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Interview with Jessica Kirson

JKBy Tamale Sepp
Jessica Kirson is coming to Chicago and you NEED to see her.  She’s been on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, Last Call With Carson Daley, VH1, Premium Blend, and Nickelodeon just to name a few.  She’s loud, expressive, and animated in a way that draws you in and leaves you delighted and gasping for air.  She has a movie being released in January 2014 with George Lopez and Nick Cannon and I am opening for her this Saturday!  I caught up with her for a moment and asked her some questions about comedy, love, and courage.

 

TS:  How long have you been doing comedy?
JK:  Fifteen years.

 

TS:  How did you start?
JK:  I took a comedy class, got up in front of the class for six weeks and then did a show at the end.

 

TS:  What were you doing before comedy?
JK:  I was in sales and then went for a masters in social work.

 

TS:  How did discovering comedy change your trajectory?
JK:  I just fell in love with it and decided I wanted to start doing it.  I started going to open mics, began making money at it, and decided I wanted to start doing it professionally.

 

TS:  Tell me about your process when you’re creating jokes.  Do you write?  Do you perform them and see where they go?  How do you develop your pieces?
JK:  I basically come up with ideas and when I’m on stage, I flush them out and kind of create them while I’m on stage.  I don’t usually sit down and write out a joke.  It’s not like that for me.

 

TS:  That’s also my preferred method.  Among my comic friends, there are a lot of different ways to generate material- some people write, while others prefer to take an idea up and play with it in front of an audience.  How people create their work is fascinating to me.  Tell me about the best experience you’ve ever had performing stand up.
JK:  Hmmm, it would probably be when it just clicks and the audience is truly there with you.  The energy just feels right and everything clicks so it goes well.  There have been times when I’ve done shows in front of celebrities, and other comics that are huge name comics and they’ve given me really good feedback and, of course, that feels great.  That’s always awesome.

 

TS:  Tell me about a situation when it’s a total crap show- when you just know that it’s going to be awful.
JK:  That’s usually in front of a much older crowd, or when you’re at a party where everyone else knows each other, that kind of situation.  I’m Jewish and I’ve done shows for very, very, very old Jewish people and those are always tough for me.  Very old people in general, not just Jewish.  There’s just not much you can say that gets them.  If you hear a cough or a sneeze, you are killing.

 

JK2TS:  Why do you think that is?
JK:  They’re from a completely different generation and they don’t get what you’re saying at all.  It’s just hard to make very old people laugh.

 

TS:  I was watching your interview on The View, and you’re so animated and your style and act outs are so great that, even if the content was something they didn’t relate to, I can’t imagine they wouldn’t laugh.  Not a question.  More of a comment.
JK:  I’m talking about people in their 90’s.  They’re not huge laughers and they also look at women differently.  When they see a powerful woman, they’re thinking that her place is in the home.  When you go up and you’re loud and opinionated and powerful, it’s a little strange for them.

TS:  As a comic, how do you adjust internally to handle that?
JK:  I just know, that it’s not about me sometimes.  Most of the time I know that I have to make it work in any situation, but I’ve realized that in certain situations it’s impossible.  I’m usually honest about it on stage because you have to address the truth and there should never be an elephant in the room.

 

TS:  Change of direction- how do you identify?
JK:  I’m a lesbian.  I’ve been with men for years.  I’ve been with women for years.  I prefer women, I just really hate labeling, especially in our business.

 

TS:  Granted that labeling is not great, do you have a preference for the term ‘lesbian’ over the word ‘queer’ for you?
JK:  No.  For years I have identified myself as a lesbian.  I’m with women.  I don’t really label myself, period.  I just say I’m with women.  I am a women who loves women.

 

TS:  As a performer, do you find that dating is challenging?  Obviously dating in general is challenging, but specifically as a performer because you are a successful comedian and you’re in the public eye, is it hard for you to have successful romantic relationships?
JK:  It’s very hard and it has to be with certain people that can handle it.  They have to be ok with you having the attention.  With the travel, and with everything, it’s very hard, and I feel like you have to find someone who is pretty balanced and who is secure.  That’s a big part too.  I mean, it’s understandable.  A lot of women get very jealous and I’m not even judging it.  I get it. I mean, it would be hard for me.  Plus, I’m on the road and I don’t get to see them for a week or two, it can be tough, but I feel like if you have a good foundation and you communicate and there’s balance and that person has balance and a full life, it’s completely possible.

 

TS:  I have to say, from a personal level, that is awesome to hear.  Similarly, with your personal friendships and familial relationships, how do you balance those with all the traveling and everything?
JK:  It’s very very very hard and people get disappointed a lot.  I can’t be at certain things.  My career is not a nine to five job- I travel a lot and I can’t go to certain things.  I miss important events- like my nephews bar mitzvah and my mom’s 70th birthday party.  It’s very hard and I constantly deal with people being disappointed and it is what it is.  I try very hard not to react to it and to understand, but it’s tough.

 

TS:  Yeah, I’ll bet.  As someone who hopes to be in your position some day and to be as successful as you’ve become, how do you deal with that?  How do you come to terms with the fact that you’re going to constantly let people down and just know that “well, that’s just par for the course”?  How do you deal with that?
JK:  It’s very hard.  I deal with it on a case by case basis, as it comes up.  And, I also know how hard I’ve worked and how long I’ve been doing this and I say to myself, “You’ve worked so hard for this.  You have to do what you have to do.”  To be a successful comedian, you have to be completely committed one hundred percent.  You have to fully commit to it.  If people really love you, they’ll understand.  They’ll get it.  You’re still going to disappoint them.  It’s still going to make you feel bad sometimes.

 

TS: I’ve seen you on TV a few times- how do you handle the pressure of knowing that this is your moment and the pressure is on?
JK:  The first couple of times I did it, it was terrifying.  Again, I just commit and do the best I can.  I really focus on getting out of my head.  When I’m in my head, I’m in trouble, but when I’m not in my head, I’m ok.  When I’m thinking and not being present, it’s not going to go as well.  I really try to be in the moment and to do the best I can.  I got strong enough so that I knew that when I did these things [tv appearances], I was going to do well, most likely.  So many people rush into these things and want to do all these things too quickly and you really have to be ready.  So I felt secure in my talent and what I was able to deliver.

 

TS:  What would you tell a comedian that has been doing this for awhile and is looking at how to get to the next level?
JK:  It’s really about never giving up.  I suggest that people don’t get too high from the highs and too low from the lows.  They’re always going to happen, no matter what level you’re at.  Again, it’s about a commitment.  It’s not always about who’s funniest and you can’t compare yourself to other people.  You always have to be different.  Always.  You have to have a very strong balance between being humble and being assertive.  You can’t put yourself down too much and think you don’t deserve anything and you can’t be like ‘I’m the greatest comic there ever was’.  There has to be a balance.  You have to promote yourself.  This is a sales job and you are the product- you have to sell yourself.  If you’re good at selling yourself, that’s a big part of it.

 

Event Info:
Jessica Kirson with opening act Tamale Sepp
Nov 2nd, 2013, doors at 7pm, show at 9pm
Tickets $20 on Brown Paper Tickets
BPT Link Here:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/490859
6341 N. Clark Street (Clark and Devon)

 

More info at:
http://www.jessicakirson.com/
http://www.tamalerocks.com/
http://www.parlourbarchicago.com/
Facebook Invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/455129631272884/?previousaction=join&ref=5&source=1

Jessica Kirson has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Comedy Central, Last Comic Standing, Last Call With Carson Daley, VH1, Premium Blend, and Nickelodeon just to name a few. She has a movie being released in January 2014 with George Lopez and Nick Cannon. Her stand up is hilariously funny! Don’t miss this ONE NIGHT ONLY event at an intimate venue.

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