"The road," as comedians call the act of performing a stretch of shows outside their home city, is often mythologized for its mundanity. It's defined less by sex, drugs, and rock and roll and more by walking around a small town looking for something to eat that's not a chain and something to do that's not naked-tweeting in your hotel room. It is, however, part of the job, and often necessary for a stand-up trying to refine his or her act.
Kyle Kinane has been living that life for years — while also doing voice-over for Comedy Central and appearing on shows like Love and Idiotsitter — and has become one of the flat-out best comedians working today. (Check out his placement on our 2012 and 2015 lists of best stand-up specials of the year.) If you're not in whichever town Kinane is in this weekend, you can always watch his special, Loose in Chicago, which premieres on Comedy Central on Saturday, October 15. Vulture asked Kinane to keep a diary during his trip up the mid-Atlantic last weekend. The following is a tale of comedy, loneliness-inspired eavesdropping, and looking for vegetarian Indian food in a Delaware flea market. — Jesse David Fox
Thursday, September 29 (Detroit)
Stuck in Detroit for my layover for four hours. The Detroit airport is a lovely shopping mall that lets airplanes use its parking lot. I listen to a man with a thick Boston accent fall in love with himself while hitting on an athletically dressed female. Lines include:
"I'm a foodie. I don't eat shit. I can't."
"I'm a maniac. That's what makes me a good salesman."
"I got an early tee time tomorrow with a smokin' blonde. I'll fly the plane myself if I have too."
Eavesdropping is one of my favorite hobbies, so I drink Bud Lights and gleefully listen to this extra from The Town fellate himself before my flight boards. Spending my nights performing stand-up and days working within the entertainment industry to varying degrees, nothing brings me more simple pleasure than listening to unintentionally entertaining strangers.
Friday (Newark, Delaware)
Whole day to spend in Delaware's Newark. In a pathetic attempt to "balance" my health, I roll the dice on some vegetarian food in the area. Yelp directs me to an Indian restaurant inside a farmers' market. Upon arrival, I find that the farmers' market is really just a flea market, unless farmers in this area have been growing a bumper crop of knockoff Adidas apparel. To my surprise, the Indian food is some of the best I've ever had, and I have a small burst of humanity exploring the diversity of the market. There's the fish counter, owned and operated by a black proprietor, across from the motorcycle-accessory store, featuring every color and size of "If you can read this, the bitch fell off" patches and various vinyl sticker threats to anyone wanting to take away the Second Amendment. There's the Mexican boot and belt store, and next to it a pet store that I of course stop into to pet some puppies before finally going to the pickle store. Here, an elderly Asian woman issues me a stern warning about the spicy pickles. "Only thin slice. Not whole. Thin slice only." Later, I will ignore her warning. Later than that, I will wish I had heeded her warning.
The shows this night are at an engineering university. To the best of my knowledge, a university is an institution of higher learning, meant to transform young adults into productive members of society, capable of providing for themselves while also serving the community with a set of skills they acquired by hard work, determination, and a willingness to take on an almost insurmountable amount of debt upon entering said society. The night I am performing happens to also be "Build Your Own Stuffed Animal Night."
Omar Shaukat, my feature for the evening, is a local. He takes me to Chaps Pit Beef. Chaps is like if Arby's was made by real people instead of dystopian robots, and it is fantastic. The cuisine locals are the most proud of is never healthy. No city in America is bragging about having notable Cobb salads. "Most people come here for the hummus" is not something you'll hear in, say, Dallas, or anywhere.
The last time I was in Baltimore, I decided to walk home from the terrible comedy club to my hotel, ignoring the ride the owner suggested I take. I ordered a pizza as I walked, and told the operator at the restaurant that if I wasn't at the hotel by the time the driver got there, they should file a missing-person report. This time, the show was better, the walk was nicer, and after bar-hopping and taking in some generous hospitality from the locals, I ended my night in a Korean restaurant around 3 a.m. After telling a diner at another table he looked like "the most un-fucked baritone-sax player who ever lived," I excuse myself for the night.
Philadelphia had a liquor store called Jeff Cold Beer, and to this day it's the best name I could possibly hear. I guess they went out of business, which is a bummer. But if I ever encounter Mr. Cold Beer (only his friends call him Jeff, probably), I'd like to shake his hand.
I meet up with my friend/feature act Shane Torres and with Tommy McNamara, who came down from New York to do a guest set. We get obligatory cheesesteaks (see?) and head to the show. We're at the Trocadero, an old burlesque theater in Chinatown. The space is weathered and beautiful and overflowing with character, much like the dancers in the small black-and-white portraits lining the backstage hallway. The show goes well for all of us, and Philadelphia remains one of my favorite cities to play. Shane, Tommy, and I find a sleepy bar to nightcap, a 7-Eleven for snack dinner, and then the hotel.
After two hours of drunken sleep, I decide to roll the dice on a standby seat for an early flight. Three stops and ten hours later I'm dragging myself through my front door. In another "too little, too late" apology to my body, I order some vegan food for delivery.