Kyle Kinane is a hard-working, hard-drinking, punk rocking LA-by-way-of-Chicago comedian. You may have heard of him from his debut album Death of the Party, his 2012 Comedy Central special Whiskey Icarus or his legendary appearance on Drunk History. You’ve almost definitely heard him, he’s the voice on Comedy Central telling you “South Park is Next.” There’s also a good chance you’ve seen him live, as Kyle performs everywhere from tiny rock bars in Boston to big comedy clubs in Austin, to music and comedy festivals everywhere in between.
The IBang caught up with Kyle during his two-day break between filming his next special in Atlanta and heading down to do a mini-tour in Mexico.
The IBang: So you just recorded your new special. How did it go?
Kyle Kinane: It went great! I mean, I think it went great. It’s one of those things, it’s just nerves leading up to it and during it, and now it’s just “Well, I like it, but that doesn’t mean anybody else will.” But now for me, my part’s done and I have to choose to think, “That’s it, I did everything I can.”
The IBang: Judging by your track record it probably went well, does that give you any more confidence that you know what you’re doing or is it the opposite, like “Oh God, what if this isn’t as good as the last one?”
Kyle Kinane: Oh, so far I’m calling this one “I Liked His Old Stuff Better” so…. I’m just trying to get ahead of the curve. I don’t think it’s pessimism, I think it’s defensive realism. If anything is praised, that just means the opposition gains steam. “Why do people like it? Well, I have to let people know I don’t like it.” I’m like that, I’m that person, so I know how to get ahead of my own personality type.
The IBang: You do kinda have this punk ethos, do you worry about people turning on you as you get successful?
Kyle Kinane: I’d love to say “Fuck you, I live my life the way I want to!” but I’m way too sensitive for that. Every time I get some punks on Twitter telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about, I just go “I’m sorry!” I wish I could say I was just all in your face and don’t care. This isn’t the answer to your question, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately, but it’s that mix of having convictions but also not being dumb enough to not be open-minded and listen to other viewpoints.
The IBang: Now I’m curious, what was the last thing someone got you to change your mind about?
Kyle Kinane: I was being a smart mouth on Twitter earlier in the week about this Ferguson stuff and the fact that “social media coverage”… I’m a skeptic, and the thing about being a skeptic is you can’t just pick one side to be skeptical about. So you have to be skeptical of all sides. I’m skeptical about cops, I’m skeptical about journalists, I’m skeptical of all involved. But I was not expressing myself in the best way.
Nobody’s going to show my a Vine that should be considered news. I saw some Vine with two thousand retweets that all said, “This is all you need to see!” It was a cop pushing over a kid, but you know nothing of the context of the situation, but this is going to rile people up and that’s fucking ignorant. You let anger get in the way of critical analysis in those situations.
The IBang: I guess it’s pretty hard to condense that point into 140 characters.
Kyle Kinane: Yeah, looking back, I was just being cynical. Because it is also good that you have live reporting, whether it’s a tweet or a photo or whatever. As a series, that’s effective. And I realized I was talking out of my ass and people called me on it.
I had a joke I’ve been doing now about how I think I’m maturing because I don’t hate all the cops anymore. And that was a weird joke to do on Saturday during the taping, given the current mood. But the crowd was great about it, because it was a personal story.
The IBang: I know you to be one of the most accessible big name comedians, you’ll still hit an open mic or grab a drink with someone after the show. Did you have any cool or super crazy experiences on this midwest tour you just did?
Kyle Kinane: I had that tour back in May that went through Wisconsin and Iowa and stuff, and that was great. There was one guy that at some point gave me a knife and said, “Always good to have an extra set of prints!” You’d think he was joking, but he was in a weird mood, kind of an intense dude, then he wanted the knife back so I wiped it off.
This tour, I was three hours late for my show in Nashville because of a flight delay. But Brandon Jazz, who runs the High Watt, got everyone to stay. I think maybe twenty people asked for their money back, and they were very apologetic, like “We’ve got babysitters.” The show was supposed to start at 9 and I didn’t get there until midnight. He told me, as I got there, “We had to cancel the show.” and then I walked in and it was like a surprise party because everyone had waited. They even turned the lights off and then turned them on, I almost got emotional. It was just strangers who would stick and Brandon set it up like that. It made me feel good.
Really, the fact that anyone comes out to acknowledge what I’m doing, I’m just overwhelmed. Especially in a big city where there’s so much other stuff going on. Or it’s like a Monday night and people are willing to roll out for it. There were also a lot of drunk guys who looked just like me, going “I get it, man.” I know my demographic. I’m thankful for them.
The IBang: You frequently say that comedians need to “get out of their own clubhouse” and learn to play any room. Are there any types of rooms or shows that still feel like a huge challenge?
Kyle Kinane: Because people are starting to know who I am, I get to walk into these front loaded situations. But it shouldn’t always be like that, it should never be easy. They say it takes ten years to find your voice as a comedian, but I think all that is that it takes ten years to find out who you are as a person. But once you get this far, people understand your voice, so you don’t have to do all that setup and explain who you are, so I get to walk into places and I can jump in to whatever I was going to talk about. So that makes it easier, but you never want to just rely on the fact that, “OK, here’s another story about me doing something drunk.” that’s going to get real sad in a couple of years when I turn forty.
For hand rooms…people are starting to go to The Comedy Store out here, people like my buddy [Matt] Braunger. And I never hung out there, I still don’t. I was just listening to the Pete Holmes podcast with Dean Delray, and Dean goes everywhere and kills everywhere, so it got me thinking, “Do I wanna go there?” It’s not even the old thing that it’s just got a sadness over there, it’s my own laziness. I live on the other side of town and I’m home for one day, I’m not gonna go all the way over to the Sunset Strip. I can get plenty of spots by my house. I’m just a neighborhood rat now.
The IBang: Do you have a serious thing that “When I’m forty, I’ve got to make some changes”?
Kyle Kinane: I think I just have delayed evolution. I’ve gotten to put off most signs of an actual adulthood, no kids, no marriage. And with the drinking thing, it’s the same as, “You guys smoke weed?” it’s an easy device in comedy, a crutch. And I don’t wanna be like “Jeff Dunham has his puppets” and “Kyle has his beers.”
I’m trying to diversify as a human being. I want to be able to report back on more experiences than just half a bottle of whiskey and saying something ridiculous and doing something stupid. So I’m trying to find those things in life. I don’t know if that’ll become a spiritual quest or internal journey. I’ve thought about building models, I don’t know, but just shooting the shit at a bar is so much fun.
Is something missing? Maybe it’s not. What the fuck do I have to complain about? I do comedy for a living, it’s going better than I ever expected it to. I’ve paid off all my debts and I get to see the world because of jokes.
Kyle Kinane is a Los Angeles based comedian. September 3 – 6 he will be appearing at the Comedy Works in Denver Colorado.