Q&A with Jessica Kirson

Jessica Kirson is really, really funny. She's also very smart and has really interesting things to say about comedy. When she sat down with GoGoMix, we discovered a few of her favorite things, but the conversation kept steering back towards the life of a stand-up comic: how to keep an act fresh, the pressure of being perfect, and the power of laughter. Check out our conversation below to read Jessica's takes, along with her favorite things, and her personal Robin Williams story.

GGM: You’ve recently done five gigs in two nights. I was wondering, when you have to do so many sets so close together, how do you keep things fresh?

JK: It’s interesting. Sometimes you do six in one night, where you go from club to club to club, but those are, like, 15 minute sets. When you headline at a club and do 45 minutes, it’s more taxing to do two or three in one night. You really have an act, and I always improv also with the crowd. That’s how I keep things fresh.

GGM: You did not start out as a comedian. Was comedy something that was always in the back of your mind as something you wanted to pursue, or did it sort of come as a surprise when you started doing comedy and discovered you were good at it?

JK: I never ever once thought of being a stand-up comedian. I was never a fan of stand-up comedy. I always knew I made people laugh and I always used it. It was very powerful to be able to make laugh my whole life, and I’ve been doing it ever since I was a young child. I always saw the power in laughter and being funny.

GGM: You released a special last year, “Talking to Myself.” Is there a difference between when you know you’re performing for the DVD rather than any other night?

JK: That’s a good question. The DVD I made is of ten different appearances, so I can use different things from different shows. When you have to make a tape for something, it’s very hard. You want it to go a certain way, and you want it to get a certain response, and if it doesn’t get the response you want, a lot of times you redo it. I’m like a lot of comics in that I never feel it’s good enough. We feel we always have to do better. A lot of times I have to ask people their opinion.

GGM: You also recently made your big screen debut. How would you describe the difference between acting for the big screen versus doing stand-up?

JK: I’ve done some acting on TV, so I used to it because of that. I love doing a movie. I was in Nick Cannon’s School Dance, and I just played a police officer. I just did a small part in the Amy Schumer/Judd Apatow film Train Wreck where I play a train conductor. It’s fun. It’s a lot of sitting around, which people don’t realize. And you’ll have to do a scene twenty times sometimes.

GGM: You said you weren’t a fan of stand-up comics growing up, but you looked up to certain comedians. Who were they?

JK: Well, it’s not like I watched stand-up all the time, but I loved comedy. I loved sitcoms like I Love Lucy and The Carol Burnett Show. I was obsessed with those shows. I loved old school Saturday Night Live. I loved a lot of sketch and sitcoms.

GGM: Are there any shows on today you find particularly funny?

JK: I don’t have a ton of time to watch TV, but I love Modern Family and Orange is the New Black. I love dark comedy, but I’m not really into the sitcoms that are out now.

GGM: How about funniest movies of all time?

JK: I love Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show. Those were amazing to me. And I love Vacation, Animal House, old movies like that. Bridesmaids, The Heat. There are certain movies that always make me laugh, but it’s hard to make comics laugh.

GGM: I can imagine there’s a lot of analysis that goes into it.

JK: Yeah, definitely.

GGM: What kind of music do you like?

JK: I really like all kinds of music. I’m not a huge fan of country, but I like some of it. I like classic rock.

GGM: Do you have any favorite artists?

JK: Oh sure. I liked Rush a lot growing up. Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Adele, Tori Amos. I like a lot of music. I actually love gospel! I love so many different kinds of music.

GGM: Are you reading anything right now?

JK: I’m not a reader. I wish I was. The only thing I read is self-help books. I have so many, it’s insane. When I wake up I have to read some of them. Some affirmation books to start my day, otherwise I get too clouded with negative thoughts.

GGM: What are some of your favorite restaurants in New York?

JK: Oh my god, there’s so many. I just love New York diners. Bagel places, Jewish delis. Houston’s, which isn’t fancy shmancy, but is a nice restaurant with such great food. And typical steakhouses. I’m on the road so much now that I don’t eat a ton in New York City. On the road it’s hard to find even a restaurant that isn’t fast food! I get really excited to see anything on the road that isn’t one of those places. The fanciest thing you’ll see is like a Cracker Barrel.

GGM: Do you have a favorite gig story?

JK: One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was when I was five years into being a standup comic. I was performing at the Comedy Cellar at midnight on a Tuesday. It was a shitty spot, though it was an honor to perform there. I was doing my thing and some guy in the back was screaming at me, but not in a mean way, stuff like “You’re awesome! This is funny shit!” I looked out in the back and it was Robin Williams! I was overwhelmed because he’s one of my idols. He kept yelling at me and I was like “Okay Robin, you’re famous, let me have my ten minutes.” It was very funny. When I got offstage, I was in the hallway, and he ran up to me and hugged me. I remember him being really sweaty and just saying “You’re so free, and incredible!” And that was ten years ago! It was a huge thing for me. I’ll always cherish that.

GGM: This is my own personal curiosity—

JK: I’m not telling you my weight.

GGM: [laughs] About Robin, I noticed that every public appearance he made, he was very manic, whereas in movies, he was very down to earth. How would you describe his personality?

JK: Oh, I wasn’t close with him, but every time I was around him he was the sweetest guy. So down-to-earth. So humble. Possibly too humble! I don’t know if he ever took in how brilliant he was. In fact I guarantee he probably didn’t. Such a sweet guy. It’s so draining to have to be that on all the time. I was at a family thing last night, and people were making small talk with me, and I wanted to run out of the room. It’s torture for comics, to have these small talk conversations. I bet he thought he had to be on all the time.

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