The title of comedian Jen Kirkman’s book tells us a lot about her. I can barely take care of myself, is a situation lots of us, in what our parent’s generation call arrested development, can relate to. Not only has the book been empowering lots of women to be proud of their choice not to have children, but it speaks to those of us that feel like we aren’t living up to the expectations our parents have for us. Her recent Netflix special, I am going to die alone (and I feel fine), is not a call to arms, it is not a message and it is not a movement Jen is creating, but it feels like it.
Performing at the Soho Theatre in London this month, we began speaking about what can and can’t be said on stage.
Political correctness is a huge issue in comedy. Do you ever have to edit yourself in case things get taken out of context or blown up into something bigger than they are?
Some people may think I swear too much or don’t like when I talk about grey pubic hair but those aren’t things that usually offend the so-called politically correct. I’ve never been censored nor felt en masse that audiences have made some huge sea change and can’t handle comedy. I think what people can’t handle is ignorance and I’m glad that people who are lazy joke writers are now being challenged past using words like gay or retarded as a punch line. Political correctness is a complaint of the boring status quo. Every comedian will be FINE and to the comedians who whine about political correctness, I say, in the words of Joan Rivers, “Oh, grow up.”
Speaking of what people think of you, Twitter lets you receive instant feedback on everything you do. What does that do to your psych?
Nothing. I don’t read many @ comments that much anymore. It used to tear me apart. It’s not so much that I don’t like it when people don’t like what I do but I don’t understand the culture of having TO TELL THE PERSON DIRECTLY that they suck. I never wrote a letter to Mickey Dolenz to tell him that he’s my least favourite member of The Monkees.
Your last book seemed to have anger or frustration at people that asked you why you wouldn’t have kids, and the expectations put on you and women to have kids. Was this consciously the start of a movement?
I do appreciate that it feels like a movement but it was already there, and that’s why it was the perfect time to write a book. I’d been frustrated for years with people butting into the lives of women who don’t want kids – and I knew LOTS of women who felt the same way. I’m not equipped emotionally with what it takes to have kids. There’s nothing wrong with people being confused as to why women don’t have kids, after all I have the plumbing and the hormones, but it’s just that it’s not THEIR BUSINESS to say it to my face. I wouldn’t even say this is just a woman’s issue either. Men get the same stupid pressure to reproduce that women do. People think that your marriage isn’t a marriage unless there’s a child or that your life isn’t fulfilling if you only have a job as your major commitment. It’s always something.
I was always told that to be a normal adult one must go to high school, then college, then get a girl/boyfriend, have a career, own a house, move in with that boy/girlfriend, get married and then have kids. If that’s not what adulthood is, then what is it?
My next book, I Know What I’m Doing And Other Lies I Tell Myself, is sort of the next step in all of this. It’s about how everyone’s life looks so different and why anyone would tell anyone else what’s best for them based on what they have done – makes no sense to me. I write about how I prefer to rent a place over own, being divorced, being forty-one and just finding the courage to explore the world on my own, having romantic relationships but not knowing how to do them well, having family obligations that frighten me etc. There is no normal. Thank God. We should all just talk about it more. I think there’s still this perception that if you’re not a parent, married, with a house and a garage that you’re some kind of vagabond who hasn’t gotten their life together yet. It’s not just either or anymore. There are so many kinds of toilet paper – why can’t there be so many kinds of adulthoods?
What is your fault?
What is my fault? EVERY THING is my fault. And my fault is everything you can imagine.
Words: Chris Purnell
Jen is at the Soho Theatre in London 16 – 21 November. More information can be found at www.JenKirkman.com