Kyle Kinane is one of the most versatile and creative stand-up comedians working today. He can tell short and surprising jokes, and he can stretch out brief life events into minutely observed, almost cinematic epics. His newest album, Trampoline in a Ditch (due Friday, July 24), concludes with just four stories that combined run roughly an hour. Kinane was nice enough to chat about his new record, as well as his Twitch show Hey Girl with Matt Braunger and his podcast The Boogie Monster with Dave Stone.
Pop Culture Beast: How would you describe Trampoline in a Ditch? It’s kind of a double-album. It’s a big chunk of comedy.
Kyle Kinane: It just kind of turned out that way. If you record a video or filmed special, you know you have an hour. The outlets that put it out give you an hour. TV or Netflix or something. And audio-wise, there’s no physical release. There’s no vinyl album where you have to make sure it comes in under a certain length.
So [the record label] 800 Pound Gorilla was set up for recording at Comedy on State in Madison, Wisconsin, for 5 or 6 shows. I had the hour of material that I was doing, but then each show, I got to add another story that maybe hadn’t made it on an old special. It’s like, if the recording equipment’s already set up, let’s get these other bits down – even if it’s just so I don’t forget them. And now that they’re all down, let’s just put them out.
There’s these arbitrary rules: “It’s gotta be an hour.” No, it’s 100 minutes, just take it! What am I gonna do with it? Listen to it.
PCB: Nice. So there will be no CD or vinyl, only digital?
KK: A lot of people ask for vinyl, so that might be an option down the road. I know people like to collect the vinyl. I’m not a vinyl guy. The only reason that I like putting it out on vinyl is that my buddy [Dom Gianneschi], who does the artwork, at least he gets a physical representation of the artwork that he did. All my album covers have been done by him.
PCB: I have your last album, Loose in Chicago, on vinyl because I collect vinyl and it’s a cool piece to have. But honestly, when I re-listen to it, I probably just listen online [laughs].
KK: I’m glad that people collect vinyl. I don’t give a shit. Of all the technological stuff that I hate – and I’m just an old man screaming at screens – thank god for mp3s. Thank god I’m not swerving into traffic, looking for my CD book in the car. Once mp3 came along, I was like, “Alright, this I’m alright with.” I know people are like, “But the sound quality…” I listen to shit music anyway, sound quality’s not that important.
PCB: Speaking of mp3s coming up on shuffle. None of the track titles on any of your albums describe what the bits are. Do you do that so folks don’t get the punchline too early? What’s the idea there?
KK: The idea there is that I’m just kinda being an asshole. [laughs] It’s a holdover rascal mentality from all these punk bands that would name their songs silly things. Titling a joke is like, [silly voice:] “The Time I Bought Pickles at the Store.” I know my way makes it harder for people, and maybe a little bit of it is me thinking, “Ooh, now you’ve got to listen to whole bits. Can’t figure it out right away.” But mostly, I just think it’s funny. It’s only made it difficult for other people, but I’m entertained by it. And if I can’t be entertained by my own comedy album, how can I expect somebody else to be?
PCB: Do you listen to much recorded comedy?
KK: You know what, I don’t. I feel bad saying that, but I think because – and we’re talking in pre-apocalypse terms here – I’d be out every night at a show. Either doing a spot or on the road. I was privileged enough to see comedy live every night, so I don’t just sit and listen to it.
PCB: How is it trying to promote this album in a pandemic? You can’t really do a release show.
KK: You know, I would get so self-conscious when the Comedy Central specials would come out. I know people who would go, “Alright, we’re all coming over to my house.” “We’re all gonna meet up and watch it at this bar.” But one of my biggest nightmares is having to watch my own comedy from the audience.
I don’t wanna know. I would always go where I couldn’t even get internet. I would go camping or something any weekend that a special was coming out. I didn’t want to be feverishly checking social media to see what people thought. So this is fine for me. [laughs] No social engagement? This is great.
PCB: Are you doing any shows over Zoom?
KK: I’ve done a couple. And I had fun watching some of them. But I don’t have a writing process of sit down and write jokes every day. If I think of something funny, I’ll get it down and get it ready for the time when I can get it in front of a live audience. But the Zoom thing… I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I’m not going to do ten minutes of open mic material when people don’t know that you’re treating it like an open mic. Then maybe they think, “Oh, this guy is terrible.”
I know people just hitting it every night. Say you do a 10-minute set on Monday, and then you do the same 10-minute set on Thursday. If somebody watches both of those sets, they go, “Ah, he’s not doing anything new,” and they don’t tune in anymore. Or you do new stuff, but it’s not good ‘cause it’s new, and they don’t tune in anymore. So I’m trying to keep a little bit of quality control and maybe a little bit of mystery to it.
PCB: I saw there’s going to be some animation coming with the album. What’s the story of that?
KK: Because this wasn’t going to be a filmed special, I kind of thought, maybe we can animate it. There’s an animation house called Meister. They did a great job. I was thinking of Liquid Television on MTV. How you would watch that, and it would be five minutes of Beavis and Butthead and then Aeon Flux and then a weird 3D animation. How it would skip around in different styles, almost like Waking Life. I wanted to do something like that. I told Meister, “I won’t tell you how to do your art. Just don’t animate it literally. Don’t animate me onstage with a microphone telling jokes.” And it’s great. One part’s a 3D rendering, there’s more traditional animation blended together.
PCB: Is it just a few clips?
KK: Yeah, it’s two or three bits. Animation is very expensive. [laughs] I was really hoping to see if anyone wanted to buy that as the special. Don’t pay to produce a live special, just animate what’s there. Nobody did. If in 6 months, you see somebody going, “Hey, I’m doing an animated special,” just remember the idea was already out there. Maybe a more popular comedian can get it done. I think it’d be a neat thing to see, whether I do it or somebody else.
PCB: To quote the new album, “You go to bed G.G. Allin and you wake up Jimmy Buffett.” Do you see you and your comedy mellowing out as you get older?
KK: I don’t think I was ever doing anything that crazy. I don’t want to be collecting drunk stories well into middle age. I still drink and I still have fun, but those stories start to get a little tired and repetitive and embarrassing. You’re supposed to learn from your mistakes. How often can you rehash that for comedy before people are like, “Yeah, man. You’re, like, pushing 50. Maybe get your shit together?” The termites in my brain will still create more comedy. It doesn’t have to be just from booze and falling asleep in a pizza.
PCB: I’m roughly the same age as you. I’m not a technophobe, but I’m not on everything—
KK: Good for you, man. [laughs] Just today, I posted, “Save your life. Get off Twitter.”
PCB: [laughs] What is your Twitch show, Hey Girl?
KK: Hey Girl is me and my buddy Matt Braunger, who I’ve known since roughly when I started comedy – so, it’s going on about 20 years. And we get together with the help of holdthephone.tv, which is Jake Browne, a fellow from Colorado. All I know is we tune into a Zoom link on Fridays. Braunger and I have some drinks, we shoot the shit, and we have a guest. How that shows up on Twitch after the fact, that is Jake’s doing. He is the wizard that does that. I’m not on Twitch. I don’t know how Twitch works. But it’s on Twitch. Every Friday at 5pm Pacific.
PCB: And you also have a podcast, The Boogie Monster. How long has that been going?
KK: I think we’re coming up on about five years this summer, me and Dave Stone. That one we somehow figured out how to do.
PCB: Is that one just more shooting the shit?
KK: Yeah, well… Originally, it was supposed to be about paranormal and conspiracy theories. But five years ago, conspiracy theories were silly and fun, and you could laugh about them. And now, people think that’s the actual news, and it’s not as fun anymore. It’s people who vote according to their belief that 5G is going to kill babies. So now we kind of talk about that. [laughs] It’s reformed conspiracy theorists.
PCB: Do you have any parting thoughts on the album, or on how you’re holding up these days?
KK: I’m fine. I was pushing people toward the National Independent Venue Association, which is trying to save independent venues. We’re losing a lot of good ones. Places I have played and was looking forward to playing. They’re trying to preserve those throughout this current situation. Even if you have landlords that are forgiving some of the rent to help people out, the ultimate landlords are the banks. And they are not giving anybody a break. So, headline: Support the National Independent Venue Association. Fine print: Burn down a bank.
Trampoline in a Ditch is currently streaming exclusively on Pandora. It is available for streaming or download everywhere on Friday, July 24.
More Pop Culture Beast – Comedy:
*New stand-up from Eddie Pepitone, For the Masses
*Myq Kaplan’s A.K.A. is compassionate, confounding stand-up
*Josh Gondelman’s Dancing on a Weeknight is cuddly and joyful
Justin Remer makes movies, directs music videos, and plays in the bands Duck the Piano Wire and Elastic No-No Band when he is not writing movie reviews. His folk-rock documentary MAKING LOVERS & DOLLARS is currently streaming on Amazon.