Interview: Band Name

Millenial mastermind Jen Kirkman is on tour. A lot. But somehow she manages to also produce a highly praised podcast, write books and star in her first ever Netflix special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). So when we had the opportunity to chat with the comedian for a few minutes, we jumped right on it. Shooting the breeze about life, comedy, fashion, and music, Kirkman was as brutally honest and impassioned as ever.

SMN:  Hi Jen. I saw that you have a new book coming out, and can you describe it in just 3 words for us?
JK: Next April 2016. Then my other three words are: revealing… gut wrenching.

SMN: Awesome, I like it. You tour a lot, and you write a lot, mostly in an autobiographical format. If you didn’t have to do that all the time, what would you be doing, or what would you be doing besides that?
JK: I do nothing else except performing and writing. If I wasn’t writing that kind of book do you mean? Or writing …
SMN: Yeah.
JK: That’s the thing; I’m not creative enough to think of fiction. I don’t have any thoughts in my head except stuff that’s happened to me, and I actually did try to write a novel once, and it was about my childhood. I was writing it in the third person and then I stopped because I found it boring. I don’t think I would be writing if I weren’t writing the type of thing I’m writing, because that’s the only thing I know how to write. I think if I weren’t writing I would be … I don’t know. I don’t know. Before any of this, I used to be a temp, so I can type 99 words a minute. I would probably be stuck in an office depressed, and if I was in a fantasy world, I’d be working in fashion for someone who’s probably mean and hating my life but from where I stand, it seems like a pretty glamorous life. That’s my secret fantasy.
SMN: Okay, that’s like Devil Wears Prada type of switch a day with Anne Hathaway.
JK: Well sort of, I mean actually working for a stylist or a real fashion designer. I just love fashion, but I don’t think I’d want to work for a magazine. I’d want to do something completely different from anything with patience.
SMN: Your outfit for your first Netflix special – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) – that you just did was nicely put together, if you had anything to do with that.
JK: Oh thank you. I do all my own dressing of myself. I don’t have anyone buying or helping me. It’s all my vision.
SMN: It makes sense; you do have nice fashion sense.
JK: Oh thank you.

SMN:  Now I had a question about if you could choose another comedian to work with – dead or alive – who would it be and why?
JK: Dead or alive with another comedian.
SMN: Mm-hmm.
JK: I work with comedians all the time, and they’re my friends and I love them, so it’s them, but if it’s got to be someone I don’t know… huh. Well, I don’t know, because I know what comedians are like, and they’re not always fun. When you meet your heroes it can be disappointing, and I don’t really obsess over comedy as much as I think comedy fans do. I don’t know how big of a comedy fan I am. That’s hard. I would say Joan Rivers, but I did get to work with her, just a little bit though, so I’m going to disqualify her. I will say… Let me think who’s dead. I don’t know. God, this is really hard because I’ve never thought about it, because I just don’t fantasize about comedians.
SMN: It’s a hard one.
JK: It doesn’t naturally come to me because I just don’t think about it. I can name my favorite comedians, but I don’t want to work with them. I love Dave Chappelle, but I probably wouldn’t work well with him, and he probably wouldn’t get anything out of working with me. I take this way too seriously, as you can see. I really don’t have an answer, because I’m too literal to even fantasize.
SMN:  Well we can kind of count Joan Rivers then.
JK: Yeah sort of. I don’t really want that to be my answer if you’re just putting a one-line answer. I guess my answer is I just don’t have one, because I don’t. I really don’t think about working with comedians because I have, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I guess that’s my answer.
SMN: It’s still a valid answer. It is a hard question.
JK: It’s something I can’t fantasize about because I know the reality.

SMN: Cool. I also listen to your Podcast, and I was wondering how you choose the songs that you sing on the Podcast?
JK: I have this giant shuffle playlist, and even though I love every song on it, whenever I’m driving I just hit forward, forward, forward. If I’ve been driving that day and there’s one that came on that I’m like, “Ooh I want to stop and listen to this,” Then that song’s in my head, and I’ll usually sing it when I sit down to record later that day. Usually it comes to me the day of, or if the song ties into something I’m going to talk about, which isn’t really often that that happens. I’m trying to even think of an example. Usually just whatever I’m feeling that day. That’s really it.
SMN: Awesome.
JK: I usually try to pick songs that I can sing along to, which are not many. Also I am singing along terribly to them so I shouldn’t even say that there have been 98 songs that I can sing along to, because I can’t.
SMN: My favorite one’s when you sang Ray of Light. That was pretty awesome.
JK: Did I?
SMN: You kind of did. It was more “I can’t really sing it,” And you were talking about how you feared the song. It was great.
JK: Oh that’s right, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh God, that’s a tough one to sing. I don’t even think Madonna can sing that live anymore.
SMN: Yeah, that would be a stretch.
JK: That super high pitched for my masculine voice.

SMN: I also found this very, very random picture, because I did want to do a little research on you. You were in a band in high school?
JK: I was. Basically what happened was my good friends Nick and Chris and Matt were in a band, and their lead singer was this guy Luke who I went on a few dates with. Basically all of us girls, all that we did was sit around and watch our guy friends skateboard, and I was like, “Why are we doing this? We should all do something on our own.” I think the other girls didn’t listen to me, and so I went with Luke to his band practice. Anyways, we were with this guy having band practice and I thought he was terrible. He was doing a Faith No More thing and my friends were doing more of a Pixies thing, so I thought, “I want to sing in this band, they should have a girl singer.” Then when he left, I stayed around to hang out with them, and I suggested myself. Then I said, “Just play a song and I’ll sing along to it,” and they liked it, and so there you go.
SMN: That is awesome.
JK: Totally. We didn’t last. We stayed in – I think I figured through high school – in our hometown. That was pretty exciting. I got in trouble for breaking something on the stage. Then when I was in college, I continued with the band because they all lived in the same town as well. I was really serious about it. We played a couple gigs in Boston, and I wanted to do that for a living. They were like, “No, we were just messing around in the basement after school, we didn’t think you would be so ambitious.” It broke up. We made a professional demo and everything. We just played live in the room, and now I don’t know where that tape is. At a certain time I think I was embarrassed by all this and probably threw it all out.
SMN: Yeah I was actually just wondering if that was anywhere online.
JK: No, no. It’s not good music. My friends were amazing musicians. I was a terrible singer who sounded sort of like Kim Deal and Robert Plant if they had a baby and the baby was a terrible singer. I’m too embarrassed now. And my lyrics, my God, my lyrics. I was trying to do these socially conscious lyrics, and I feel like I was writing songs about … Oh God. I went through singing about the Supreme Court to just really writing about my relationship with another guy in the band I was dating. It’s just so embarrassing. I thought I was this revolutionary person, but really I just wanted to write.
SMN: Yeah. I guess that’s what our teens are for though. Get all that angst out.
JK: I hope so. I don’t know. I hope that I’ve changed a little. I don’t think I have.

SMN: Music seems to be a pretty big aspect in your life, as we can tell from your podcast and your band. This will be our last question, and it might be another tough one, so I apologize in advance.
JK: That’s okay.
SMN: If you were stuck on a desert island and you could take one album, one book, and one movie with you, what would it be?
JK: Okay, I’d have to say… I might say the Smiths’ album. I might take the Queen is Dead. I might take Meat is Murder. I’m going to say I’m taking Meat is Murder, there are better songs on that one. Then I’m going to take a book? Something like my spirit book. It would be any book by… shoot, I know I have a favorite book. No, you know what I think I might take? There’s a book I really like by Anne Lamott. I’m reading it now. It’s called Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. I think that would be comforting to me. What else did I have to take?
SMN: One movie.
JK: A movie?
SMN: Yup.
JK: Huh. I’m going to take Caddyshack, because I’d probably need to laugh – it would have been Annie Hall if Woody Allen hadn’t turned out to be a creep – but I also think that it would cheer me up if I’m on this island. I’m going Caddyshack.

SMN: Awesome, awesome. Well thank you so much for your answers and taking the time out of your day to talk to us.

Jen Kirkman will be in Seattle at the Vera Project on June 25th. Get your tickets here!

Interview by Sunny Martini