JFL Northwest comedy festival profiles – Andy Kindler

Andy Kindler hosts The Alternative Show Feb. 24 & 25 at the Rio Theatre as part of JFL Northwest 2017.

Andy Kindler might be considered a comedian’s comedian, if so many comedians wouldn’t just as soon see him retire.

Actually, “retire” might be too weak of a word. When you’re as critical of your fellow comics as Kindler is – folks like Adam Carolla, Bill Maher and Dane Cook have been recipients of his on- and off-stage barbs – then you’re bound to make some enemies.

Besides his stand-up routines, Kindler is also known for his annual state-of-the-industry address at Just for Laughs in Montreal, as well as for hosting Hulu’s stand-up series, Coming to the Stage. He’s done voicework for Bob’s Burgers and played a fictional version of himself in the series Maron. At this year’s JFL Northwest comedy festival, Kindler will host the Alternative Show (Feb. 24 & 25) at the Rio Theatre (1660 E. Broadway St.), which features a lineup of favourites from the festival. Among other things, we asked the L.A.-based stand-up about how he handles awkward backstage encounters with fellow comedians.

Q: Some of your humour is political. Now, telling Trump jokes that are funny and not belaboring the point must be a challenge.

A: The thing is, I was really looking forward to getting rid of the material. One thing I said was, “Do you think in Berlin in 1932, they ever said things like, ‘When is Hitler going to pivot?’” Also, that when Trump gets into office he will build (in Trump voice) “Trump-centration camps, the greatest concentration camps ever made, and I will get the Jews to pay for the camps.”

All of that stuff I think is still going to work, unfortunately. Depending on how you talk about it, it really can’t be hack, because it’s real. It’s happening right now.

Q: When you’re doing comedy festivals, there must be awkward backstage moments where you’re talking to people, or friends of people, that you’ve made fun of. What happens in those situations?

A: It depends on the level of un-comfortability. I have gone after Louis CK on several occasions. I’ve made fun of him in many different ways. His fashion sense. I call it American Gervais. I ran into him once in Montreal. And I felt awkward about it. We were cordial.

I kind of really despise Ricky Gervais. I used to love him when he did the original (British series) The Office. In a lot of ways, I don’t like the idea of there being a personal confrontation. I wouldn’t want to meet him (Gervais) again. I met him once years ago when he was on Letterman. I haven’t had much of the in-person stuff. A few times over the years I have. The year I went after Anthony Cumia, from (radio show) Opie and Anthony, that was bad in the sense that it caused a Twitter thing – people harassing me by sending pictures of concentration camps and that sort of thing.

There’s a big part of me that is, I wouldn’t say cowardly – but it’s a weird dichotomy. Like, I might be scared to send food back in a restaurant if it was cooked wrong. But then I’m compelled to make these political statements.

Andy Kindler. Susan Maljan photo.

Q: Do you have any memories, good, bad, terrific, lousy, of doing your thing in Vancouver?

A: Vancouver is always – I don’t want to say my favourite city in Canada, unless that helps the audience response, if I do say that (laughs). But I kind of do love everything about it. People have said it’s easy to get pot up there. I’ve heard that rumour (laughs).

I never had a negative experience up in Vancouver. In cities like Austin and Vancouver, there’s always a thing where you’re preaching to the converted. I don’t mind preaching to the converted – my joke is, I like preaching to the converted, because I kill!

I’ve seldom seen a more beautiful city, and I’m all for that. I grew up in Queens, New York, so whenever I get to be somewhere beautiful, it is idyllic. And the people are by and large, wonderful there.

It’s probably a cliché to say this but, and certainly now more than ever, whenever Americans get a chance to go to Canada, we kind of don’t want to go back to America. I’m sure there are problems up there. But the problems up there compared to the politics here seem so small. The people in general seem more progressive.

Q: It feels like a lot of people in the U.S. are starting to lose faith in progressive politics.

A: What you call “conservative” is progressive here. Maybe that’s simplifying it. But more progressive. Nobody argues up there about health insurance.

I just can’t believe, and I wish I could be funnier about it, that we’re still arguing over these things that every other industrial country has realized you can’t just do on an ad hoc basis. If you’re walking down the street and somebody is hit by the car, do you believe we should leave them in the street or take them to the hospital? If you believe that you should take them to the hospital, then you have to believe in some kind of a health-care system. It’s sad that people can’t figure that out, that they’re paying for it now anyway. The resistance to getting everybody in the pool here has been so… but a lot of it is based on the fact that the Republican party in this country is completely corrupt and has built up so much of its power on racism and wedge issues.

Goodnight everybody!

For more info on JFL Northwest, including a full lineup, schedule, and tickets, visit jflnorthwest.com.

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