WRITING & PERFORMANCE CREDITS (Comedy): Misery Loves Comedy (2014, in post-production), Delivery, Late Show with David Letterman, Just for Laughs: All-Access, The Bitter Buddha, Finding the Funny, Looking for Lenny, This Week in Comedy, Last Comic Standing (Judge), Comedy Central Presents, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Real Time with Andy Kindler…
Generally considered to be the founding father of what we call Alternative Comedy, ANDY KINDLER is an exceptional stand-up comedian and actor who frequently appears in well-known American sitcoms and comedy series such as Bob’s Burgers (Voice to Mort), Maron, Tosh.0, Wizards of Waverly Place, Everybody Loves Raymond, Raising Dad, and many comedy-related and variety shows for US national television.
His extensive material as a writer and comic performer often covers the comedy industry itself, as well as criticisms of other colleagues’ predictable humor. It’s widely famous his comparison of his fellow comedian Dane Cook’s rise to that of Adolf Hitler’s.
THAN NILES: Andy, thank you so much for your time, let us begin with a cliché. How did your folks take the ‘Hey, I want to be a comedian declaration?’ Did that, in your case, classify as family drama?
ANDY KINDLER: Well, it was actually fine with my family. I grew up Jewish but I was reformed Jewish, so my joke is always that my rabbi was a Christian. They weren’t into pushing me to be a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that. I was trying to make a living in the music field and that wasn’t going so well. They were actually happy that I was taking a different direction in entertainment. I think my dad always knew I would be a comedian. When I first started comedy, he said, “Ah, that’s what you should do.” They were very supportive of it so I was not excommunicated or banned from any family events.
THAN NILES: If Dane Cook walked up to you on the street, how do you think the conversation would go?
ANDY KINDLER: I think it would probably be very superficial and light. I’m not looking for actual confrontation. I’ve heard that Dane has done a couple of comedy festivals and approached people who have made fun of him. I think Neil Hamburger makes fun of him.
THAN NILES: Neil Hamburger is another comedian known for poking fun at celebrities.
ANDY KINDLER: Right, so I think Dane’s tried to have a better sense of humor about people making fun of him. I would imagine our meeting would be almost cathartic. Unless he asked me about it and then I guess we could talk about it, but put me down as not enjoying confrontation. I don’t want to talk for hours either: no dinner, no camping trip. I don’t have that kind of time. I wouldn’t want to talk about our same hair products, ride water slides or go to six flags Magic Mountain, but you never know.
THAN NILES: You are considered, generally, as the father of alternative comedy, which is the type of comedy that explores different types of material with no pre-set expectations from the audience. However, you are also known for covering the entertainment industry, and within it, the comedy industry, too, criticizing predictability amongst other comedians. My question is, in your opinion, what’s the most predictable type of joke any stand-up comedian will do on a breaking act?
ANDY KINDLER: So wait, I’m known as the “father” of alternative comedy. That makes me sound old. I guess that’s better than the grandfather of alternative comedy or the old man. I should be sage-like in a way, right?
THAN NILES: We’re looking for your pearls of wisdom.
We are still ashamed and embarrassed of our bodies as a species. Joking about that can still get a tittering kind of laugh from the crowd. Unless you are totally clean. There are no rules.
THAN NILES: What’s the secret to keeping your material fresh when there are so many types of comedians around and even more hard to please, possibly even jaded, audiences?
ANDY KINDLER: I think the jaded audience thing is something the audience has to get over. You can’t worry about the audience too much; you just have to hope that they start listening. At the same time, you cannot try to be too hip as a comic. I think there is a challenge in that whenever something becomes super exposed, anything that becomes over done, like in the 90’s, there used to be a million stand-up comedy shows on TV. There does come to be a saturation of people that want to see comedy a certain way but I don’t think there is much you can do about that.
You know, sketch-comedy gets popular for a few years because people get tired of hearing comics just saying what’s on their minds and then people want something else and there is a circle or recycle that we go through, but people will always appreciate when someone is really different. As far as keeping things fresh, the more you perform the better. The weeks that I go on the road, I try to schedule as many gigs as I can without driving myself nuts so there can always be an interaction with the world, so that I can be writing new stuff.
I want to say this is the best time I’ve ever seen in comedy but then I try to name my favorite comics right now and it is hard. There are a lot of great comics but there is always room for more comics.
THAN NILES: You are very well known for your ‘state of the industry address’ at Just for Laughs. In your opinion, what is some television we need to steer clear from?
ANDY KINDLER: I tried to watch one last night that was really rough with Zooey Deschanel.
THAN NILES: ‘New Girl’ on Fox?
ANDY KINDLER: I don’t know about how they build these shows up, if there is a huge advertising budget or if it’s desperation but I’ve never seen more promotions for things. You buy a doughnut and printed on the doughnut is a picture of Whitney. You buy gasoline at a station and you get a free set of Whitney tumblers. They don’t have tumblers anymore. You used to get free stuff like green stamps at super markets. Places would compete for your business by giving you free stuff all the time in the old days but now I see everything on billboards and the Internet. All these sitcoms are full of people I’ve never seen before in life. They are predominately white, quirky, guys and gals who love to talk to each other like ‘Sex and the City’ was never on the air.
Where did Zooey Deschanel come from all of the sudden? These guys are trying to decide, “Do we want her to live with us?” Of course you want her to live with you. She’s dressed quirky and cute and you guys are all cute. This is going to happen, TV! Then, they have these terrible movies like, ‘I don’t know how she does it’ or whatever with Sarah Jessica Parker. Who is going to see these movies? Is it because they are all in 3D? People are going to eventually stop going and seeing all of these things and they are going to just involve themselves in life, which is truly the best 3D I’ve seen so far. You don’t need glasses for it… unless you need glasses.
THAN NILES: Elaborate a little on what a ‘Hack Comic’ is and… why you would opt to be one?
ANDY KINDLER: I would never opt to become one. You make it sound like something you fill out on a form and you opt in or out. To hack is to chop indiscriminately for a long time at something without any style or grace. A hack comic is only interested in getting people laughing, and if you play at comedy clubs you find out at one point that you can make people laugh without saying funny things. You can get people laughing using tricks. Just by talking about sex, you can get people laughing. That’s what a hack comic does and they don’t care what they have to do.
They don’t care if they have to do a crazy dance or strip or go blue. They don’t care if they are covering topics that have been covered a million times before. They just want to laugh.
THAN NILES: You do Mort’s voice on the very funny Bob’s Burgers. Mort runs the funeral home next to the restaurant. How do you feel about a subject like death in comedy? Are there no taboos for modern comedians?
ANDY KINDLER: In that case, since it’s a cartoon, they are able to deal with a subject like that and make it light.
I don’t think there is anything that’s taboo for comedy except that you can always find something about something that’s not funny.
For instance, recent deaths in people’s families are usually not that humorous. If you had a death in your family, I’m not saying you would stay away from my character, but you might allow a respectful amount of time before you start watching Mort again. At least Mort deals with death in a cartoony way.
THAN NILES: As a comedian, is a full acting role more challenging than voice-over for a cartoon? Which do you prefer?
ANDY KINDLER: Voice-over is the most fun because no one can see you. You can go to the studio in your pajamas. Of course, I don’t wear pajamas so that’s always embarrassing when I show up naked for the voice-over. When people can’t see you, I think it’s always easier. I just don’t think on-screen acting is as comfortable. Sleeping is probably the most comfortable thing I do and I’m a big fan of eating but in terms of performing, I’m the most comfortable doing stand-up. I know the parameters of stand-up, but you’re more vulnerable as an actor. You have to get into character and stuff, but I don’t know if anybody ever feels completely in character because you know you’re acting, unless you’re insane. If the question is, “what am I most comfortable doing,” then it is voice-over but then I would like to get a movie career going, I would like to be a series regular on a sitcom. I would like to have it all going on but I wouldn’t want to do theatre. That doesn’t sound fun. What I like about stand-up is you get to change it. I wouldn’t want to do the same role night after night.
THAN NILES: That is definitely a different kind of acting.
ANDY KINDLER: Yeah, I used to have a joke that my theatre friends would say something like, “I’ve been in the chorus line for six months and every night I find something new.” Well, I don’t want to have to look that hard.
I could maybe see myself in a two week run doing “Andy Kindler as Tevye in Fidler on the Roof”. Maybe, we would only make it one week. “Andy Kindler as Hamlet for three nights, only. See Hamlet as you’ve never seen him before, with more self deprecation than was ever in the original play.” “Come see Andy Kindler as King Lear in the Dane Cook Story, in a Wonderlance production.”
WONDERLANCER: That last one sounds really good… 😀
THAN NILES: A bit of a leading question but, Jay Leno or David Letterman?
ANDY KINDLER: It’s always David Letterman. He’s the man.
THAN NILES: How did you and Letterman come to be so on-screen close?
ANDY KINDLER: For my generation, that was the show that you wanted to do. I remember when Saturday Night Live and Letterman came out in the early 80’s and that was the show. When I started stand-up, Letterman was the show that I always wanted to do. The previous generation wanted to do the Johnny Carson show but, for me, it was David Letterman.
I tried for many, many years and I got onto the show and did my first appearance in 1996. I was so nervous. People will say, “I was nervous but the first time was fantastic.” My first time was not terrible, but it wasn’t that fantastic, either. I didn’t do the show for another four years but I came back a few more times.
In 2005 I did a set and his people called my people and I started doing these correspondent things for him, like going to Yankee spring training or going to the Super Bowl and it has been fantastic. I am all for it, it has been really fun.
THAN NILES: Please tell us a bit about your DVD I Wish I Was Bitter, and, also, where people can get it.
ANDY KINDLER: I Wish I Was Bitter is still available through my website because I didn’t want to hook up with any big corporations. People want to know if they send me money, does it go directly to me? Yes, there is no charitable donation involved. That is a show I did in 2003.
Now, I am trying to sell this DVD as a timepiece. I’m not trying to sell it as an antique, like my AOL account, but as a moment in time. One of the features on the DVD is that I offer a bonus commentary of me, commenting on my own show as you watch. If there ever were DVD extra awards, I think I would win one for my bonus audio material, but there haven’t been any awards.
I am planning on recording a new CD of Andy Kindler material that has never been heard before. It will be all new stuff, so this one won’t have any Y2K jokes, bicentennial humor or Nixon material.
There will be no Dane Cook references, so it will be all brand new. I will be doing a lot of futuristic comedy on my new CD about things that I think will happen in the year 2030. A lot of futurists, or psychic types, are into my bits.
It’s forward looking; I base all of my projections on ‘the Jetsons’. One of my early jokes was that I learned from watching ‘the Jetsons’ that the future was not going to be that funny.
THAN NILES: Thank you so much for your time and we cannot wait to hear the future explored on your new CD!