Motorco Music Hall of Durham, NC, NS2 of Nashville, TN, and The Carolina Theatre of Durham will jointly present Jen Kirkman: The “All New Material, Girl” Tour 2017 at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 1st, in Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre. A long-time writer/guest on E!’s Chelsea Lately, Jen Kirkman is known for regular guest appearances on Comedy Central’s Drunk History and the recently departed @Midnight with Chris Hardwick, as well as TBS’s Conan. Kirkman has also popped-up for chats with Stephen Colbert, Wendy Williams, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Harry Connick, Jr., and the team from The View.
Her debut comedy album, 2006’s Self Help, was followed by Hail to the Freaks in 2011, which hit #13 on the Billboard comedy album charts. Her weekly podcast, I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman, often pops up in the comedy category on iTunes Top 100. The premise? Jen Kirkman sits in bed and talks to you about what’s on her mind.
Her 2015 Netflix Original Comedy Special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) was named one of the Top 10 comedy specials of 2015 by Time Out New York, The Atlantic, and New York Magazine. It, too, has its own live album. Her most recent special, Just Keep Livin’?, has been streaming worldwide, via Netflix, since January 2017.
Fans of Cartoon Network’s Home Movies may recognize her as the recurring voice of Cynthia. She had a cameo in the 2017 Reese Witherspoon rom-com Home Again. And ABC is currently developing a half-hour comedy series, The Mighty Quinn, penned by Kirkman.
Her two memoirs, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself and I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches From a Life Under Construction landed her on the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestseller list in both 2013 and 2016.
Kirkman’s new national tour, The “All New Material, Girl” Tour, comes after a year-long hiatus. “I healed my voice back to health, so that I could keep having a job! The other effect is that people aren’t sick of me,” Kirkman explained in an interview with Triangle Review.
But a year off the road is hardly a year away from the grind. “I get paid for Netflix, and I do writing jobs for TV, so I knew financially how to set myself up for a year off of touring,” she says.
Even though Kirkman is hitting the road, she has no plans to shut down a new pet project: jewelry. Jen Kirkman explains: “I love fashion and expressing myself. I want to get into that side of things. My necklaces say things like ‘Over Forty,’ ‘FeminstAF,’ and ‘Childfree.’ I think women who want to wear those (sadly) off-putting words — and choices — around their necks are both awesome and kind of hilarious. Like a way to be a little defiant at work.”
An unusual, but welcome, trend emerged on Kirkman’s last tour. She says, “Women who come to my shows have started dressing for me and wearing their fun outfit that might not appeal to their date but makes them happy.”
Many comics bring their own opening act on tour. Kirkman has a different approach. “I travel alone,” she explains. “Each city, I have a local opening act.” In Durham, she has invited Carolina’s own Gretchen McNeely to kick things off. You might have spotted McNeely onstage at The Pinhook in Durham earlier this year, as part of the Eyes Up Here Comedy Showcase. Kirkman’s special Twitter list, “TOUR 2017” includes all of her current openers. These are funny folk, who don’t yet have much exposure.
Jen Kirkman observes that everything emerging comics need to know is readily available. And it’s free. She asks them, “Have you listened to WTF with Marc Maron, The Jackie and Laurie Show, Fitzdog Radio, or Greg Proops’ The Smartest Man in the World? These are entire generations of comics talking about comedy. Hours and hours a week … master classes in what a life in comedy is like.”
Comics have long depended on fading out old material as new jokes are snuck in over time. Small gigs are used to field test new jokes for an upcoming tour. The tour is used to polish that material for the special and the album — where the big bucks are. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Kirkman is coming right out of the gate with all-new stuff because, she says, “With comedy, I guess it’s that element of surprise that makes it enjoyable. Without that element, it’s like watching a magician show you how it’s done. So, this is new material. The audience has not seen this stuff on Netflix.”
That is not to say that Kirkman is unprepared. “I have been doing the ‘Lab Test’ shows since January to work on new material for the tour,” she says. “I’ve been slowly just finding things I want to say for the last almost year. Although if something interesting happens to me the week of the show I’ll absolutely be talking about it on stage.”
For some stand-ups, performing live takes a backseat to the endless podcasts, albums, TV appearances, and social-media bursts. Hard-earned 30-minute sets on Comedy Central Presents or HBO’s One Night Stand used to be a spectacular achievement for a stand-up. The illusive HBO one-hour special was practically inconceivable, unless you were George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, or Chris Rock.
Without the career-launching TV showcases of the 1980s and 1990s to serve as a stepping-stone, the leap from the road to one-hour special is longer than ever before.
Jen Kirkman has achieved that elusive special — three of them — but the road is her home. “This tour is not me preparing for a special,” she says. “It’s me touring to tour. There’s lots of improvisational stories, and I am crazy loose in ways you just can’t be on TV. I recommend people see me live. It’s a way better experience.”
For those dreading an onslaught of political material, fear not. Though she cannot avoid the topic, she would rather focus her time discussing fraudulent spiritual healers, holidays without family, and her self-described “pretentious hatred of pop culture.”
Jen Kirkman’s delivery is straightforward and doesn’t mince words. But she is far from shocking. And that’s fine with her. She asserts that “If you can just be yourself the audiences will, over time, let you know if you’ve broken ground.”
Kirkman will stop off at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC, the day after the Durham show, with Asheville’s own Minori Hinds kicking off the Nov. 2nd show. Gigs are scheduled through next January, with more 2018 shows to be announced soon. Some events end with a pay-to-enter VIP Meet & Greet with Jen Kirkman. Sadly, the Durham gig does not appear to be one of them.
With plenty of recorded material to keep us satisfied, for Jen Kirkman, 2017-18 is all about planes, trains, and automobiles. “I document my tours on my Instagram stories, so people can see how actually boring it is — not that I mind,” she says. “I have no crazy stories; I’m a middle-aged woman trying not to bloat from no sleep and dehydration. It’s not a party.”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 27th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article180933871.html.
The Carolina Theatre of Durham, Motorco Music Hall, NS2 present JEN KIRKMAN: THE “ALL NEW MATERIAL, GIRL” TOUR 2017 at 8 p.m. Nov 1 in Fletcher Hall at The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan, St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com//venueartist/114779/1535014.
SHOW: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/events/jen-kirkman-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Call-new-material-girl%E2%80%9D-tour-2017, https://www.facebook.com/events/1232142696840227/, and http://nationalshows2.com/2017/02/jen/.
THE TOUR: http://www.jenkirkman.com/tour-dates.
Jen Kirkman (comedian, actress, and author): http://www.jenkirkman.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1327303/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/JenKirkman/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/JenKirkman (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jen_Kirkman (Wikipedia).
Dustin K. Britt, a Triangle native, is an actor and director. He holds an M.A.Ed. in Special Education from East Carolina University and teaches locally. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment. You can find him on Facebook as Dustin K. Britt and via his movie blog Hold the Popcorn.