5 Questions with Michael Cruz Kayne | Pittsburgh City Paper

5 Questions with Michael Cruz Kayne

click to enlarge 5 Questions with Michael Cruz Kayne
Photo: Courtesy of Bottlerocket Social Hall
Michael Cruz Kayne
When a poll emerged earlier this year showing nearly half of Americans couldn't name a prominent Asian-American figure, New York-based writer, actor, and stand-up performer Michael Cruz Kayne sang a long list of them during a cold open for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The matter was personal for Kayne, who identifies as Filipino-American and Jewish.

On Fri., July 22, Kayne will explore another subject close to him when he brings Sorry For Your Loss to Bottlerocket Social Hall. The show promises to combine comedy with a seemingly opposite human experience  grief  something Kayne has publicly explored. In 2019, Kayne's tweet about his late infant son, who had died 10 years before, went viral, drawing thousands of condolences and stories from others expressing hurt over their own losses.

“I’ve become more direct with people about their grief,” Kayne told the Washington Post at the time. “When you do that, people are like, ‘Oh man, I can talk about this forever.’ ”

Pittsburgh City Paper interviewed Kayne over email about his first-ever performance in the city.

Have you ever performed in Pittsburgh before?
No, except insofar as both time and space are meaningless, in which case I have always been performing in a sort of Pittsburgh if you will. Also, I read Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh once and really liked that. Oh, and I’ve seen a lot of Steelers games (on TV). Hines Ward seems like a cool guy. He’s half-Asian, like me. We’re basically the same. What was the question?

How did you get into comedy?
My girlfriend (now wife! brag!) and I went to see a friend of hers do an improv class show at the Upright Citizens Brigade and I was blown away by it. I signed up for classes shortly thereafter and was obsessed with it immediately. Is that interesting enough? If not, maybe I accidentally drank the blood of a dead comedian and got a taste for it and now I just hit up open mics and go full cannibal afterward to absorb the lifeforce of hilarious strangers? You decide!

Sorry For Your Loss is described as a show about grief
is this a new area you're exploring in your comedy?
It is relatively new for me. I started it for two reasons: first, I experienced a profound and shocking loss in my life; second, I had been looking for a while to use comedy for more than laughter, even though laughter itself is pretty great. I wanted to make people feel less alone. Grief is an isolating experience, so it seemed natural to try to make it a more communal one. Is this answer too serious? If so, maybe read it aloud in, like, a funny voice!

I once heard Brian Posehn talk about how a fellow comedian discouraged him from talking about his deceased parents in a routine. Based on your experience, do feel like comedy culture tends to avoid tough topics, and is it changing at all?
I think comedy tackles tough subjects all the time, but because of the medium, it’s hard to really get down into sadness. A lot of stand-up sets are 10 minutes-ish and you’re following a guy who talked about how bad he is at dirty talk, so it feels a little weird in that setting to be like, "HEY YOU GUYS WANNA HEAR SOMETHING SAD?" If people are coming to a pizza place, they want pizza, you know? That’s a metaphor. You’re welcome!

Your work has been compared to a theatrical, one-person show as opposed to traditional stand-up. Is this something you purposely strive for?
Outside of Sorry For Your Loss, my stand-up is definitely more recognizable as stand-up. But don’t get me wrong, SFYL is also very very funny. You will laugh your little buns off. I just leave some space for other feelings as well. I’ve become a little obsessed with grief, so while I spend a lot of time writing LOL jokes for TV and my stand-up, I’m also doing this show and hosting a podcast about grief. It’s called A Good Cry, and my guests have included Stephen Colbert, Nicole Byer, Jon Gabrus, Nora McInerny, and a ton of other cool, great, generous people. Check it out!

Michael Cruz Kayne: Sorry For Your Loss. 10:30 p.m. 1226 Arlington Ave., Allentown. $15.75. bottlerocketpgh.com