorded at Doc’s Lab in San Francisco, No Kidding expands on both Kaplan’s catalog and his performance style. His swift and layered delivery of punchlines and tags is still there, but fans will notice that those classic Kaplan skills are now being utilized to compliment a more narrative set with longer, more story-like bits. The subject matter is evergreen, because as Kaplan puts it, “One of my goals for comedy is to put out an album that will be listenable for some chunk of time. I want to give people things that they can enjoy as much as possible for as long as possible.” I talked to Kaplan about the through-line of his new album, why he has so many autistic fans, and his polyamorous approach to creativity.
The album is called No Kidding. A recurring theme throughout the album is that you have no interest in children whatsoever. Do you really feel that strongly about kids? That you have no purpose for them, they are unnecessary, and one of the worst things that could happen to you?
Let me say firstly that I’m saying it for me. One of the jokes has been misunderstood as me saying that I don’t like them to exist. I do say that as a joke, but the reason the album came into existence was because in 2011 I was dating a girl. It was really great. She’s wonderful. The only reason that we stopped dating was because she definitely wanted to have three children within the next so many years. If you want to have three children in 10 years you need to start figuring out who the person is that you want to have them with. When we first started dating I didn’t know if I wanted kids. I wasn’t sure. That was fine for a while. I was hoping that — because I loved her — maybe at some point…I know that some people have the biological thing kick into place. That just hadn’t happened for me. I’m certainly not opposed to other people having children. If you want to have a child, I want you to have a child. I’m not the most strongly opposed to having a child. I’m just pretty not strongly for it.
You’re agnostic about fatherhood. I think that’s a good place to be. Of all of the big decisions you have to make in life, this is one of those ones where if you’re not certain, you probably shouldn’t do it. That uncertainty will in one way or another manifest itself in the way that child is raised.
Definitely. I know people who have had children and have told me, “I love my child and I’m happy to have them and know them, but I would definitely be happy in a life where I didn’t have this child. I was happy without the child. The child wasn’t planned. I did my best with what circumstances life gave me.” With the number of people who’ve told me that, I can only imagine how many people there are feeling even more extremely. There’s a taboo. If I had a kid and had these doubts and reservations I wouldn’t want them to know about it. If I had a kid I would make it happen, but I don’t have to have one. Although there are people who would disagree, like my grandmother.
I’m picturing a sitcom moment where as a father you don’t have the heart to tell a child that they were a total mistake, but you end up saying something like, “I’m still not sure about you.”
Oh yeah. Is “agnostic about fatherhood” a thing you’ve said before?
I like that phrase a lot. I’m definitely not an atheist about it, like, “Kids don’t exist at all,” which is obviously a misunderstanding of the analogy, but…just be a good person, live your life, and when you do come across kids, be nice to them. When they start screaming you can say, “Oh, good. I’m not the person who has to make them stop screaming.”
What made you choose Doc’s Lab in San Francisco as the place to record your album?
It was a happy confluence of events. Number one, I love San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite towns in the country, both just to be in, and to perform comedy in. I like the people, the culture, and the comedy scene is great. The last thing I had recorded was my Netflix special. It was recorded in a thousand-seat theater, which is fun and good to do, but I wasn’t going to do that again. I like a smaller, more intimate venue. Plus, I was just ready to record it. I had sort of been ready for a year, waiting to see if maybe I would do a special, but by the time I recorded it I had almost two albums worth of stuff ready to go. I had to just get one of them out. I had that show booked and I talked to aspecialthing records, who sort of had an open door for me, like, “If you want to make an album at some point let us know.” So I said, “Do you want to come record an album July 2016 at Doc’s lab?” They said yes and it all kind of came together.
On the album you talk about being the comic who probably has the highest quota of autistic fans. I couldn’t help but notice that in the track listing that all 17 tracks are grouped in three-subject clusters. Tattoos, Jews, and Lasers. Cougars, Cats, and Kids. You’re not autistic, right?
I believe that is correct. I’ve certainly never been diagnosed.
Obviously though something is happening with your delivery, the way you break down language, the way you organize things into groups, the rapid fire way in which your brain works. It seems like you are more than just a super-smart comedian. Have you ever been diagnosed with anything that would explain your performance, writing, and delivery?
Great question. In my understanding as a layperson who has done some reading and thought about the topic, if autism exists on a spectrum, that would mean that everybody, I assume, is somewhere along that spectrum. I would say that I am further along to the autism end of the spectrum than a lot of people that I know. I haven’t been diagnosed. It’s just my layperson’s opinion. But as far as the grouping of track titles on that album, that’s a fun challenge that I’ve created for myself. On Meat Robot all of the tracks were in pairs. For my special, I went up to groups of threes. I did the same thing for this album. I like to create challenging structures and force myself to work within them.
Will the tracks on the next release be in groups of fours?
Actually, the next thing I’m working on is kind of Inception themed. I’m getting the format close to where I want it.
You recently released another album, a non-traditional comedy release called Many Mini Musics. Can you tell me more about that project?
I would say it’s so non-traditional a comedy release that I wouldn’t even call it a comedy release. I’ve been a musician my whole life. My parents were music teachers. I started playing violin when I was four because I was made to. I hated it, but I had to because they were in charge. The violin lessons, theory classes, orchestras, quartets, and ensembles that I played in every week were like my mom’s religious upbringing for me. I also went to temple and had a bar mitzvah, but that wasn’t nearly as important as music. Even though I hated it for so long, in high school I was able to fill the sorrow groove with the joy of playing guitar. I had a buddy who had a guitar and I just picked it up and started playing around with it. I figured it out easily because I knew how to read music and had finger dexterity from playing the violin. I was able to create this joyful thing that became my life’s passion initially. I started writing songs and playing at summer camp talent shows and college coffee houses. It’s what originally got me into comedy because I found a place to perform my music. It was the comedy studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Eugene Mirman started and so many great comedy things have happened. My dream was to be a singer/songwriter. I went there to play songs and in between songs I would talk, which was a new thing for me. Making people laugh from just talking? I didn’t know that was a thing that I could do with regularity or purpose. I thought I would end up married to music as a career. It was my dream, my true love. But as it turns out, I ended up in a lifelong partnership with comedy. But I still see music on the side. It’s an open relationship. We can have threesomes. We can do whatever we want.
Myq’s Feb Album Release Shows:
2/17 – Greensboro, NC @ The Idiot Box
2/18 – Asheville, NC @ The Southern
2/19 – Durham, NC @ Motorco
2/28 – LA, CA @ UCB Franklin, Put Your Hands Together