Monday, 24 February 2014 09:38

Jen Kirkman Finds Humor in All the Odd Places

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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Jen Kirkman Jen Kirkman COURTESY PHOTO

Jen Kirman
McFadden's Third Floor, Grand Rapids
March 14, 9 and 11 p.m.
$17.50
mcfaddensgrandrapids.com, (616) 454-9105

Ask most comedians who helped inspire them to pursue comedy and most would likely rattle off names like George Carlin and Chris Farley. Ask Jen Kirkman this question and you get a different answer entirely.

"There were so many things I thought were funny, but they weren't necessarily comedians," Kirkman said. "In high school I always thought the lyrics of Morrissey were really funny, and nobody else did, so I felt very smug about that, like I really knew something about what was funny and what isn't."

These strange moments of comedic inspiration pushed Kirkman to pursue a career in stand-up and allowed her to pick up notable gigs such as an intoxicated amateur historian for "Drunk History" and a voice actor for Cartoon Network's "Home Movies." Then in 2008, she decided to go out on a limb and use her lunch break at an office temp job to write sample material to submit for "Chelsea Lately." She was immediately called in for an interview, and an unforgettable first run-in with Chelsea Handler.

"Chelsea was getting ready to start a sketch and she was in hair and makeup and she came in the room and asked me one question," Kirkman said. "She said, 'Are you a lesbian?' I said no, and then she said 'OK.' Then I said something I thought was funny, but she kind of didn't laugh and just walked out of the room."

Thus began her career as a regular writer and roundtable guest for "Chelsea Lately" and "After Lately."

Not only does Kirkman write for TV and stand-up, she also writes books. Last year she ended up on the New York Times best-seller list with her debut, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids. While the title subject may seem a bit odd for a humor book, Kirkman attributes it as the very thing that helped her land the book deal.

"It just so happened that this woman at Simon and Schuster publishing also feels the same way. She and her husband don't want kids, and she was looking for a book like this," Kirkman said. "It was perfect timing."

Her next book deal is already in the works, as well as an extensive tour schedule for 2014 and a tentative sitcom deal with FX.

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