Kyle Kinane

Interview: Talking To Kyle Kinane About His New Special, “Dirt Nap”

There’s certain comedians that, when you hear they’ve got a new stand-up hour coming out, you find yourself getting super excited. Kyle Kinane is easily one of those comics. A new special from him is always appointment viewing, and he has maintained a solid consistency of having a new one come out every year. Although as far as he’s concerned, that timeline is arbitrary. He’s more focused on making sure the hour is ready.

With his brand-new special, Dirt Nap - which is out today on our YouTube channel - he is showcasing his talent as a storyteller. The main hook in the special is how he moved to the suburbs during the pandemic, and the adjustment period he had to face during that transition. But also, there’s a killer 15-minute chunk where he breaks down the Fast and the Furious franchise that isn’t to be missed.

We recently sat down with Kyle for a wide-ranging interview that touched on going beardless, how he perfects a new hour, working with Bobcat Goldthwait, his memories of the Chicago scene, and so much more!

Before we get into the special, I saw your interview with Seth Meyers the other day, and it is crazy to see you without the beard. Because that’s something everyone knows about you.

Yeah, that’s kind of why you got to do that every once in a while. I know which looks work on me. But you want to be known for the material. So if someone’s like “Oh, you’ve got to stay looking a certain way,” I wanna prove that I don’t. I’ve got to change it up once in a while and let people know they’re still coming to see jokes.

With a lot of your comedy, that’s always been something you’ve done. Playing with the expectations and what people are looking for. From special to special, there seems to be a little bit of that shift, which is interesting from an audience perspective.

Yeah. I mean I think that’s a fun challenge. You typecast yourself if you just fall into a character too frequently. So I have to prove to people that there’s something different every time.

And because you are known for having a killer new hour every year, is there some sort of adrenaline that goes with trying to live up to being known for that? Do you feel pressure to need to have that new hour polished every single year?

I mean, the time frame is kind of arbitrary by saying a year. But if something’s done, I don’t want to keep repeating myself. Like “Alright. These jokes have reached their final form. I’m sick of saying them.” Then it’s like “Okay, time to record them and get the new stuff going.” I still like the challenge of it. The timeframe - whether it’s a year, year and a half, two years - is arbitrary. I just like the challenge of “Alright, those jokes work. Great. Now do it again.”

What is the trajectory with the new hour once you’ve taped the old one? Do you immediately shift into it, or are you someone that likes to sprinkle it in as you’re out on the road?

Everything’s being written all at the same time. So the new one’s being written while the old one’s being practiced. I can’t just repeat the same stuff. I start getting bored of myself if I start repeating things. It’s always in a state of flux. Whatever the hour is. It’s like “Alright, these are the jokes the best way I can deliver them right now. So capture that for posterity and then keep trucking.”

What made you want to tape this hour at the Acme?

I hadn’t been there in a while. It’s such a phenomenal club. I knew it was going to be fine. Bobcat was directing it, and he knows “Let’s just capture it like it feels in a club.” Well, this is a great club to do that in. It’s one of the best places to perform comedy that I’ve been to. I’m assuming the audience feels the same way about watching it there. So it was an easy selection to make.

The clubs are more fun [to record at] because we can record two shows on a Saturday, but you’ve already done a show Thursday and two shows Friday in that same venue. So you’re more comfortable with the room and they know how they’re going to shoot it. As opposed to “Alright, we’re going to shoot it at this theater. And you just have two shows that night. That’s it. You hadn’t played there before. So you only have two shots to get it right as opposed to this way.” It was just more comfortable to get to do it this way.

You mentioned Bobcat. Was this the first time you had him direct one of your specials?

Yeah. I was on the show Those Who Can’t, and he had directed some episodes of that. And he’s just a great guy to work with. He’s just so easy going. You get on film sets and there’s always a sense of panic. “We’re losing light. We’ve got to get this done.” He just had such a laidback attitude. And then knowing he had a stand-up background is valuable. Normal directors can shoot a stand-up special but don’t know what makes it a quality stand-up special. Whereas Jonah Ray - who directed my last one - he has a stand-up background, and Bobcat did this one. I think that was very helpful having people with stand-up background helps.

What are some of those qualities that having a director who’s a stand-up can help with?

Well, they both watched the set beforehand and are like “Oh, what if you told this joke in this part because it would callback to this other section?” So there was insight there just from a stand-up perspective, as opposed to a director that doesn’t know stand-up who’s just concerned with making it look cool. Where Bobcat and Jonah both know stand-up and they’re like “Oh, this part’s funny. When you make this gesture, we should have a camera over here because you’re kind of pointing away from the audience but it’s fun to see it here. Just being fans of stand-up themselves, they’d know what’d look good or what’d pop more.

Your bit in your new special about the Fast and the Furious franchise is inspired. As someone who has never seen any of those movies, your explanation kind of makes me want to watch them now.

I mean, we all know what they are. It’s jot going to go down as one of the best films of the century. But go have fun with it. People like Star Wars, I don’t care about that. These are my Star Wars. That’s my Marvel universe.

What is the construction like for a bit like that?

I think you just have to allow yourself to get carried away sometimes. Let’s just see how far I can go before the audience is like “Okay, we are now off board from this premise.”

What bit took the longest to come together in the special?

The full special, most of it is just a 45-minute story about moving to the suburbs. But stuff like this is not like a conscious effort, like “This story starts here and ends here.” You just start telling it one night and then you remember another detail you can add into it and then “Here’s another story that seemed unrelated but I can put it into this.” And before you know it, you’re just talking for 45 minutes about moving to the suburbs.

Has moving out of LA to the suburbs been an adjustment as far as being able to do stand-up as consistently? I imagine the fact that you still moved to a place like Portland that has a solid comedy scene must’ve helped.

Yeah. I mean, Portland’s great. Portland’s got so many funny people that keep me sharp. I can’t halfass it here. So that’s good. “I’m going up last, which means I’m going up after a bunch of great comedians. Okay. I have to bring it.” But it’s also nice to be in a town that’s not the showbiz industry and that’s what’s on everybody’s mind. It’s nice to be around folks that just have their own pursuits and their own adventures and it’s not just comedy and hustle and auditions. It’s nice to be around folks that aren’t part of that scene. Because that’s the rest of the world.

You talk about that adjustment period of what it’s like to leave a big city and move to the suburbs. Do you find yourself more relaxed now that it’s been a few years?

Oh yeah. I still get back there. We’ve got an apartment there, too. I think I was there for my formidable years. So there’s no part of me that’s like “Oh, I’m missing out!” I’m not. I did it all. And that city’s not going anywhere. It’s like college. You can always go to college. If I have to be down there for stuff, I’ll be down there for stuff. And we’ve got a spot down there. There’s only so many days in a row of gray rain before you’re like “Yeah, I think I’m gonna go sit in traffic, but it’ll be sunny.”

Like you, I’m also from the Illinois suburbs. And when I was really immersed in comedy in Chicago as a teenager, I kept hearing about the “legendary Kyle Kinane,” as you were just starting to really break. What do you remember about the Chicago scene?

(Laughs). Legendary for what? I don’t know. I had my fun when I was there. I started in ‘99. Nobody was going to be famous. It’s just people found this thing that they wanted to do very well. That was inspiring. It was like “Oh, we all want to just do stand-up and impress each other, but not just by playing to the back of the room. Doing inside jokes.” It’s like “No. I want to be good at stand-up.” Nobody knew why. I guess because we could make $30 on the weekend I guess. It was people like Pete Holmes and Kumail Nanjiani. We were all just dipshits hanging out at a bar and trying to write jokes that other comics would appreciate.

I’m sure the fondness paints over how boring it was to drive in from Addison to get to an open mic that has three people and then you stay out too late and drive home. I think in the thick of it, it might not have seemed as glamorous as it gets painted out.

Tell me about your new hour you’re working on.

What I’m doing now is it’s the same thing. It’s just two or three stories that are getting longer every night, so we’ll see what the final form is. I got really excited about the idea that human beings have a fight or flight response to fear. So I’ve been kind of messing around with that idea. Mostly because I don’t have self preservation like that. I don’t have a fight or flight idea. I just hang around when shit gets dangerous, so I’m going over examples about that. The premise is fun and then we’ll see what kind of stuff I find to talk about under that umbrella.

How to watch "Kyle Kinane: Dirt Nap."

Kyle Kinane’s new comedy special, Dirt Nap, is available now on YouTube. It's also available for purchase on 800 Pound Gorilla!

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