Afflicting the Comfortable
March 30, 2017
For two decades and counting, Andy Kindler has regularly done one of the scariest and gutsiest things a comedian can do: He delivers an annual State of the Industry Address at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.
This is an opportunity for Kindler "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," as the old newspaper adage goes.
In other words, he skewers and lambasts the most powerful people in his own industry.
Jay Leno, Ricky Gervais and Adam Sandler are frequent targets.
Kindler performs April 7 at the Tiger Room in Fort Wayne.
Last year Kindler went after Louis C.K. at a time when Louis C.K. was popular with pretty much everybody.
Louis C.K. didn't respond to Kindler's remarks, but his fans sure did.
"With the Louis C.K. thing, I did get blowback," Kindler said, in a phone interview. "I got blowback even from people I know. I won't say who it is because I have enough trouble. Also, I worked it out. I've had arguments with friends of mine."
Kindler's beef with Louis C.K. (such as it is) is that Louis C.K. has cultivated an "aw shucks" persona that belies an ego and an ambition that are as large as anyone's.
People often accuse Kindler of sour grapes, but what really bothers Kindler is when a talented person is motivated by success (or the quest for it) to behave in cheesy or insincere ways.
One of the things about Leno that always bugged Kindler was how he would come out at the beginning of The Tonight Show and bask in applause, sometimes for as much as a full minute.
"If part of your show has to be you on camera being congratulated by the crowd, that says a lot about you," he said. "Leno did that, and Jimmy (Fallon) does that. Everybody who performs is needy. Everybody who performs wants the crowd to like them. But this is such a naked grab at audience support; I think eventually people see through that."
After the fuss over his Louis C.K. comments died down, Kindler said he had "something like a spiritual breakthrough."
"I used to feel like, 'Oh man, I have gotta justify why I am doing this,'" he said, referring to the State of the Industry Address, "And now I'm more like, 'Well, that's what the thing is - it's kind of like a roast of the business.'"
Kindler is adept at sniffing out B.S.
Four years before Fallon was widely condemned for a fawning Donald Trump interview, Kindler tweeted this: "'I heard you were responsible for like 30 million deaths. That's crazy.' Jimmy Fallon interviewing Stalin."
As much mileage as Kindler gets out of deflating pomposity, what really seems to bother him are racism and sexism, as is evidenced by his factious Twitter activity.
He is appalled by President Trump, but he tries to work out his rage on Twitter rather than in clubs, because anger isn't funny.
Trolls tend to accuse Kindler of envy, but it would be disingenuous to pretend that Kindler's comic credentials aren't sterling. His timing and facial expressions evoke those of Jack Benny, and he can pull late laughs out of jokes that seem to have fallen flat.
In his routines he is as hard on himself as he is on anyone else. He once described himself thusly: "(Like) Chris Rock, without the charisma, confidence and material."
Comedy hasn't made Kindler as wealthy as it has some of his loftier targets, but he doesn't sound bitter about it.
When you love something like he loves comedy, he said, there are a lot of pathways to success.
"It's always a trap when you have a dream that has to be so specific," he said. "There are so many different ways of doing stuff, and not everybody is going to have their own sitcom. And if you had your own sitcom, maybe you wouldn't like it."
Kindler, 60, said that he genuinely enjoys touring more than he ever has.
"I could lie to you, but why would I lie?" he said. "Maybe because Trump is president now. The truth is, I really do love standup comedy now more than I ever did. I don't know why I think nobody's going to think I am being honest."
It may be that rock musicians make their best stuff when they're young and angry, Kindler said, but there's no reason a comic can't just get better and better.
"I have never been happier than I am now," he said. "I have never liked my act better than I do now. Of course, by saying all this, I am jinxing myself. It's like I am looking for ways to poison my next tour."
Getting older has been a blessing in many ways, Kindler said.
"I hate to talk about how old I am, but I can't stop talking about it," he said. "In general, the good part of aging is - the way I felt in my 20s is that I was so consumed with ambition. I was so hard on myself. I had to achieve. When you get older, you just don't have that same ambition. It doesn't have to drive me anymore."