Even at its most depraved, the comedy of Kyle Kinane exudes a sort of busted up Zen quality. The Midwesterner is uproarious and crass, but also curiously positive.
"Yeah, well sometimes it seems like a comedians make a conscious choice make to fun everything and act superior to [their] surroundings for comedic effect," Kinane explains, his gravely voice instantly familiar from his gig voicing Comedy Central's on-air verbiage.
"For myself, I don't feel inherently negative," Kinane says. "As much as getting laughs is great, I also want to be in a good mental place while I'm telling jokes. I mean, the 'depressed comedian' stereotype? I don't think I need to fall into that."
His latest special, the Lance Bangs-directed I Liked His Old Stuff Better, was released earlier this year. It's his third special, following the well received Death of the Party in 2010 and 2012's Whiskey Icarus, and it's raised his profile considerably. His upcoming double-set at FilmBar sold out weeks in advance.
It's the finest presentation of Kinane's comedy yet. Riffing on laundry mishaps, police, and aging, Kinane sounds wry and contemplative, at least as "contemplative" as someone musing on the merits of shower beers can. He's often described as a "punk rock" comic due to his musical past, but here he names each of the 13 tracks after a corresponding song on N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton. "This Track Is Not Called Fuck tha Police," "This Track Is Not Called If It Ain't Ruff," and so on.
Choosing the venue made perfect sense to Kinane. The people of Athens, he explains, "They're all about live entertainment." When someone suggested he record the special in Georgia, he quickly agreed. But backstage, the gravity of his setting sank in.
"There's some history there," Kinane says. "I won't lie and say there wasn't a little pressure... sitting backstage, seeing Nirvana's autograph on the wall, I was like, 'Oh boy, I'm gonna tell my jokes here?'" Any doubts were misplaced; the crowd at the 40 Watt responds powerfully to the set. And for his part, Kinane seems to be having a genuinely great time on stage.
"A lot of these old road guys are out talking about how shitty [being a comic] is," Kinane says, addressing the "depressed comedian" stereotype again. "People partied their way into comedy and they don't know how to party their way out. There are so many comics out there that don't seem like they're having a good time, but I realized 'This is my life, and I can dictate the direction of this.'"
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For the comedian, I Liked His Old Stuff Better is something of a validation, the pay off from years of attempting to perform his comedy "in different places," exploring alternative venues and alternative routes to finding his audience.
"I thought 'I want to do it a different way, and I might have to do it for free for a long time,'" Kinane says, "but now I'm at the other side going, 'Oh shit, that kinda worked.'"
Kyle Kinane will take the stage for two sold-out shows on Monday, March 9, at FilmBar.