Jackie Kashian Shows That These Days, There’s No Such Thing as an Apolitical Comedian
As irritated as I was when people said, “If Trump gets elected it will be good for comedy,” I have to admit that they were kind of right. Jackie Kashian’s new album I Am Not the Hero of This Story (out tomorrow on Stand Up! Records) is evidence of this. The album is not an entirely political album, but during the recording Kashian decided to drop some rehearsed material to make room for opening statements more pertinent to our times. As she explains in her liner notes, “Traditionally I have not been a ‘political’ comic. Which I guess means that I’ll talk socio-political ideas regarding my own humanity, but not specific, ‘Hey this politician is a psychopath.’ Well, this was recorded December 29th, 2016. Six weeks after the 2016 presidential election. And it’s been some bizarre and horrible months.” I talked to Kashian about the new album, what it takes to bring out “Angry Jackie,” and her advice to club owners on how to foster a good comedy scene.
Something I noticed immediately about this new album is that you have a sense of urgency to your delivery. I feel like I’m pretty familiar with your voice, but this album had a particular energy to it.
That first 15 minutes is so confusing to me to some extent only because I’ve never put anything that raw, or new, or recently written on an album. I think the urgency was that I genuinely thought, “We don’t know what’s going to happen. I want this recorded.” Some of those jokes were only like the sixth time I’ve done them. The following 45 minutes is polished. Those were my favorite jokes that I’ve written the last two years.
In the liner notes you said that the first 15 minutes has more profanity than anything you’ve ever recorded before.
Yes, which is probably for a couple of reasons. One of the main reasons is that when jokes are new I can’t always find the words and so I tend to swear more.
Is that a common thing for you? When you are working on new bits do you kind of cuss your way through until they become more refined?
Yeah, I tend to swear more and tend to use more bridge words like, “Here’s the thing,” or your basic “ums” and “ahhs.” When they aren’t “ums” and “ahhs” it’s me cursing. Once I find the right word I don’t need to curse. But until I find the word I’m like, “Fuck, what’s the right word?” It’s completely insane, but it’s the process and I embrace the process.
I noticed recently on Twitter that you described yourself as “Angry Jackie.” You put it in quotes as if it was a character or an alter ego. What does it take for Angry Jackie to come out?
What happened is that somebody said that they liked “Angry Jackie.” I said, “Well, welcome to a Golden Age.” We’re in it. Standup comedy fixes everything in my life. There’s nothing that it can’t make better. There’s nothing that can fix a bad set except for another set. I’m traditionally not a political comic so for me to speak about current politics takes me getting mad. I have to get mad. What makes me mad is something I learned from my dad and that is: they want to control you with fear. They want us all to be super scared all the time. Every time I see somebody try to make me scared I get mad. It’s come out through my entire career where I’ll see a commercial or something will happen socially that is a blatant attempt to scare an old lady. Right now there’s a blatant attempt to scare me into hating Wisconsin Muslims. Whenever someone tries to scare me and I get mad I usually write a joke about it to sort of get out of my own fear and explain to myself why they’re doing it and to sort of pull the covers off of it a little bit and let everybody know, “Hey, look what they’re doing. That’s not cool.”
You recorded your album at the Acme Comedy Company in Minneapolis, which is one of your favorite spots, right?
Right. It’s my home club. I think I recorded every album there. The club owner is the greatest, the staff is awesome, and the audience gets everything. They’re on board. Even if they don’t agree, they listen.
I’ve heard so many good things about the Minneapolis scene. What do you think it is about Minneapolis that makes it such a great place to do comedy?
Everyone’s always trying to figure out how to recreate the lightning or define it, like, “How did it happen?” It isn’t luck. It’s hard work that creates a good comedy scene. Part of that is done in nurturing local talent. Often what will happen is a metropolitan area will have several different places to do standup. In Minneapolis there’s Acme, which is downtown, the House of Comedy out in the ‘burbs in The Mall of America, and then two other weekend rooms. There are four rooms for standup comedy and a bunch of one nighters around town. Acme is the longest lasting one. From the beginning Louis [Lee, club owner] said that he didn’t care if you work the other clubs. In some other towns the club owners say, “If you work my club you can’t work the other club.” You’re like, “They’re 40 minutes from each other. People aren’t going to both of those clubs. It can’t possibly matter.” What Louis said — and what is clearly true — is that more stage time means better comics. The one thing I would say that’s instrumental in making a good comedy scene is: don’t care about your competition. If you’re a club owner, don’t care if the comics that are going up at your place go up at the other places.
What do you have coming up after the album release?
I’m doing the road a bunch. I also have a new podcast with Laurie Kilmartin called The Jackie & Laurie Show. We’re going to do live episodes of those. We’ve scheduled three or four live episodes. I’m also going to Mexico with The Dork Forest. I’m doing a live Dork Forest on a cruise. It’s a nerd cruise called the JoCo Cruise. It’s 5,000 people who are fans of Jonathan Coulton. It’s me, a bunch of writers, and a couple of other comics. I’m going to do standup and a live Dork Forest. Wil Wheaton is going to be there, Ed Brubaker, John Scalzi, and Chelsea Cain. These are famous people in Dork Town.
That’s going to be a good episode.
It’s going to be fun one.
Photo by Mindy Tucker.