At the first Moontower, when Maria Bamford finished an interview and learned that Andy Kindler was performing next door, she tore off to the theater to catch the end of his set. She literally ran. Ms. Bamford stood in the back of the showroom and erupted with laughter as Andy deconstructed his performance with self-effacing bravado. He has a reputation as the comic’s comic for a reason.
We’re lucky to have Andy Kindler in this world. He keeps us honest. Every year at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, Kindler takes the stage and takes comedians to task at his annual State of the Industry address. Whether he’s good-naturedly ribbing Louis CK or lamenting Jay Leno’s surrender to the dark side, he is completely unafraid. No one is safe, not even Kindler himself. That being said, he’s also one of the nicest people in show business. It’s not that he hates the Lenos of the world, it’s that he legitimately loves comedy and thinks we deserve better.
Kindler returns to Moontower this April. I got the chance to speak with him about his evolving act, working with David Letterman, and his upcoming State of the Industry address.
When did you first perform in Austin? What are your early memories from your first shows here?
It was the early 90’s. It was a special time. The comedy boom was ending, and you could see the desperation in my eyes. I was excited about going. I had heard so many great things about Austin, and it was all true. I met Howard Kremer, Laura House, Chip Pope, and a whole bunch of great comedians. I do remember being a little frightened at the Velveeta Room because of how vicious the comics went after each other when they performed. I knew it was part of the bonding experience, but I had never seen something like that before. To join in the fun I heckled myself on stage.
I played Cap City, and I often struggled in the room with the people who paid, but I do remember comics in the back of the room enjoying it. To be honest, I always carried a laugh track on cassette with me on the road along with a boom box. I would put it in the back of the club and have a friend operate it That’s how I started the rumor that I was a comic’s comic.
How has your act has changed over the years? Do you approach your material the same way today that you did when you first started?
Early on I approached with trepidation because my material was bad. When I started I actually believed the audience knew what was funny. This was before I developed my “contempt for the masses” style. I just saw someone on Twitter seriously use “the masses” in a tweet.
Back to my compelling story. I always commented on the joke not working, which at the beginning, didn’t help. Over the years I “refined” and “honed” it. I can’t stop it with the quotes around everything. I started talking more about the entertainment industry and other comedians around 7 years in. The comedians and TV networks sometimes didn’t enjoy being made fun of, which probably affected my “bottom line.” That’s why I have time to do this q & a. I should be in my mansion yelling at a contractor.
You’ve had some amazing Letterman segments over the years, both your stand-up and the remotes. What was it like meeting him for the first time? Can you describe your collaboration with him on the prerecorded pieces?
It’s hard to talk about this without sounding sappy, but what has happened on the Late Show has been a dream come true for me. Dave is my comedy hero, so all the stuff that’s happened with me being able to do standup and the field pieces has been the greatest. And it all happened because of him. It was his decision to bring me on to do the remotes. I have never met him outside the show, but he couldn’t be nicer and more gracious and supportive when I’m there. Sometimes we talk a little when the remote is played back in the studio, and it’s always a thrill, but I do get very nervous because he’s the king!
I work on the prerecorded pieces with the writers, who come up with a bunch of jokes and scenarios, and then during the event, we use those jokes and anything else that comes up in the moment. My improv abilities are ON the hook. I have become great friends with Jeremy Weiner, who is a brilliant writer on the show and hilarious as a person. He’s my point man, whatever that means, and goes on the shoots with me He feeds me lines while I’m interviewing people. We fake yell at each other all day until the crew wants to strangle us, WITH LOVE.
Who’s going to get it at this year’s State of the Industry address?
It’s going to be all about Jimmy Fallon. I’m going to try and see if I can go a half hour longer so I can break down everything that disturbs me about the Fallon phenomenon. He’s a song and dance man! He’s quite a hoofer. Plus he’s so upbeat, and happy, and enthusiastic, and energetic, and phony. The American Dream!
For more information on this year’s Moontower Comedy Festival and a complete lineup of performers visit www.moontowercomedyfestival.com