Andy Kindler, Comedy’s Ombudsman

In direct contrast to what he calls a career “marked by a lack of product” comedian Andy Kindler has two new releases to add to his resume. The first, a bit of a time capsule, is the album Andy Kindler: State of the Industry Address (Just for Laughs 1996), now available on iTunes, Google, and Spotify. The timing of this release is fitting, as Kindler just celebrated his 20th consecutive year delivering his scathing assessment of the comedy industry at the annual Montreal festival. The second entry has Kindler playing host of the fourth season of Coming to the Stage, the up-and-coming comic showcase available on Hulu and other digital streaming platforms March 3rd. The two releases pair nicely for Kindler since, according to him, “If you asked what it is that I do I would say that I make fun of comedy and have a good eye for comedy.” I talked to Kindler about the new releases, his social media addiction, and why he thinks now is best time to be doing comedy.

You seem to be in good spirits today.

I think every article or anything written about me should start out with, “Today you seem…”

I was browsing through your Twitter to see what might be on your mind. I worry about your anxiety. But maybe Twitter is just an outlet for you?

No, I think I have a problem with social networking. I’ve had it for a while. I got a program to show me how long I’ve been on Twitter and all of those. Sometimes it’s four hours at a time that I’m on Twitter. That’s not good. I keep telling myself not to argue with trolls and stuff, but the problem is that some of these people aren’t necessarily trolls. I’m still not dealing with it in the best way possible.

Would you consider what you have with social media an addiction?

Yes, I would consider it that. I’m assessing my own self-esteem on what people think of me. That’s probably the bottom line. I hope you don’t charge for this session. You wouldn’t know this, but believe it or not I’ve been getting better over the last couple of months. I’ve been addressing it directly. It’s a balance. If you have drinking as an addiction you don’t have to drink. But I kind of need to use them. I could remove myself off of all those platforms, but I don’t think the people I work for, club owners, anyone who’s depending on me generating income, would be happy.

I respect people who delete all of their social media despite all the various pressures to keep it.

Yeah, but if you’re like me, I’m classic obsessive-compulsive. If it wasn’t Twitter I’d be doing other crap.

The obsessive-compulsive thing is rough. You do a thing that you recognize is not a healthy, rational thing. You agonize over the seemingly uncontrollable, repetitive, time-consuming behavior. But then you fear that stopping the behavior will lead to some sort of adverse effects. The fear makes you feel like you don’t have control and sends you running back to the behavior that - as messed up as it is – gives you an illusion of control.

That’s very astute. Astute. I’m trying to use new words. I can’t believe I’m Jewish and it took me this long to get into therapy. It’s almost like I was maybe fighting against the stereotype. What I’m trying to figure out is what it is that I’m thinking before I start to go down the road of the obsessive-compulsive behavior. I used to think I was the most upbeat person in the world, but now I realize I have all this anxiety that was masked as OCD. I had it in my twenties. When I went to get help for it it was so long ago that they didn’t know that much about it. I’ve broken locks on apartments I’ve lived in from checking the lock so many times.

It’s funny you mention being Jewish and having anxiety. I’m technically 1/18 Jewish. I have a joke about how all I inherited was the nose and the anxiety disorder.

That’s a great joke. How long have you been doing comedy?

Five years.

I didn’t start standup until I was twenty-eight. I had wanted to be a musician before that. I was in bands and stuff, but didn’t have much success. I wish I had been nicer to myself. When I was five years in I thought, “Oh boy, I have been doing this a long time.” Now I’ve been doing it thirty years. It’s an art form that you only get better at by doing it more. There are some prodigies, but I feel like I’m a late bloomer. I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself in the beginning. But this is where I was very lucky: I went to college in upstate New York. I had done theater in college, but I was an English Lit Major. The director from the theater program was from LA. When I graduated I drove cross country. I came out to LA to do theater, be in bands, but also just separate from my parents. When I started standup I would have had to have moved if I was in a smaller city. I think the most painful thing is when people come from other cities and measure how long they’ve been here. You just have to put that aside. How long you’ve been here, how long it takes…there’s no clock for it. The constant measuring is a killer. Who knows when anything is going to happen for anybody? I’m still waiting for things.

You have a new album release out on Comedy Dynamics. It’s the first State of the Industry Address you did 20 years ago at Just For Laughs. At the last JFL you celebrated your 20th anniversary of delivering that address. You’ve always been outspoken about comedy, but that seems like a sort of dangerous role career-wise, doing what is basically a one-man roast of the entire comedy industry.

It’s not the only thing I do in my act, but I am compelled to say these things about whatever is bothering me at the time. I didn’t know it would take off that way. I thought it would be one speech and that was it. It just happened to be that it grew over the years. For a long time I never wanted it to go outside of the room. I’m already taking “chances.” Do I really need every negative thing I’ve said about people out there all the time? But what happened was that the last few years I’ve released it immediately on SoundCloud or on Sirius XM. The reason I started doing that was because the year I went after Adam Carolla there were so many people who didn’t even see the speech, who just got summations of it. They would say things like, “Kindler Calls Corolla Hitler, Doesn’t Seem to Be Kidding.” I realize they weren’t getting the tone of the speech. That’s why I started putting them out. At one point I had talked about going back and releasing all of the years, but I don’t want all those negative things out there. Some of them may not even play. But I was so happy with the first year and I thought it was very very interesting to listen to. People will recognize what I’m saying and it will make sense to them. Also, in general my “career” has been marked by a lack of product. I made a CD three years ago called Hence the Humor and it still hasn’t come out yet. It’s going to be on AST Records. This is one of my problems. I don’t know if it’s perfectionism, laziness, or whatever.

Do you think the State of the Industry Address has ever hurt your career?

Oh, I’m sure it has. Like Jay Leno…well, I wouldn’t want to go on Jay Leno’s show, but take someone like Jay Leno where I might want to go on their show and absolutely. The thing is you don’t know what you’ve lost sometimes because you haven’t gotten the call. But I’m sure me going after people has hurt me. I’m sure Louis CK is not going to use me in a project. It absolutely has affected me, but the positive side is – and I’m the last person who would be proud of this – it separates me. I think by nature when you are being yourself you are going to whip up positive and negative things. You get a little more buzz when you are saying things that make people go, “I can’t believe you said that.” A lot of people feel a catharsis when I express their feelings about something that they wouldn’t do in their act.

What has compelled you to stick with delivering this address every year for the last 20 years?

The reason why I keep doing it is because they ask me to do it. Also, I do an alternative comedy show up there. I’ve been doing it since the late nineties. You pay lip service when you first start, that you’re not doing it for success, you’re doing it for the pleasure. Meanwhile, the competitive side in you always wants more, more, more. But I find when I go back now I’m just happy that I get to present new comics, the best comics. I have a show in LA called Andy Kindler’s Particular Show once a month at Meltdown Comics. I host it and do time in between. I get to showcase comics that I think are really, really great. I hate the word “brand,” but if you asked what it is that I do I would say that I make fun of comedy and have a good eye for comedy…I think now is the best time ever for comedy. When I started, if you were gay or woman it was a lot harder. You couldn’t even really say you were gay. There’s still too much segregation in comedy, but now you see so many different people from so many different backgrounds.

Season 4 of Coming to the Stage comes out on March 3rd. With the large volume of comedy specials and shows that are out right now why do you feel people should make the time to watch this one?

It’s a cool concept to showcase newer comics. I think it works. It was really fun for me. I got to see comics I hadn’t seen before. I’ve always been a comic who loves to watch other comics, but just by the nature of life I don’t go out as much as I used to. It was kind of great to have the comics come to me. It was a dream gig.

Andy Kindler, Comedy’s Ombudsman