Jen Kirkman on Boston, Twitter Trolls, and Elizabeth Warren vs. Donald Trump
No stranger to online controversies, Jen Kirkman has been forced to master the art of dealing with awful people on the Internet over the years. The barrage of haters, however, haven’t been able to slow the comedian and Needham native down, as she recently celebrated the release of her latest album I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). We caught up with Kirkman to reminisce about her Boston upbringing, how she deals with Twitter trolls, and what she thinks about Elizabeth Warren’s social media feud with Donald Trump.
Do you feel like you’ve evolved as a comedian since releasing your first album almost a decade ago?
I think I’ve evolved tremendously because 10 years ago when I did my first album, I wasn’t a touring comedian yet. At that point I was really only doing 10 or 15 minute spots around town for free around L.A., around New York. Every once in a while I would do a long set, a half hour or an hour. I wasn’t having that experience of doing five hours of shows a weekend for most weekends of the year. Whether people think I’m funny or not, I am subjectively better at what I do.
Why do you think so many great comics have come out of Boston?
I really believe people from Boston are funny. Maybe it’s the Irish—I’m not Irish—but the Irish community, the bad weather. It’s just there’s a cynicism there that is very funny and very dark, gallows humor. I think the average person is just witty, funny, and really dark. If you hone that for a career, odds are there’ll be more from Boston than maybe southern California.
A staple of Boston humor is not taking crap from anyone.
They don’t take s–t from anyone, and yet people from Boston constantly think that they’re getting s–t more than they probably are. [Breaks out Boston accent] Are they talking about me? Oh they think they’re better than me? It’s like no one’s thinking about you.
Is that your Boston side coming out when you deal with trolls on Twitter?
Oh probably. A little like east coast, which I’ll say to people, “I’m sorry, this east coast Jen came out. I’m not mad, I’m just passionate.” I call them sexists because I don’t like the word “trolls.” I feel like it makes it seem like it’s this thing specific to the Internet. It’s almost like they don’t really exist in real life. The Internet is a reflection of who I am, so why wouldn’t someone else on the Internet be revealing who they are? Whenever we see any kind of homophobia, racism, sexism, we always go, “Oh that’s a troll.” I go, “No, that’s a homophobic or racist or sexist.” They live among us in the world. We see them at Trump rallies. I just like to call them what they are.
Do you feel like Elizabeth Warren has been effective with her Twitter callouts of Donald Trump, or is it all just white noise?
When I see a politician go on there and say, “Delete your account,” or do these silly jokes, I’m like, “Ahhh.” The fact that Twitter keeps getting mentioned in campaign speeches, are we in Idiocracy times or what? Even when the smart people like Elizabeth Warren do it, I wish she didn’t have to talk about Twitter, it sounds so stupid… I don’t know if it’s effective. I think it’s just more white noise. I think it’s meant to win over young people who probably have already made up their minds anyway. Personally, it makes me cringe. I want my politicians to be better than me and I don’t want them engaging with each other like that. I think it’s weird, but I’m an old lady.
From dealing with the media to awful people on the Internet, comedy seems rough at times. What makes it worth it for you?
I sound like I’m pandering and like I’m Justin Bieber going, “I do it for the fans.” But I really do. I recently got a bad review in London and it really bummed me out. I felt if I got a good review, it would be great, but it wouldn’t make what I do worth it. It really is about the audience and people saying, “I had the worst day and you made me laugh,” or “I never thought anyone else thought that way, I’m so glad I’m not alone.” That helps me too. I don’t just do comedy to get laughs, I do it because I’m like, “I wonder if anyone else feels this way?”
This interview has been edited and condensed.