Entertainment Interview / Interviews

Comedian Jen Kirkman Gets Personal About Her Newest Book

Comedian Jen Kirkman tells it like it is. If you’ve ever watched her Netflix special or actually witnessed her perform live, she’s not one to sugarcoat things. With her new book out in April, I Know What I’m Doingand Other Lies I Tell Myself, she continues to give us a reality check that life doesn’t have to be figured out right away. Don’t believe me? Grab a copy this spring and read about her experiences with marriage, divorce, turning 40, and more.

Cliché: With your two books, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself and I Know What I’m Doingand Other Lies I Tell Myself, there seems to be a reoccurring theme. Even with all the bumps here and there or a bunch of faking it ‘til you make it, what’s been your favorite part about being an adult so far?
Jen Kirkman: My favorite part of being an adult is just being an adult. It’s so much better than being a kid. You get to live where you want, make more than fifty cents a day, drive… It’s a never-ending amount of fun. Even just sitting at home on my couch, I can have fun just thinking, “I don’t have homework tonight and I never have to use a locker ever again.”
When you’re writing a book, how do you go about deciding what you’ll use for your live act or what you’ll save for the book? Or, does that even matter?
It doesn’t matter. I may explore similar stories in my book, but it’s like dressing, I think. Not Ranch Dressing—I mean clothing dressing.  Sometimes you wear jeans and sometimes it’s not appropriate and you have to wear a nice outfit, like a dress or a suit. It wouldn’t be appropriate in stand-up to tell a long story that might not have many punchlines, but I may use a joke that I’ve done on stage as a little button on the end of a chapter in my book. Since both mediums are autobiographical to me, there is crossover in themes.
Did you run into any difficulties putting this book together compared to your last book?
No! Except for the usual difficulties like procrastination; knowing what I want to say, but when it shows up on the page, it doesn’t look like I pictured the words to look in my head; and wanting to just move back in with my parents, get my old job at Baskin Robbins back, and never bother trying to write again. Other than that, this book was a book I had in mind while writing the first one, and I was brimming with stories I wanted to tell. Knowing what I would write about was not tough. I even took some time to live a little so that I could finish the book after I did some traveling and had turned 40. I was hoping I would get some stories out of those experiences, and I did.
As a performer, it takes a lot of confidence to get up on stage every night and tell awkward or embarrassing stories about yourself. Was confidence something that was instilled in you or did it take you a while to open up to an audience?
It doesn’t take confidence for me because it’s what I want to do. I think people think it does, but those are people who don’t have the calling to perform. Comics are wonderful people, but the other side of that can be narcissism, an odd lack of self-consciousness, or just a masochism or a delusion that they make sense and deserve to be up there. Nobody is a nice person backstage, all nervous waiting to go on, and then musters up confidence. We’re insane. We want to be up there. We are the closest thing to those people who chase tornadoes. It seems courageous, but anyone who wants to do that is probably born without something in their brain that tells them to just relax and stay home. I only lose my confidence on stage if I am bombing and can’t figure out why or if something is going terribly wrong and someone of importance is watching. This doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, I’m already fine with it as it’s happening and I can’t wait to go tell my horrible bombing story to my friends.
With so many shows a year, how do you go about figuring out what you’ll be talking about during the night of the show?
I have a set act. I do my act every night—which is why every year when I go to a city I was in the year before, I need a new hour—but I do an act, like anyone else really.
There are so many pros and cons to social media, which you are very vocal on. What have you learned most about social media and what’s something you wish would change?
Isn’t everyone who is on social media vocal on it? Otherwise, the other option would be someone who doesn’t have an account. What else are people on social media if not vocal? I’m not different. I’ve learned that—especially with Twitter—things move REALLY FAST and people miss things, so if you think you can just advertise a show with one tweet, maybe 2% of your followers will see it. And don’t ever answer direct messages from dudes you don’t know. In fact, never read them. It’s never not going to be something creepy and gross.
Some people tend to shy away from certain topics, but you don’t seem to mind speaking about relevant topics. Why is that?
I think you’re beating around the bush and asking me about feminism? I am not sure what other relevant topics I am known for—except maybe how I think being a vegan or vegetarian is important for the environment, but no one ever asks me about that. So, I’m not shy about women’s equality worldwide because lives are at stake and anyone who doesn’t care is probably insane. Sorry. I don’t have a funny answer for that one. People can read the vegan sentence again if they want to laugh.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who’s accepting his or her life as an adult, what would it be?
I’d give them the advice my one-time surf instructor gave me (the story is in the book): “You can’t stop the ocean, but you can learn to surf it.” What does that mean? I don’t know either. Basically, don’t obsess over what you can’t control, but don’t make that your excuse to be lazy either.
With two books and a comedy special on Netflix, what can we expect in the near future?
I’ll probably start my own plumbing business OR hopefully write more books over the years. I have another comedy special I’ll be doing later this year and touring, touring, touring, and writing, writing, writing.
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Photographed by Robyn Von Swank

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