Andy Kindler speaks his mind, often at length and with great detail. "I'm famous for my long-winded responses," the comedian, known for his recurring roles on Bob's Burgers, Wizards of Waverly Place, Everybody Loves Raymond, says laughing.
Kindler is a stand-up vet. A joke-teller for nearly three decades, he often takes on the role of comedy's Jiminy Cricket. His annual state of the industry addresses have found him addressing Louis C.K. (whose show, Louie, isn't one of his favorites) and Adam Carrola ("He's like Hitler if Hitler wasn't funny"). Kindler took some time to answer a few questions for Jackalope Ranch via hands-free while driving in Los Angeles in advance of his dates this week at Stand-Up Scottsdale.
See also: Dan Mintz of Bob's Burgers on Voicing Tina Belcher and Her Trademark Moan
Andy, tell me a little bit about your past experiences in Phoenix. I have kind of a long history [of working Phoenix] in the sense that I used to play [there] a lot. I started doing comedy in 1984, and started going on the road in '87. So I used to go to the Improv in Tempe; I filmed the Young Comedians Show [for HBO] there in '92. So I love Tempe a lot. I say this in every interview -- "You're probably too young to remember" -- but do you have any knowledge of what the "comedy boom" was?
Yeah, sure. In the '80s and '90s, yeah. The reason I got involved in whatever you want to call it, the "alternative movement," was because the crowds got so bad in comedy clubs. I never was a big fan of the crowds at the Tempe Improv, although the night I did the special was fun, so I'm interested to see what it's going to be like now, what the crowds will be like. I really have no knowledge of it.
So that's what you identified with in the "alt comedy" scene -- alternative places to do your act, not necessarily stylistic factors? Not to sound like I'm bragging -- which always prefaces bragging -- but you know I was actually part of the starting of the alternative movement. Not just me, there were many other people. Janeane Garofalo, Kathy Griffin, Dana Gould, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, people who came out of the alternative movement, and there was a movement in New York, too. But it was because the clubs were so awful. If we hadn't formed the movement, the guys I'm talking about, we'd've had no other place to play. All the clubs were like Larry the Cable Guy. Back then there was no online. They used to always say, "Come to the comedy club," but you never knew who was playing there. That'd be like saying "Come to the movie theater, we don't know what's playing but you like movies, right?" Now people can go online and have some idea what they're seeing, and it's made comedy club audiences that much better.
You tweeted about Arizona's recent SB 1062. I'm a political junkie. I almost watch too much politics.
How political do you like to get with your set? I talk about politics, but you would never think of me as a full-on political comedian. I've been talking about how I never thought I'd be living in a country where not only would there be the first black president, but all my cool progressive friends would be making fun of me for loving the first black president. It's so weird to me. When you're 70 years old, and people say, "What was it like to be around for the first black president?" Are you gonna go [adopts signature "old man voice"], "Oh, I wasn't that into him? I didn't like his policies"? But I probably will do a riff on that thing I tweeted, that [Jan Brewer] has vetoed the bill that allows you to knock down old ladies in the street for religious reasons.
You do the voice of Mort the mortician on Bob's Burgers, which is one of my favorite shows. Every character is lovable on that show, and I like Mort a lot, especially. The way I got the Bob's Burgers thing was I know Loren Bouchard, who's the creator of the show. I know him going back to a show called Dr. Katz, [which] was a seminal show on Comedy Central in the '90s. Jonathan Katz is a comedian, and he played like he was a therapist. All of his clients were comedians playing the roles of themselves, basically, going to him for their troubles. I did six or seven episodes. That's a brilliant show. It's available on DVD. More people should become familiarized with it. Then I did a couple [episodes] of [late '90s-early 2000s series] Home Movies. That was Brendan Small's. I did a few episodes of that, and Loren was the executive producer on that. So I kept in touch with Loren,and when they did the pilot for [Bob's Burgers] he called me up out of the blue to do the pilot.
The thing I like about [Bouchard shows is] the way Loren does voices. When I was a kid I never watched the Warner Bros. cartoons, because I was always bothered by what sounded like speech impediments. [Laughs] I know there's some brilliant stuff, but I always watched Hanna Barbera shows when I was a kid. They were like primitive sitcoms. But I don't like cartoon voices. I asked what kind of voice Loren wanted me to do and he said, "Just do you own voice." Loren actually does a really good impression of me, so many times I'll ask him for a read, because he's very specific. He knows what he wants, and he's right with what he wants. I'm a recurring character, so I think I improvise less than the core cast, which doesn't make it any less brilliant, but I don't improve as much as I have on some other shows.
Do you have a favorite episode of Bob's Burgers? Well, I mean, selfishly I love "Weekend at Mort's."
Such a good song, too. It's a great song! I got to act with Amy Sedaris, who's one of my heroes. So that was a thrill for me. She's just the greatest, which did lead to more improvisation, [and] I mean, to me, H. Jon Benjamin is the greatest voice-over guy. I'm guilty of hyperbole, but I think he is the great voice-over guy ever. He's funny in almost every sentence he says.
So how much improvisation do you do when you're on Maron? Is that a little bit looser? That is definitely -- and I want to stress, no one on Bob's has ever said, "Don't ad lib," that's just the nature of the network thing. [Mocks shouting] I don't want to be misquoted! But Maron is definitely looser. I just did three episodes of the [second] season. Sometimes we stick pretty close to the script. But other times we go off. It's definitely encouraged. Bobcat Goldthwait directs sometimes and he's a comedian himself. He's very much into us doing things. There's also [director] Rob Cohen; I've been a friend of his forever. He's really funny and he definitely encourages it. Sometimes I realized with acting, especially with Maron, because it's really fun to do it, but you go through ebbs and flows. With stand-up, everything depends on how comfortable you are with it. I've done stand up for 28 years now, so if I took three months off I would not feel weird about getting on stage.
But acting is something that I'm assuming [isn't like that]. I know people who are very experienced actors, and they tell me they never get comfortable with auditions. But the more comfortable you are the more able you are to come out with different sides. With Maron, if I'm feeling stiff it's so hard to let go. That's so important to acting, to let go of that idea that's saying, "How am I doing, is this looking good?"
I love Maron because it's exactly the kind of show I want to do. To me, it's the difference between Seinfeld and Curb. I don't really love Curb Your Enthusiasm, even though I know Larry David really is a genius. But on Curb, the more it stretched out of reality, the less engaging it is. I have the same problem with Louie in a sense. It's interesting sometimes, but I selfishly I want to laugh. Louie will purposely take your mind out of the moment.
You mean with some of the surreal moments he throws in? Exactly. Surreal stuff, like one time he goes to find his father and he ends up driving on a boat. You know, to me that stuff leaves me kind of cold. I'm not saying I don't admire it, I'm just saying it's not exactly what I love. So Maron to me I think is brilliant, because they've really been able to ride that line where it's really his, even though they stretch it and it gets hyper-real sometimes; it's so rooted in reality. Do you remember the second to last episode of the last season where Marc fantasizes about what life would be like if he wasn't a comedian? It so much rang true to me about who he is. I love that show.
I feel the same way about Portlandia. It goes out of its way to be more outrageous, but it's still rooted in these people you believe are in Portland, and you believe Fred [Armisen] and Carrie [Brownstein] really are those people. In general, those are the things that resonate with me: things rooted in reality. That's what Seinfeld was. Seinfeld was hilarious because of the relationships, not so much because of the plot twists. That's what Curb is to me: Oh, the homeless guy in the first scene is going to come back in the next scene. It's kind of contrived a little bit.
I get what you're saying. And I like Curb too, but with Maron's show you really get the sense that he's doing him. Verisimilitude. I love that word! [Laughs]
I'm looking forward to catching the act. I have no idea what to expect when I get there. [Laughs] I always view every gig with excitement and trepidation.
Andy Kindler performs at Stand Up Scottsdale Thursday, March 13, through Saturday, March 15.
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