Jen Kirkman Gets Drunk, Writes Books, Talks Lipshtick


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Comedian does it all. To her name she has: four sloppy narrations of Comedy Central’s Drunk History, a five-year stint as a panelist and writer for Chelsea Lately, and a recent book called “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life without Kids” — which is a New York Times Bestseller. Casual, Jen. Now touring the country, Kirkman sat with us during her stop in New York. She talked shop about her podcast, what it’s like no longer having a day job, and why she’s excited about her appearance in this weekend’s “Lipshtick”: an all-female comedy series in Las Vegas. She also lovingly yelled at us about her “problem with the world” and how people treat female comics. She’s the best.


 

The IBang: You’ve been doing episodes and webisodes of Drunk History since the show’s beginning. Derek Waters, the creator, called you “The queen” of the show. You just narrated the finale of the first season. How did it go?

Jen Kirkman:  The only time I say I’m funny is when I’m talking about Drunk History, because I don’t remember doing it, so I don’t feel like I’m complimenting myself. So, the episode is very funny.

The IBang:  How do you choose the stories that you tell on the show?

Jen Kirkman:  Well it’s changed because I’ve done four of them over the past eight years. So at the way beginning—when it was just Derek Waters (the creator) and Jeremy Konnor (the other creator)—when it was just those guys with a camera coming into your house, they would say ‘Just pick something you’re passionate about.’ So the first couple times, that’s what I did. I had like vaguely known of some people, and I just kind of got some facts about them so I could get a story going. And after it went to Comedy Central, they had scenes and stuff they wanted to cover, so we were assigned stories, but I was given the choice of a few different ones. And they were picked especially for each narrator, so it still ended up working perfectly. I ended up being really passionate about stuff I never knew.

The IBang:  Do you have to extensively study the stories so you don’t forget anything while you’re wasted, or are you improvising?

I drank about two and a half bottles this time. They told me not to drink before I got there cause I’d have plenty of time to start drinking—but I did anyway.

Jen Kirkman:  The less you know, the better—for the purpose of television. A lot of people will come up to me and go ‘I know so much about George Washington, I should do a Drunk History.’ And it’s like, that is the last person who should do it because there’s no way to create a scene with someone just rattling off facts. So what they encourage you to do is think in a picture. Think of a moment that’s really interesting that would look really good on camera for them to reenact…So I’m sitting there with all the facts I’ve learned like “blah blah blah,” and they keep rerouting me: “Okay, that’s great! But what about when….” You know? So they want more action. They don’t want you to get anything wrong, but you don’t need to know as much as you’d think. And I always sit there with my note cards kind of cramming right before, and I have them usually out of the camera’s view—right on the table—and they’re like “You don’t need your notes!”

The IBang:  How much wine did you drink for this episode?

Jen Kirkman:  I drank about two and a half bottles this time. They told me not to drink before I got there cause I’d have plenty of time to start drinking—but I did anyway. I drank two glasses at home, because if I don’t spread it out I get sick. So I had two glasses at home and then I got there and I think I drank about two bottles. So about the same—two and a half. It was rough.

The IBang:  So you have a really great, original podcast. It’s just you—no co-hosts, no guests. How do you structure yourself when you’re just monologuing for sometimes over an hour? How much preparation do you do?

Jen Kirkman:  Not much. Just because that’s kind of where my skills lie. Not that I’m saying “Oh my God, it’s so amazing,” I’m just saying that if I had to do a podcast that was an hour of reading from a well-thought-out thing that I wrote, I would never even record it. I usually know what I want to talk about, like in my iPhone I’ll put in the notes “Next podcast” and I’ll put like “Cab driver that wanted to know why I don’t have kids” or something. I put like three or four ideas per story, and I’m kind of checking the time as I [record], so I might end up saving some bits for the next week. But it’s really just based on how I thought and felt—and everyone can remember how they thought and felt in a situation. Like if someone broke up with you, you wouldn’t only remember the fact that they broke up with you—it’ll stay with you, what they said and how you felt. So it’s not that hard. I just remember how I felt that week when I experienced something and I just talk.

The IBang:  You’re working on your second book now, right?

Jen Kirkman:  I should be, yes.

The IBang:  Is it going to be a follow-up to your first book, or will it be a stand-alone work?

Jen Kirkman:  It’ll be a follow-up. For my first book they wanted it to strictly keep coming back to “no kids, make it all about that.” So there was a lot of stuff I could have written about in the first one but just didn’t, so there will be stuff that I’ve been dying to write about. It’s gonna be a follow-up and it’s gonna be kind of a vague continuation of like “I’m still here! And now I’m 40 and I’m divorced and my life is unconventional.” I have a really silly chapter that’s like a guide to staying home alone on New Year’s; if you really think parties are bullshit, then put your money where your mouth is and stay home like I did. I kept a diary of like every 15 minutes what I was thinking. It’s a funny thing where, like, I can barely do it because obviously I feel so self-conscious. And then there’s chapters about my divorce and dating a younger guy for a little bit and traveling alone. So it’s gonna be the same theme and it’ll probably go in some kind of chronological order, but I think it’ll be a little bit more fun…it’s all sort of that going against the grain, independent woman stuff.

The IBang:  On your podcast you said how much you are going to miss everyone on Chelsea Lately, and how it was like a family. How is life after the show so far? Is there anything exciting about it?

Nothing against [Chelsea], but man, I’m gonna be very excited not to be behind a desk everyday. And I think she feels the same way.

Jen Kirkman:  Oh my god, I’ve been waiting forever! I’m so excited. It’s only been a week, and I missed the season finale because I was in Sweden, so I kind of started my life a couple days early….Nothing against [Chelsea], but man, I’m gonna be very excited not to be behind a desk everyday. And I think she feels the same way. She’s off in Europe right now traveling….The last time I had a freelance schedule I was completely broke and couldn’t get anything going. So now that I have a tiny bit of notoriety where I could actually, you know, whatever, take a meeting or pitch a show if I wanted to—it’s a less scary place. So now it’s exciting. In a year I’ll probably be like “Crap, I need to get a job.”

The IBang:  So you’re performing in the Las Vegas series “Lipshtick” next weekend. The president of the Venetian hotel was recently quoted saying that, in Vegas, female comics have been performing, but they’ve been scattered amongst a crowd of male comics, and that’s why they started this series—to give female comedians a “brand” to perform under. Do you think it’s important to have a female brand?

Why not have something by women and for women? And of course men can go too, and men will absolutely love it.

Jen Kirkman:   You know, that’s a really good way of putting it—that doesn’t anger me…Here’s my problem with the world: People sometimes just go see comedy and they don’t know what they’re going to see—which is fine—but if they walk into a comedy club and they see a white guy on stage, they’ll feel pretty confident that they’re about to possibly laugh or relate. I think if they walk in and see a woman it’s like “Mmm, I don’t know if this is women’s comedy.” And it’s like “No. These are just women who do comedy.”…But I actually kind of do have a female-centric act. I do talk about things that are specific to being a woman. So yeah, I think that’s a really good idea as long as there’s a balance in the world, and women can go perform with men and nobody says “There’s too many women on this show!” which happens sometimes when there’s two women on a show and five guys. So if it’s the only option, no, I’m kind of against it. But why not? Why not have something by women and for women? And of course men can go too, and men will absolutely love it. It’s just so easily encapsulated as “Hey! It’s Girls night! We’re gonna go see these two women perform and we’re definitely not going to feel alienated. We’re not gonna hear jokes about how dating sucks because women want all your money.”


 

Jen Kirkman will be performing with Natasha Leggero in “Lipshtick” on Sept. 12th & 13th at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. To get tickets, visit http://www.venetian.com/lipshtick.html

For a full list of Jen’s tour dates, visit jenkirkman.com.

Lipshtick: the Perfect Shade of Stand Up” marks the first time in the history of Las Vegas entertainment that a comedy stage will be performed on exclusively by female performers. Some of the funny women that have already headlined at the Sands Showroom include Heather McDonald and Iliza Schlesinger, Rita Rudner, Joy Behar and Caroline Rhea and Wendy Liebman.

For tickets and more information on “Lipshtick: The Perfect Shade of Stand Up”, go to the official “Lipshtick” website at Venetian.com

Upcoming Lipshtick Shows

• September 5 & 6: Susie Essman
• September 12 & 13: Natasha Leggero and Jen Kirkman
• September 19 & 20: Jennifer Coolidge
• September 27: Sara Schaefer and Nikki Glaser
• October 3 & 4: Lisa Lampanelli
• October 10 & 11: Loni Love
• October 31 & November 1: Wendy Williams – new addition!
• November 7 & 8:  Barr – new addition!
• November 28 & 29: Whitney Cummings
• December 26 & 27: Lisa Lampanelli

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Kelsea Bauman is an LA-born, NY-based writer and editor. When not writing for The Interrobang, Kelsea writes web series, short stories, and screenplays. You can also find her making music videos and short films, and sometimes doing comedy–but shh, don’t tell anyone about that last part. She thinks she needs more practice first.

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Brooklyn

    September 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Nice interview. .. but never mind that shit. . She is really cute. . Nudes PLEASE