By Ken Mammarella
Standup comedian Jackie Kashian makes her Delaware debut on April 15, and she already has this funny thought about the First State: “It isn’t Rhode Island. Which seems positive because what I know about RI is that it was the fake jewelry capital of the world and it’s where Boston mob guys retired.”
Kashian is a native of Wisconsin who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband. Her original story involved getting drunk and heckling Sam Kinison in 1985. “She was told, with some sarcasm, by management, that open mike night was on Sundays,” according to her bio on Stand Up! Records. She showed up, started cracking wise and built a career that keeps her on the road more than half the year.
Stay-Kashian, her latest album and special, was No. 1 on Amazon and iTunes and debuted as No. 3 on Billboard’s Comedy Chart, she writes on www.jackiekashian.com.
She has over 75 million listens on Spotify and Pandora. She has two podcasts: The Dork Forest, (where she talks with people about what they love to do, think about and collect) and The Jackie and Laurie Show (where she and co-host Laurie Kilmartin talk about standup comedy.)
IN: You host a podcast called The Dork Forest, which, among other things, is about collecting. What do you collect – and why?
Kashian: I mostly collect books, and I read mostly different kinds of fiction. Mystery, westerns, romance, sci-fi. I sadly can’t read thrillers and horror. I do read an occasional nonfiction book about history or theory, and then I give myself a small parade.
IN: How has standup changed that fateful night in the 1980s when you heckled Sam Kinison and were invited to join open-mike nights?
Kashian: The craziest thing is how standup has not changed. It’s a uniquely American invention based on our desire to make out with individuality. As society has moved in different directions, the language has changed – and just like standup in the ’60s and ’70s, comics pick different angles to talk about the same things. So, the jokes are both new and old, and the money doesn’t really change, but the fact that it’s still a spoken word skill where you still can talk about whatever you want to and audiences are great and – sometimes surprising to me – still super open-minded.
IN: How has comedy changed you?
Kashian: I was a pretty solo kid. Which was hard as the youngest of six kids, but I wasn’t good with people or places or situations. Standup gave me an outlet and, I believe, saved my life. I like it the most out of all the things I can think of. A lot of people think food or sex or BASE jumping. Standup is all three of those for me.
IN: Can you share a story about a bit that started out unfunny, according to early audiences, and how you made it funny?
Kashian: It took me three years to make a joke about The Mall of America, 1993-1996. The joke, when it finally worked (a year after the Bosnian war ended): “The Mall of America is a crazy name – it’s better than the Mall of Yugoslavia, which is just a bunch of anchor stores fighting for ethnic superiority.” It was a weird super-specific joke that I only got to do in Minnesota, for about a year. So dumb. But the journey was something.
IN: Do you see any humor in today’s cultural and political controversies? If so, what?
Kashian: It’s hard to make jokes about so much misinformation wandering the world. But … one can but try. I’ve never done a lot of political jokes. Occasional (and sometimes it comes together after the war is over) political jokes, but my stuff is mostly sociopolitical. So come on out and hear about my dad and my fella and my dog. Yay comedy!