Last summer, I worked as a copywriter for Just For Laughs.
The slog of trying to write thousands and thousands of words to communicate the sheer throng of the festival with bureaucracy and last minute showbiz-trope changes always in the way by day and the mandated presence at 2+ comedy shows per night, it burned me out. The overall experience was positive but it is also a part of my life that I feel estranged from.
When the festival was over, I collapsed into a puddle of goo. When I woke up several months later, I could hardly remember a thing.
Almost a whole year removed from the experience now, I can’t really remember much of anything other than it was an overall positive experience.
The one thing I remember vividly: Andy Kindler.
In May, long before the madness began, I remember Googlin© him when the time came to write his bio.
I recognize him from reruns of Raymond Loves Everybody on OMNI TV in Ottawa as a stupid idiot (ie: child).
What was he doing hosting a show called THE ALTERNATIVE SHOW at MIDNIGHT at KATACOMBES at Just For Laughs?
“Oh shit, someone really fucked up in programming,” is what I said to myself.
And then I watched his stand-up.
Try this on for size. It’s not nearly as good as the real thing but it’s a fine placeholder:
“APPLAUSE IS ALWAYS AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO COMEDY!”
Andy Kindler is a master-craftsman of self-deprecating jokes and of eye-rollers that still work against all odds.
And don’t forget that this is Andy Kindler on network TV. This is Andy Kindler with time-constraints and censors breathing down his neck. Andy Kindler live is sublime. It’s like what you just saw but delivered with more edge. There’s an anger, an energy that’s exorcised from Andy Kindler when there aren’t any cameras blocking the crowd. When Andy Kindler is on stage, man, it’s fucking electric.
Perhaps what makes him so electric is the chip on his shoulder that’s been nurtured from so many years on the road. Maybe it's because he’s so practiced that he never doubts his ability to win over a crowd. Maybe it's just the exasperated fervour in which he delivers his deprecating jokes, his idiosyncratic observations and the bitterness he harbours toward show-business and comedy.
Whatever it is, it's electric.
In July, I was leaving backstage at the Mainline Theatre where Andy Kindler was going to do a ten-minute set for James Adomian & Friends. On my way out, I turned to Andy Kindler and said, “And I’ll see you at The Alternative Show,” as a mnemonic device to attend Andy Kindler’s THE ALTERNATIVE SHOW later that night.
He stopped me.
“Are you a comedian?” he asked, thinking maybe I was on the bill for his Alternative Show, which has a different mix bag of comedians every night.
“Oh no. Amateur at best,” I mustered.
He proceeded to lecture me that there was no such thing as an amateur comedian. That if I had ever stood on a stage, no matter how big, and muttered my jokes into a microphone, then that put me on the same level as him, a man who I had seen on C'Mon Raymond, Love Someone when I was but a boy. We were all in this together. Renumeration and recognition doesn't mean a damn thing.
I was taken aback by his comments. It was incongruous to the bitterness I'd come to associate him with. He recognized that, like him, there was something broken inside my head and nurtured that desire for self-inflicted humiliation.
Later that night, I saw him at Katacombes. It was amazing. Andy Kindler is the only person I’ve ever seen that can pull a genuine laugh out of a joke that should make you groan. That’s talent.
I saw him at least six times. Watching this adorable man stew in his groan-worthy-but-belly-laugh-evoking punchlines before diving head-first into the next one never got old.
And as I alluded to before, The Alternative Show features a new lineup of comics at Just For Laughs every night. So while I definitely encourage you to go see Andy Kindler, you might also get a surprise visit from TJ Miller, Michael Che, Natasha Leggero and whom ever else is in the know that being brought up on stage by Andy Kindler is a delight.
If you don’t need to wake up early the next morning, go see Andy Kindler. You have my personal guarantee that you’ll fall in love with him like I did. Katacombes. July 21-25. You’ll love it.
P.S. Katacombes is a cool place too! Yeah, it’s scary from the outside because of all the skulls, but you get inside and there are hardly any skull! It’s totally fine! Enjoy the show!