This is my third time interviewing Jen Kirkman. The first time I interviewed her I did it at my grandmother’s house, in her den. Not to bring this interview down a notch but my grandmother was not doing too well and I warned Kirkman that she might accidentally barge into the room while we were talking. She did just that. Strangely it’s a nice memory I have of my grandmother, hearing her voice on a recording asking me what I wanted for dinner in the middle of talking to Kirkman about her book i can barely take care of myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids. Turns out I too could barely take care of myself.
Each time I chat with Jen Kirkman I like her even more. She’s politically driven, a feminist, and has a rapid fire way of speaking that suggests her brain is moving just a little too quickly. It’s wonderful. She’ll be at The Howard Theater this Sunday and I truly cannot wait to finally catch a show. Maybe I’ll burst on stage in the middle of it and ask her what she wants for dinner.
Brightest Young Things: Hi Jen! It’s Jenn, so that should be pretty easy. I thank my mother and her lack of originality for that.
Jen Kirkman: Are you a 70’s kid? It was the most popular name in ’74 which is when I was born.
BYT: Technically, 1980.
JK: You’re probably the last generation of Jennifers.
BYT: I hope so. I once asked my mother why she named me Jennifer and she said it was because the name was so popular at the time. I guess she if she ever lost me in a mall she could call out my name and watch 20 other children turn around.
JK: [Laughs] Maybe that was her plan.
BYT: First of all I love the name of your tour. The “All New Material, Girl” Tour is fantastic.
JK: I think it’s important to name things. This seems like an event.
BYT: While reading about some of the aforementioned all new material, two things jumped out. I can identify with one and I cannot identify with the other. The first one is this year of seeing fraudulent spiritual healers. What was that about? In my mind you went to see a bunch of psychics or you were getting your tarot cards read. What happened, and I hope it was nothing terrible.
JK: I’m starting to talk more…you know I’ve had depression and anxiety my whole life and in my early 20’s it was really sad with all the meds. In the past few years when I’ve been more of a public figure I was unmedicated and it was really under control. I do mention it here and there on my podcast and people seem really grateful for it. I went back on medication this year and I don’t know the reason and I don’t know if it’s because of Trump and there was a collective depression. I think it was actually ruined before that.
Who fucking knows. It could be hormones, it doesn’t matter.
I’ve been chemically predisposed to needing medication and I’m sure at some point I’ll go off again and go back on. Anywho I’m not shy about it but I never talk about it. I thought I would introduce to the standup audience this year the guy I’ve been seeing for 15 years who gives me my medication. He’s the opposite of a psychiatrist. You can’t believe he has a degree. I know he’s brilliant but for some reason he’s been doing it for so long that I think he forgets what someone with anxiety or depression looks like. He lives in Hawaii half the time. He said to me once about flying, which I’m not afraid of anymore, “Do you ever think like ‘I just had a good life if the plane goes down?'” Now that’s how I feel, but not then.
After I got back on the meds I was still in a dark slump and I had two months off from doing any work so I went to these…they weren’t psychics. One was a Reiki healer which I love but this woman was kind of projecting on me about how she was a Goddess and that’s why people don’t relate to her. Then there was a guy who was a Theta healer but he really seemed like a guy with post traumatic stress disorder.
BYT: Theta as in brain waves?
JK: Yeah, so there’s a whole story about him where he seems really intense and starts talking about his acting class and I was like “nope.”
Then there’s a woman who’s a Shaman so I do this whole part where I stop what I’m doing and assure everyone I’m not making fun of an ancient religion. This woman is from Portland. She believed she was talking to angels and I’m all for angels but once you claim you’re talking to them I kind of check out.
The whole bit is about months of seeing these healers. I eventually just go to this place called the Dry Bar which is where you get your hair blown out because I just wanted someone to touch my head. I realized that’s great and I can go to a Shaman but sometimes you just need to get a blow out. It kind of goes from depression to spiritual journey to me just needing to get my hair done. At a certain point you just have to get dumb to get happy.
BYT: I guess you didn’t do that thing when you were younger where you desperately got your tarot cards read because you’re dying to know when you’re gonna meet that man? I did.
JK: I’ve gotten so many tarot cards read. Now I’m in a phase where I’m like…it’s kind of dangerous. My magical thinking starts going crazy. If I go into a fantasy of what’s going to happen in my life that will send me reeling. I just assume great things are going to happen but in the meantime I just want someone to touch my head.
BYT: You could open up the first weird head scratching self-care place where people just get their heads rubbed and scratched.
JK: Oh my God yes, ladies with long nails.
BYT: The part of your material I just could not understand is hating pop culture. What is it about pop culture, and that’s a broad term, that you despise?
JK: I really just talk about this one time in my life when I was in college and it kind of came back in my life when I was in my mid-30’s where I was a snob and I thought anyone who had any conversation at all, like “I saw this movie.” When I first moved to New York my roommates were like, “Oh, we love this TV show,” and I was like, “Television, you live in New York City!” I thought we were going to play bongos and write poetry by candlelight. I was so obnoxious I didn’t realize not everything you do has to be your identifier. I couldn’t relax. Then ironically I started working on the most pop culture show of all-time, Chelsea Lately, which taught me how to calm down.
It’s really about this period of time when I was super pretentious and I relate to the millennials who think I’m this old middle of the road corporate lady and I’m like “No, I was just like you guys. I was probably even more of a dick and I’m going to read an essay I wrote in college about how art is for rich people and it’s in the museums.” I’d never been to a museum. I didn’t know they were free. And I wrote a sketch about what if Malcom X and Rush Limbaugh were on the subway and I thought it was so mind-blowing that they were going to be like “Excuse me you’re so beyond you have to leave college and just go heal the world.” After I make fun of everybody who’s younger than me I’m going to reveal that I used to be just like them! Currently I accept pop culture and think it’s great. I no longer think it’s damaging.
BYT: This tour feels like it’s going to be more fun. You’re very politically active on Twitter which is great. Everyone is just freaking out now all the time.
JK: I love it!
BYT: I love it too but I’m already desensitized to it. I’m still angry but I don’t have the energy because it’s everyday.
JK: I think that’s healthy. Twitter is for Citizen Jen and stage is for Comedian Jen. I will get on politics a tiny bit but it will be through the lens of my personal life so I’m just gonna talk about what I did on election night. I was watching it with my boyfriend at the time and I was babbling about “Oh my God, a woman president,” and as the results were rolling in I just lost my shit. We went to my closet and I pulled out my fake Christmas tree and we put it up. I watched Hallmark Christmas movies. I was in denial.
There is nothing really political too much except for being a dick when I was younger and voting third party when I thought nobody cared.
BYT: I voted for Nader the 2nd time Bush won and I was like “You know what….I fucked up.”
JK: [Laughs] I have this thing where I vote third party and a message comes in “Jen Kirkman voted third party. There’s a message, gather around,” but no one ever really cares what you’re doing.
BYT: I recently got off Facebook to the cries of no one.
JK: See? No one cares! I’m excited because this tour is obviously new material. It’s new to the people who have seen my specials but it’s also very new to me. I haven’t toured with it. It’s very coming together so I think it’s going to be very spontaneous. It will probably be the closest to Richard Lewis I’ve ever been, off the top of my head. I’m hoping that people who have just found me who come see me aren’t like, “What the fuck is this?”
At this point I asked Jen for her own self-care tips during these emotionally trying political times. As she started to answer our call accidentally got dropped and I think that’s sometimes the best thing one can do to survive. Check out for a bit, if you can.