It’s a rare veteran artist whose new releases keep growing better over the years. Yet comic Jackie Kashian’s sixth album Stay-Kashian showcases a performer growing even more ardent and fearless, while staying as caustically self-effacing as ever.
From Comedy Central and "Conan" sets to comic books, for Kashian it all starts with turning ideas into words. She says the pandemic hasn’t changed her writing process one bit. (“I write on stage and in my notebook, and I work on stuff live. Nothing really different there.”) Which makes sense. Because why change a thing if even during quarantine, you’re putting together your best material yet?
As someone who’s been a stand-up comedian for more than 35 years, what is the most welcome change you’ve seen happen within the industry?
One welcome change is the sheer number of great young comics with smart, silly comedy. Granted, they’re breathing down my neck, but it’s a good thing I love comedy so much.
From starting your "The Dork Forest" podcast back in 2006 to now, how have podcasts altered the comedy landscape? What makes for a successful, long-running podcast?
It depends how you define success, but I have two general suggestions. Pick a reason for your podcast: a theme, a friend, a reason. And consistency makes the fans you get better. People like structure. So pick a day and try to be regular.
You’re known for your kick-ass merch (often modeled by Maria Bamford). What is the key to making shirts, pins, stickers, etc. that people are proud to buy and use?
Make sure any merch you sell be merch you'd be willing to wear. Design and production matter. Could you wear it or use it? Would you if it weren't yours?
How did your "Jackie and Laurie Show" co-host Laurie Kilmartin react to your new Stay-Kashian album taking the Number 1 iTunes Comedy Album spot over her own album, Corset?
Laurie Kilmartin is one of the snarkiest, most loyal person I’ve ever met. She was and is happy for me—as I am for her—while also hoping to do everything that anyone gets to do, performance and standup-wise.
How do your family members feel about frequently appearing in your material?
I try to make sure the family member is the hero of the story. Even if they’ve done something that is dodgy or less than heroic, I want the audience to love my family as much as I do. Even if we don’t agree. But only my husband has line veto rights. Because we live together. And I wish to continue that.
Stay-Kashian addresses inequality, gender identity, and police brutality. Why is it important for comedians to be more socially conscious in their material than ever before?
Absolutely everyone, in my opinion, writes their standup from whatever they're thinking about. You can write characters and do your act in a wacky hat, but I believe you can only write about what you need to process. So, everyone writes about cultural changes or political issues or family dynamics or societal customs from their perspective … out loud or by the express absence of it in their act. There’s no “need” to be socially conscious or unconscious. There’s a need to process life and if a particular comic does that by not addressing any larger social issues, that is also a statement. And as long as they call it standup and somebody laughs at it, there should be work.
To the point that we all need to be more conscious: I think every job has that responsibility. Civilization is a slow process and the only way to actually move it forward quicker rather than slower is to work toward more inclusion in every job. From retail to factories to entertainment to management and government, I guess.
Remember, I’m a comic. I don’t have all the answers, but I will always have an opinion.
*Feature Photo: Jackie Kashian by Luke Fontana