Comedian Jen Kirkman on fake shock, trolls, and when to take a break | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Comedian Jen Kirkman on fake shock, trolls, and when to take a break

click to enlarge Jen Kirkman
Jen Kirkman

Jen Kirkman is a national and internationally touring stand-up comedian who is visiting Pittsburgh on April 24 at Rex Theater. Pittsburgh City Paper contributor Gab Bonesso will be her opening act. Gab asked Jen a few questions before the big show.

The interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

The last time you visited Pittsburgh, you also headlined the Rex Theater as opposed to a more traditional comedy venue like The Improv. What do you prefer about a theater vibe as opposed to a club vibe?
I love both vibes but with a theater — it’s usually a guarantee that everyone there is already a fan of my work and so I don’t have to win them over. We can get right into it. I don’t have to say my funniest stuff in the first five minutes in order to relax anyone who doesn’t know me.

Between television writing, book writing, podcasting, touring … Do you ever get a break? If so, what is your dream vacation?
I don’t get a break. And I have to say, the more successful you are, the less you have to work. Right now, I’m in the have-to-work phase. My dream vacation is always exploring parts of Europe. I will be back in London this year for shows, so I may explore some new cities that I’ll perform in and vacation in and maybe swing over to Paris — that’s one of my favorite places on Earth. Highly original, I know.

I am continually impressed with your ability to both ignore and eloquently address trolls. What is your advice for other female or non-binary comics who are harassed specifically due to gender?
I have no experience with being anything other than a woman, so for my non-binary friends or people of color, I can’t tell you from experience what to do, but it’s easy to ignore once you just get numb to it. And for me, I just have a ton of filters on my Twitter. I block and ignore and I have a lot of super impressive people who follow me and I don’t want them to think I’m a psycho who spends her day reacting to comments. I know women are hated so I’m not like, “What!?” anymore when it’s confirmed online. 

What’s your advice for comics who choose personal content even though it’s deemed “alternative” or “edgy” and can result in not getting booked in traditional settings? How have you been able to be true to your voice while still being a successful, internationally touring comedian?

I’ve always been true to my voice because I don’t know how to do anything else. I don’t know if what I talk about is important. Right now I’m doing a bit on matches and how awesome smoking cigarettes used to be. I guess that is important. Anyway, my only advice is if people are being edgy, to just play to people who already get it. What would it look like to expand a little bit and try to bring people in? Is the goal to teach people who don’t know about said edgy or important topic? Find the funny in introducing the topic to the audience. Have love for them. We are here to entertain them, which is an honor. And if they like us, we can say anything. I think once anyone starts being able to make money for a venue, that rule about “too edgy” quickly falls away. As for audiences, they can smell fake shock and they can tell someone is trying to push them away with edgy comedy and so they’ll respond in kind and not respond. And I’m always confused when comics get confused by that. We can be edgy without seeming like we hate the audience. We can’t hate them. We can hate them once we leave the building, but in that moment of the show, we are all brothers and sisters and everything in between. 

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