Jen Kirkman Talks To FAULT Magazine about new show at the Soho Theatre

unnamed

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.

unnamed-1

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

FAULT Focus: interview with comedians Max & Ivan

From humble beginnings in their university drama society, Max & Ivan have risen through the comedy ranks to become regular fixtures at the Edinburgh Fringe and earned themselves an impressive smattering of awards and nominations, including the 2011 Edinburgh Comedy Award Panel Prize and Barry Award nomination at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival.

FAULT caught up with Max Olesker and Ivan Gonzalez to talk about their new show, on-stage mishaps and playing Pogs.

MAX&IVA_mickperrin_image1
FAULT: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. So, first things first, how did you meet?

Max: We both studied at the same university and discovered a shared love of comedy…

Ivan: And of each other!

M: Yes, and of each other! Ivan did some solo character comedy which I was impressed by, then when I was off touring around Italy as a wrestler…

I: Max used to be Britain’s youngest professional wrestler. Max Olesker, the human dynamo.

M: As we all were, at one point! Anyway, during that time I wrote some things that would work with both Ivan’s character and my own, so I roped myself in that way.

I: I had a gig lined up and I had no idea what to perform, so Max was like a blessing sent from…well, the halls next door.

 

After university, you found yourselves working your day jobs as well as performing stand up – how did that work out?

M: It was quite a stretch but we both really enjoyed our jobs [Max is a former staff writer for Esquire Magazine, to which he still contributes, while Ivan worked in game design]. But we were also very lucky in that they were supportive of letting us pursue our dreams as long as it didn’t infringe on our workload.

I: We only stopped when we got the call to go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, as we knew we couldn’t work that around our jobs.

M: So we bade…bidded…bud…them farewell. Bade? Is that the word?

I: Bathed. We bathed each other, ceremonially.

M: And that’s when we got sacked! Anyway…we began working on our next show [The Reunion] while we were in Melbourne, and took it to the Edinburgh Fringe when we got back.

 

So now the Fringe is over, what’s next?

I: We’ve just joined the Soho Six, which is very exciting. It’s basically six artists-in-residence at the Soho Theatre who are commissioned to write and perform material there. We’re working on the beginnings of a play at the moment.

 

Where do you draw inspiration for your sketches?

M: Our favourite thing to do is tell a story, so we tend to write narrative pieces. In fact, the idea from The Reunion came about from a string of Facebook messages I received from old school friends trying to organise a reunion. Seeing the names of old classmates and finding out what they do now is always interesting.

I: Yeah, everyone’s got a story about a crazy classmate, or the teacher who got arrested for possession of heroin…

M: Allegedly! Most, if not all, of the characters in the show are based on real people, so if you went to school with me, don’t come and watch it! (laughs)

WEB The Reunion 3 - Credit Dan Burn-Forti

Photos by Dan Burn-Forti

Are there subjects you feel are too controversial to joke about?

I: We probably wouldn’t avoid something because it’s controversial. It’s more likely to be because we think it’s been done.

M: Yeah, that’s right. I fiercely advocate the freedom of comedians to tackle any subject. If it’s done well, then it’ll work – it’s all about the quality of the writing. Some of best comedians, like George Carlin and Bill Hicks, have tackled very contentious subjects, but for us it would have to be within the context of our story. I think shock-value humour, by its very nature, only works so many times but if there was a valid reason for including something [contentious] in our show, then yeah, I’d be happy to do it.

 

You featured in BBC3’s Badults recently, tell us a bit about that.

I: Yeah, our pals Pappy’s [a comedy trio consisting of Tom Parry, Matthew Crosby and Ben Clark] put us in that as an assortment of inanimate objects, like matchsticks, talking carrots, Pogs…

M: Yeah! I played a Pog. And not just any Pog, a silver shiny one! They’ve just had a second series commissioned, actually. Boys, if you’re reading this, put us in!

 

What’s your FAULT?

I: Collectively? That’s probably me!

M: Yeah. Definitely him.

 

Max & Ivan will be performing The Reunion, directed by Pappy’s Tom Parry, at the Soho Theatre from 7th-12th October. For more information, visit maxandivan.com

Words by Thea de Gallier