Andy Kindler is a changed man. At least, he’d really like to think so.
Friday marked the 22nd year he’s delivered his signature “State of the Industry Address,” a scathing keynote speech at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival that takes aim at the entertainment industry, and in particular, comedians. He’s known for obliterating everyone from low-hanging hanging fruit like Bill Cosby and Bill Maher to comedy’s creme de la creme like Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld. This year, Kindler flipped the lens on himself, delivering his most introspective speech yet. “I’m the oldest Jew to ever start therapy,” he told me before the address.
The speech felt like a moment of self-reflection, a pause in the cascading river of insults that is both Kindler’s act and Twitter to question his own sardonic viewpoint. Toward the beginning, he attempted to atone for his lengthy history of comedic bloodshed: “I’m sorry, Whoopi,” he offered after years (decades?) of roasting the actress. “Maybe I’ve been too harsh. I avoid jokes like that with breathing exercises now.”
But even in remorse, Kindler managed to be insulting: “Maybe Dennis Miller’s not Satan—he’s not that focused,” he said, later adding, “I may have been too hard on the Blue Collar Comedians. In hindsight, I think only 75 percent of what they did was an affront to humanity.” Of Jeff Dunham he said, “My beef wasn’t with him, it was with his racist puppets.”
Though it set a nice theme for the show, his self-improvement isn’t just a schtick. “I didn’t realize I had terrible OCD my whole life. I didn’t know. I was just toughing it out,” he told me. In the year that’s passed since the last speech, Kindler began taking meds, which he says are helping: “This year I’m putting less pressure on myself.”
But fans of his irate rants can thank Ricky Gervais for keeping Kindler’s fury alive, for here neither meditation nor medication could soften his rage. Kindler kicked off the speech by tweeting from the podium, “Hey Ricky, Derek still sucks.” No matter how far he strayed, Kindler always came back to insulting the British comedy mogul, sometimes without even bothering to shroud it in humor: “The guy’s just an asshole.”
As the address wore on, his centered attempts at restoration and rehabilitation slowly devolved into the discomposure of a man on the edge, leaving him just as audiences want him–failing miserably.
Others who made Kindler’s List include Jimmy Fallon: “The Jimmy Fallon ride is open at Universal. You have to be [gesturing] this easily entertained to ride.” Even Chris Rock got some shade thrown his way: “Chris Rock is back in the clubs working on a special. The special is an hour long but it’s only a half hour of material because he repeats everything twice…He says it the first time, but then he repeats it a second time with more emphasis. He says it the first time, but then he repeats it a second time with more emphasis.”
He also fired at those on the periphery of the comedy world like The Fat Jewish and The Moth: “Why don’t you and your story get a room? Preferably with a less supportive audience.”
As per usual, the person who sustained the most verbal injuries during the address was Kindler, who dubbed himself “Andy Climactic” and pulled no self-inflicted punches: “Finally, show biz is banging at my door…because they suspect I’m dead.” He announced he’s going to follow in Kevin Spacey’s footsteps and create “The Andy Kindler MasterClass” with helpful lessons like “misplaced anger,” “What’s the right self-loathing lateral move I should make?” and “the art of talking people out of the pitch.”
There were also plenty off-the-cuff, self-effacing Kindlerisms, such as “Why does everything I prepare never work?”, a joke that got a lame “smattering” of chuckles. I thought it would end there, but the giggling slowly grew and grew until a few of us were tearing up in spite of ourselves. Kindler has officially reclaimed the phrase “awkward laughter.”
He closed by saying, “I’m going to end this [speech] now, you know why? Because it’s not working,” followed by a hacky one-liner about a watch store - the Kindler equivalent of a mic-drop.
Kelly MacLean is a comedian, writer, and host of The Tao of Comedy podcast where she talks to comedians about what matters most, like serendipity, death, God and tacos. Follow her @thekellymaclean on Twitter and Instagram.