moontower comedy interviews
Talking to comedy’s cool uncle: An interview with Andy Kindler (part one of two)
Andy Kindler’s like the cool uncle you always wished you had: he can expound for hours on virtually any topic, weaving in witty asides and half-baked bits and never wavering in enthusiasm. The stand-up’s annual State of the Industry address, which he delivers every year at Just For Laughs Montreal, is half roast, half round-up of the year’s highlights and low points, an afternoon-long talk insiders know not to miss.
You’ve probably seen — or at least heard — Kindler much more recently: a regular on FOX comedy Bob’s Burgers (voicing Mort the mortician) as well as The Wizards of Waverly Place (as Chancellor Tootietootie), he was also a staple on cult classics Home Movies and Dr. Katz, and he's on regular rotation at local station Comedy 102.7.
This week, Kindler's bringing his act to Austin for the inaugural Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival; you can catch him Wednesday, April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Theater; Thursday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. at Stateside at the Paramount; Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Theater; and Saturday, April 28 at 10:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Theater.
We caught up with Andy to talk about Austin, acting, alienating audiences and more. The first half of our interview is below; check back tomorrow for the second half (where we talk politics, SNL and the state of the industry.)
Are you looking forward to this weekend?
Yeah I love it, because I love Austin. My wife knows Rosie Flores, she’s a musician and a longtime friend; she’s lived in Austin so, even before I played stand-up there, I’d always wanted to go. I love the food — I heard you’re a taco expert.
Yes, breakfast tacos specifically.
I used to love Las Manitas.
I was so sad when they closed!
Rosie’s a musician, and her picture used to be in there.
"I’ve heard all the legends of the Velveeta Room."
Before I moved here, I had my first breakfast taco at Las Manitas, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. Juan in a Million is my new obsession.
It must be great if you’re able to overlook the wordplay.
It’s easy to; the owner also has an award-winning handshake, so that's a bonus.
Are you saying Austin now has ‘best-of’ handshakes?
Keep it weird! We do have a rapidly growing local comedy scene.
I used to play Cap. City, years ago. I used to think it was funny because you didn’t know you were in Austin, you wouldn’t know because it’s in a strip mall. You’ve been there, right?
Yes; they’re involved with Moontower, too.
I love the fact that one of my favorite stores is there: Discount Hitches. I am fascinated by the idea that someone would need a hitch but they wouldn’t buy it ‘til the price dropped.
It seems like something you should invest in.
Yeah, you want to make sure you have a good one, you know, that you don’t have a knock-off version. So anyways, I used to play up there, and I had heard about it; I knew that Bill Hicks, in the 90s, that used to be his club, and then I’ve heard all the legends of the Velveeta Room. I play it too, when I come to town, but it’s been awhile. And I came to SXSW a few years ago. I’m looking forward to something new — maybe I’ll finally get a groundswell of support going. Like, Beatlemania-level.
"Dr. Katz at the time was less written, it was more like written scenarios, and [Bob's Burgers has] full-on scripts, but there’s still that feeling — they don’t discourage you from improv-ing."
We can work on that!
That sounds so convincing.
Land your private jet outside the Paramount before your show.
How did you know I’m coming in on a private jet? Is it because people know how much I get paid from all my recurring character roles? That’s where the money is: as a series regular.
I’d heard that Dan Mintz (Tina on Bob’s Burgers) was originally in talks to write for the show, then ended up doing voice work.
No one ever divulges the rate that they’re paid; I ask all the time, you know what I’m saying? I try to bring it up casually: “So what are you hauling down,” I’ll say. The writers get paid more, I thought, or maybe I’m just thinking about my own contract. Let’s put it this way: I’m not retiring from the show, in terms of the income.
But Dan Mintz is so great as a performer; when I first met him, I didn’t know what to make of him, because he was so Harvard and those people always scare me. I’m always afraid that they’re going to at some point say something condescending to me, that’ll get through my thin skin. But he’s such a sweet person, but then he’s constantly giving you zingers. He’s so great at doing that voice.
Do you get to record alongside the other actors?
It’s all done with everybody else, except for voiceovers sometimes, or if people have other obligations sometimes they’ll have to pick up their lines later. But in general it is that way, which I think is great.
I’ve known Loren Bouchard, the creator of the show, since way back in the Dr. Katz days, so I love that whole group; there’s less improv in this show but there’s still the same spirit. Dr. Katz at the time was less written, it was more like written scenarios, and these are full-on scripts, but there’s still that feeling — they don’t discourage you from improv-ing. I did some stuff on Home Movies, too, and it was the same feeling there. Loren is just amazing, so I really feel comfortable with him; I just met Jim, the other co-creator, I think — I don’t know anybody’s title. I’ve got to have more titles. Knowledge. There’s story editor, there’s assistant story editors, your storyboard artists — I’m riffing now, I don’t know if there is such a title.
That sounds about right. I think sometimes people just give themselves titles and hope nobody notices.
Well I tried to do a joke, where I said that I made a lot of money — and this happens to me a lot, where I start out a sentence with “I tried to do a joke” — and it failed, but I used to say that I had made a lot of money writing catchphrases; I’d go through a series of examples, like “I was the executive producer on Crackberry,” “I was the story editor on Talk To The Hand,” “I have a back-end deal on Don’t Go There.”
People had no idea what I was talking about, I was incorporating titles from TV and catchphrases. So it was one of those jokes where, I hit no demographics. That’s one of my specialties, you know what I mean? If I could alienate like, 95% of the people, that could be a record.
What makes that so appealing?
Well, I’m not masochistic, I don’t always go onstage and say I don’t want people to respond to my jokes. But I feel much more comfortable… like, I never understood, when people are at a show and they go, “Are you ready for a show?!” and they clap and then they go, “Come oooon people, let’s hear it,” you know, “Wooo!” That’s not an appropriate reaction to comedy.
So I’m much more comfortable when about half the people get it, about a quarter of the people are glaring at me and the other quarter are people who are, you know, updating their apps. Oh, I offer free Wi-Fi during my sets now.
I don’t think anyone’s ever taken me up on it. Actually, I don’t want this to get out to the press: I don’t have free Wi-Fi. This is the kind of thing that could destroy my career. I mean, I don’t have a career, but it’d destroy whatever it is I’ve got going on. Which is that I’m show businesses longest-running renter. I’ve been renting for more years than any other comedian has.
"I’m much more comfortable when about half the people get it, about a quarter of the people are glaring at me and the other quarter are people who are, you know, updating their apps."
Can anyone buy anything anymore anyways?
That’s true. I need to update my material to the current climate, where everyone is broke. Maybe I should celebrate it; I should do a one-man show about renting.
You could call it Rent.
Oh. You’re right. Maybe somebody did that. Actually, at one point I was going to do a show called Lease, With An Option To Buy. I could definitely get backers. Have you seen that show Smash?
Oh man. Yes.
I don’t even like those Broadway shows, let along behind the scenes of them. How do you feel?
I mean, I don’t like high schoolers, but I still watch Glee sometimes as a guilty pleasure. I treat TV more like, I love watching Hoarders because no matter what’s going on, at least I’m not a hoarder, you know?
Well, here’s the thing; I’m trying to find more common ground, trying to be the comic who’s empathetic, it’s a new goal. So I can see where you’re coming from with Glee, but I’ve never been able to make it through an episode of it. But I know that it had kind of a campy feel when it was starting, it was true to itself, it was it’s own thing. Spielberg all of a sudden comes along and does this show, and there already was Glee, and now you’ve got all these people, sometimes I get frightened when I see these actors that I love committing to this material.
Like Anjelica Huston.
I saw her interviewed though, and she seems to be enjoying herself. The main thing is that everybody’s having a good time, is what I say. I watch Celebrity Apprentice though, for the total German schadenfreude, it’s the worst thing ever. That show is so terrible now, and Donald Trump is such a despicable person, watching that show is like watching a car accident.
What do you watch non-ironically?
I love Portlandia. I just love it, I can’t get enough. And I continue to love Colbert, I think he’s the greatest; I also love David Letterman, though I get to be on the David Letterman program and I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn. But he’s the best. The other day I Tweeted that the people who watch Leno are the silent majority; because I don’t know if they’re falling asleep with their TV on, and that’s why they’re watching, but no idea. I can’t figure it out.
Oh, but we’re talking about positive things, though — I love that show Enlightened, with Laura Dern on HBO, I really love that show. And then, of course, I watch my Entourage on DVD…just kidding, that was being sarcastic. Now I’m back to ironically liking things again. I know I’m missing something — oh, I love Modern Family.
I don’t support the Real Housewives of various areas; I think those shows are terrible, I’d like to pass legislation against them, I’d like to have a prohibition, like with alcohol, somehow. And Judge Judy, my parents love Judge Judy…what? Why does anyone need Judge Judy’s energy, that show’s just her screaming at people.
She’s like someone’s crazy grandmother, it’s pretty upsetting.
Exactly. I don’t like that whole Simon Cowell thing…Simon Cowell, when are we going to not embrace him anymore? I guess most people don’t like him.
It’s always an extreme, everyone either loves you cause you’re great or they love you because you’re the worst. There’s no, “We’re gonna ignore this person because we all agree they’re bad, right?”
That is the downside of social networking, that even though it’s fun to express yourself in extreme ways — because I enjoy doing that on Twitter — I also feel like people don’t have any sense of [importance]. It’s not like Bill Maher is coming up with these brilliant social observations that need to be said; he occasionally does say something interesting or funny, but so much of it is just offensive because he wants to provoke. I’m just not in that school of comedy where it’s ok to just provoke and you don’t ever have to think about ramifications or you know, are you doing the joke for the right reasons? I just don’t buy that.
Come back tomorrow for the second half of our interview with Andy Kindler to learn more about his rules for comedy, favorite TV shows and why he's not a fan of Lorne Michaels.
Andy Kindler (and 70+ other comics) will be performing at theMoontower Comedy and Oddity Festival April 25 - 28. Single performance tickets and festival passes are available now.