Kyle Kinane: Good at Comedy, Bad at Bullshit.


kyle kinaneBy just listening to his voice, you would think Kyle Kinane is a crusty old dude in his advanced years. Truth is, Kinane is far younger than that, although also, far crustier. With a punk rock ethos and a knack for hilarious takes both sober and drunk, Kinane exudes a kind of wisdom that far belies his years.


Kinane’s won @midnite 7 times, the “voice” on Comedy Central that introduces all their programing (since 2011), a favorite on a wide spectrum of podcasts including WTF, The Nerdist and the Adam Corolla Show and a veteran of comedy specials. SUSC joins Kyle as he returns from several weeks on the road.

SUSC: How you doing?

KYLE: Good. I just got back home from all over man. It was a 2 and ½ week tour. I started in Boston and wrapped up last night in Phoenix.

How was doing a tour in the Northeast during the winter?

People were just fucking exhausted. Boston had four feet of snow everywhere. You would roll up on something that should be a four-way stop sign, but all the stop signs were buried and you had to peek around the corner. Pretty wild.

They got 100 inches of snow. It’s like Day After Tomorrow with Dennis Quaid.

Yeah, it’s like that. And as I was leaving everyone in the Northeast was going to be hit again with a storm. I got lucky. As I was leaving town it was gloom and doom. Even in Atlanta, people were like, “Oh no!” It was a weird trip to be in four feet of snow and then a couple of days later, 80 degrees in New Orleans. Then there’s ice on the ground in Dallas, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on in this world.

But according to the GOP there’s no such thing as climate change.

In Florida they’re not allowed to the say the word now. Some Florida bullshit.

There was an article in Rolling Stone about how the Pentagon’s military bases on the coastlines are being submerged, but they cannot request money and use the word Climate Change. It’s recurrent flooding.

Let’s stop acting like the government is in charge of anything.

You know who knows what’s really going on, Kyle? Comedians.

Comedians, the lizard people, the shape shifters we got our eye on things.

So, when you started coming up, did you start hitting mics in Chicago?

I liked watching comedy when I was a little kid. In the late 90s there wasn’t much to watch. There were HBO specials, like Chris Rock or something. Maybe there was a stand-up comedy club here and there, but it was the 80s remnants talking about, “Oh my wife and kids.” I was listening to punk rock and didn’t know what that was all about. I fancied myself a pretty funny dude. Later I found out I was just obnoxious. Then I saw HBO and the Aspen Comedy Festival was having an open call for auditions. Two minutes of material. I thought I could come up with two minutes of stuff to talk about. It was at the comedy club downtown. I didn’t realize how big it was. Comics were driving in from Wisconsin, Minneapolis and Indiana. They thought it was a big deal and I just wanted to try comedy. I didn’t even know what open mics were or anything. Some people had clued me into poetry open-mics to do reading and stuff and it was a way more serious vibe than I like. Then I saw a guy I went to college with at the open casting call and I asked him where else you can go to do comedy. He told me there were open mics all over the place and he told me where to go and I started doing that. All over, man.

Where did you go to college?

Columbia College in Chicago.

Did you finish?

Yeah, it took 7 years. It was my third college. I didn’t finish as much as they were like, “You have enough credits. You have a bachelor’s degree.”

Move along.

I was bummed. I knew when I left college there was no postponing the real world. Or so I thought. Then I moved to Los Angeles and I realized it’s like Spring Break for the rest of your life.

At what point did you think you needed to move to LA?

Guys were working the road from Chicago. But every time they came back it was never a good story. It was like, “Yeah, we drive 12 hours between gigs and got paid 50 bucks.” I thought comedy in Chicago is fun but once you leave and try to do it for money it’s lousy. I would rather have a day job and know I’m making X amount of dollars a week. I wondered what the next step was. Do I go on the road? I was doing well in comedy in Chicago, I did a couple of festivals and stuff. So, do I go on the road where I’ll be miserable? Or do I go to the source? So I moved to LA and got out of this winter bullshit and moved to California.

Did you start doing gigs right away?

I floundered. I almost got beat up and kicked out of the scene. I wasn’t real ambitious and I’m not real good with meeting new people. It’s a lot of pressure and intimidating and I don’t respond well to intimidation. It took me a while to find the rooms I liked to go to. People were like, “You have to wait three hours in front of the Laugh Factory to do three minutes.” There was no way I was going to wait three hours to do three minutes. I hate to sound arrogant, but no thanks.

Where was your big break? When did you stop being lazy and get into gear?

In 2007 I did the Aspen Comedy Festival, the one I originally went to for the open casting call for in 1998. I finally got to that festival. It felt like, “Oh yeah, somebody else wants me to do comedy,” not just me convincing myself that I should be on a show. When somebody else asks me to do a show I have no personal investment. I’m always like, “I would love to do that show.” When somebody who doesn’t have anything to gain from you, asks you to perform it’s proof enough I should be doing comedy. When people want me to be on a show because they like the way I tell my jokes in a better than average fashion, it feels good. It’s flattering when talent bookers for a festival choose you.

A full-circle validation.

You know how it is. When bookers have nothing to gain from you doing a show or festival but like your comedy its great. You see enough people who schmooze they’re way onto shows and then can’t pull it off when they get there. . .you set yourself back. I would rather go the hardest way possible and hide in the back of the room. If I get asked to do some time, I go up and have a good set. It shows your good at comedy and not just bullshitting people at giving them what they want.

Considering your personality, how do you mesh with Comedy Central and the men in suits?

I’m a company man now.

What the hell happened?

Honestly, JoAnn Grigioni was working at Comedy Central and she had been there a long time. Back before you could even post stuff online, they had a contest where you would send in a VHS tape. They had a Laff Riot Competition. I won the semi-finals in Chicago. So they have known me ever since I started doing comedy. Eventually you get the half hour, Live at Gotham. Then I put out my album, A Special Thing and that did well. They were like, “Want to do an hour special?” I was like, “Sure.” I’m knocking on wood right now, it all fell into place. The voice over stuff just happened. They were like, “Do you want to try this?” And here I am five years later still telling people when to watch South Park. Which I still can’t, so it’s a job.

Who were you coming up with in LA?

I moved here with Matt Braunger about the same time. Our buddy Matt Dwyer was already out here. Mike O’Connell was already out here. People were slowly trickling out here from Chicago, Nate Craig came out a few years after us. Mike Burns, everybody eventually started cruising out. But it was me and Braunger hitting the streets together. The new kids in town.

Are you already working on a new album?

The other one came out a few months ago, so I’m not gonna try too hard. I’m not into that Louis CK shit where you put out something new every year. He’s blowing the standard up for everybody else.

He’s the Stephen King of comedy.

Yeah, now everyone thinks that’s how comedy works. No! That’s how Louis CK works. It’s individual pacing we’re all working on here, alright?!

Do you do the thing where once the special or album is out, you retire that material?

I do try to do that. It’s a quality control thing, where once it’s out in the world it’s time to write new stuff. If you want to be a relevant comic you have to come up with new stuff. I didn’t model anything I did after comics that are successful. I would watch the old comics in Chicago when I started and wondered how they fucked it up. They were on top of the world in the 80s but then they never wrote new material, never explored the world around themselves and tried to move along with the times. I perceived their mistakes and tried to move forward. You can tell when somebody is writing jokes because they think somebody else will think it’s funny as opposed to somebody who is actively engaged in what they are talking about onstage. I would see those guys in Chicago pick out whatever hack news story was big, like Lorenna Bobbit stuff. Picking out current news items and writing a joke that goes along with it isn’t hard if you know how to write jokes. It was never anything about themselves as individuals, as human beings in the joke. Comedy now is about who you are, I don’t give a fuck about news items, great, we all read the news, so what?

The night you’re in Santa Cruz, across the street is Paula Poundstone.

No shit. She’s still out making it happen.

She’s like a Titus, doing 2 ½ hour marathon sets.

I opened for Christopher Titus and I knew of his TV show. I thought it was different and kind of dark for a sit-com and a network show. He was good because he attracts the Hot Rod meathead guys but then throws out stuff about gay marriage shouldn’t even be an issue at the risk of losing the Hot Rod meatheads. He doesn’t give a fuck. He speaks his beliefs and I respect him for that. Not taking the easy route of playing to the audience and giving them what they want.

Last thing. Do you know a guy in LA named Joe Sib? He’s a Santa Cruz guy.

I know Sib. He’s a fucking sweetheart. It’s the weirdest LA connection. He was in a band called Whack and one of the guys in the band is from my hometown of Addison, Illinois who I didn’t even know lived in LA. One of the first weeks I was here I was drinking in a bar with Matt Braunger. Braunger comes back and says, “I’m talking with this guy who knows you and is from your hometown.” It’s weird that LA can become a very small town. Any creative people that wanted to make it out of the suburbs came here or went to New York.




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