Jen Kirkman Seems Fun: Podcast Tales of a Modern Day Rebel
Jen Kirkman said she knew she wanted a podcast of her own when Marc Maron started WTF. She was always a fan of his, and had loved the idea of podcasting since she first listened to Ricky Gervais’ podcast in 2004.
But she was worried: “I’m the kind of person that I get an idea, then I worry about the equipment and whether people think I’m copying.” Friends asked to do podcasts with her, but it wasn’t what she knew her podcast would be – “it’d be me babbling.”
Jen’s been around the podcast scene for years, and you’ve probably heard her in any number of a million places. Matt Belknap (co-host of Never Not Funny) had an interview-style podcast for A Special Thing records that she was on; she’s been on WTF, she was on Jason Nash’s podcast.
I first discovered her comedy on Paul F. Tompkins’ “The Pod F. Tompkast.” Paul was the only person having her on regularly, and once that started, she pretty much only did his podcast. “He didn’t ask me to do that,” Jen said, “but I didn’t have that many stories to go around and I wanted to make sure I had a story ready for him to have on his show.” She loved being his guest, but said saving her stories for him kept her from doing her own thing. When he stopped the show, it gave her a push to start “I Seem Fun.”
Then, two years ago, a friend bought her a mic for her birthday, told her to plug it into her iPad, download an app, and just do it. She was worried – she thought, “This is way too late… it’s going to look like I copied everyone else” – but quickly realized it was fine. It didn’t have to be what she called “a totally unique idea” – it could just be her talking. Matt Belknap helped get “I Seem Fun” on iTunes at first, and now the team over at All Things Comedy helps keep the podcast a well-oiled machine. (That was until recently, when Jen took a brief sabbatical, moved to New York, and buckled down to write her second book. “It hasn’t felt right to sit down and podcast from NY. I feel like I’m on a two-month little vacation from my normal life. I’m just kind of hiding out and having a rebellion.”)
You probably already know (and love) “I Seem Fun.” If you like Jen’s standup but haven’t listened to the podcast yet, you’re missing out. Also: it’s right up your alley: “My goal with the podcast was: If you like me, here’s more about me.” It’s a great supplement for diehard fans – and a great place for Jen to dive into stuff that doesn’t have a home in a standup set: “On stage, I can’t get that much into detail or go that much into boring stories, or start doing things that don’t have a punchline.”
The podcast has also proved how diverse her audience was, especially when people email her to say what they’re relating to. “When people ask, ‘Who’s the audience for this?’ I have letters and proof.” Emails from fans prove that there’s a ton of people who are divorced, or feel different from other people their age, because they’re not having kids or getting married. And it’s not just “because they’re partying all night.” Those emails show there are “a lot of people who are very different from me, but very similar to me in that way.”
Jen recently tweeted that she was proud of how many men come to her shows and have her book. “It makes me happy,” she told me. “It means my stories are universal and I’m not saying things that only women or divorced people or people without kids understand. It makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I know the comics I like. I’m not always in their demographic; we’re not the same gender sometimes, the same race sometimes. But I like them because they’re taking me into their world. Funny is funny.”
Funny is funny, and Kirkman is funny. I’m a straight, white male who’s never been married (or divorced, obviously), so some TV execs might not think I “fit the demographic” of her fans. But they’d be wrong. (Also, don't think I didn't cry along with Kirkman the entire Joan Rivers episode.) And the fan turnout at her shows proves how wrong they are.
“I’ve heard ‘no’ so many times with show ideas I’ve had. I’ve been told, ‘We’re looking for the male demo 18-34, and we don’t think they’d watch it.’ People tell me, ‘Oh, it’s a ladies show,’ and I say, ‘No, it’s not.’ I know I’m right. I know people would watch a show about me, whether I’m starring in it or something else. Being a woman, being 40 … every human feels those feelings. I take it as validation for everyone who’s ever said ‘No.’ A lot of them know nothing. They tell me what America wants, and I go to America every fucking weekend. I tell them, ‘Don’t tell me what America wants.’”
America wants more Jen Kirkman. Fuck the haters.
Want to catch up on all things Kirkman?
- There are 82 episodes (and counting!) of “I Seem Fun” for you to listen to on iTunes.
- She’s got sweet swag at Estoy Merchandise, including tees, a poster, and mugs.
- Her first book, “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids,” is available on Amazon (and in bookstores everywhere).
- She’s recording a new comedy special in Austin at The North Door on January 31.