On The Line with Andy Kindler

I recently spoke with comedian and television superstar, Andy Kindler about a fun variety of topics such as Twitter, Sirens, Dolph Ziggler, stand up comics, Bob’s Burgers, growing up Jewish and much more!

Alex Obert: How did you get the gig on USA Network’s Sirens?

Andy Kindler: Everything I get, I get usually from recommendations. When I go to auditions, my body freezes up and my eyes look glassy. (laughs) And I keep forgetting not to look directly in the camera. But when I’m recommended, it usually works out better. This was through Jim Serpico, he’s an executive producer of Marc Maron’s show and it’s the same production company as Denis Leary’s. So all of a sudden I got a call with a couple days notice and I was on a plane to fly to Chicago, that’s where they film Sirens on USA.

Alex Obert: How would you describe the episode that you were on?

Andy Kindler: I call them for an emergency, I say it’s an emergency. And apparently I do this a lot, I call so that the EMTs will come. I don’t call the EMTs for the reason that they should be called, I’m kind of abusing the system. And they know I’m abusing the system.

Alex Obert: What was it like working with the three lead actors?

Andy Kindler: I loved it, those guys were great. And they made fun of me because at one point, I think I did an actual thumbs up during a take. I always like to be mocked as an actor. I actually tweeted that I went the extra mile for this role and memorized my lines. I think because I’m a stand up, I don’t ever want to look like I’m Meryl Streep. (laughs) I’m not a chameleon, I just play myself. I wish I was in more stuff like this, the tone is lighter and it’s not deadly serious. The guys are funny, but I really like to say that I stole the scene. (laughs) I can hold my own in the scene. I just don’t want to embarrass myself, that’s my goal. It’s very hard to watch yourself. But when people come on the show and they’re dressed like EMTs, you just start to believe at some point. It all looks so real. In the script, I get put in an ambulance and taken away. I was hoping that I would go in an ambulance and get taken away. I liked it because it was definitely something different. I’m hoping that people will call my performance “gritty”. There was definitely a lot of laughter. I had learned that one of the characters was gay, so when I heard them talking, I just went up and said “Your character’s gay?” And then I pretend like I’m walking off the set and outraged by it. They laughed. As long as they laughed, I don’t care what America thinks, I just want them to think I’m funny.

Alex Obert: You also have a role voicing Mort on Bob’s Burgers.

Andy Kindler: Bob’s Burgers is one of those things where we all thought it was a great show, but we didn’t expect it to get so big. I consider a show big if it’s picked up. (laughs) It comes from recommendations. Loren Bouchard, who is the creator of the show, he used to be a producer on Dr. Katz. That was a cartoon in the nineties where Jonathan Katz played a psychiatrist. So Loren knows me from there. And then of course Jon Benjamin, who plays Bob, was Dr. Katz’s son on the show. He also does the voice for Archer. It’s a really incredible cast, Dan Mintz and Eugene Mirman, who are both comedians. I consider myself a comedian. And John Roberts who plays the wife, so hilarious. He had this whole internet sensation with him imitating his mother online, so him doing that voice is truly funny. I’m the breakout character for the show, I’m sure there will be a spinoff.

Alex Obert: Did you have an audition for the show where you went and read some lines?

Andy Kindler: No, but this is exactly why I was able to move the ball forward. Loren asked me if I wanted to do the pilot, which I was on. And conveniently, it’s my own voice I’m doing. I’m the man of two voices: myself and me even more Jewish. Or my mother, but that’s it. If the job calls for me just doing my own voice, I usually can nail it. (laughs)

Alex Obert: Aside from word of mouth, what do you feel contributes to the ongoing success of Bob’s Burgers? This is on a network where many shows have had a brief run and ultimately got canceled.

Andy Kindler: The comedy works on different levels. There’s so much of one kind of comedy. I think Seth MacFarlane has enough cartoons. I’m hoping that I will be The Cleveland Show of Bob’s Burgers. Don’t get me wrong, I will be lined up for Ted 2, just like I was for the first one.

Alex Obert: Last year, you were given exposure to a new audience with your run on But I’m Chris Jericho. How did you originally connect with him?

Andy Kindler: All of a sudden in the last few years, I’ve gotten all of this work in Canada. I don’t know why I’m acting so surprised that I would be sought after anywhere. I perform at a comedy festival in Toronto called JFL 42. Toronto I love. I’ve gotten various things from that. My friend, Gary Rideout Jr., he wrote the script for the Chris Jericho thing. I think it was going to be Joe Flaherty, but he couldn’t make it. Many of the gigs I’ve gotten, they were because other people couldn’t make it. That’s kind of my specialty. And then I flew up, I didn’t know anything about wrestling, but I love playing an agent. It’s my favorite thing. He was great and playing his agent was really fun. And then I also met Dolph Ziggler. I was doing this small gig in LA and I walked around to the back of the room and just happened to see this comic. I had no idea who he was. It turned out to be Dolph, but he was performing under his real name. And he was hilarious, I couldn’t believe it! I was just laughing like a maniac. And that’s how we met. I think he’s really funny.

Alex Obert: What was that conversation like you introduced yourself to him?

Andy Kindler: Well the first night, I didn’t realize­ I was so self absorbed. I would have gotten into the wrestling thing when I was younger or something, but I don’t really know much about it. I had no idea how popular he was. I was finding out that this guy is a huge wrestler. I actually went to Arizona, where he lives, and then I hung out with him there. So we just kept in touch since that first night.

Alex Obert: Did you miss the opportunity to train for wrestling?

Andy Kindler: Well most people thought I would end up like that. My parents thought I would be a wrestler or a jockey. I growth spurted up to five five and a half in the last year of high school. Before I was that tall, I was like four eleven in high school. My parents literally said things to me like “Oh, Mickey Rooney made it! He was short.” I thought I was a good athlete and then everybody got way bigger than me. But I remember names like Bruno Sammartino from when I was a kid. And then more recently, people thought I was this guy from professional wrestling because there was a mixup on IMDB. They thought I was someone named Jameson, the manager of the Bushwhackers. We only look like each other if you just think all Jews look alike. (laughs) It took me years to convince people that it wasn’t me. Why would I run away from the credit? (laughs)

Alex Obert: Take someone like Dolph Ziggler, he’s giving comedy a shot and doing well at it. But if you found someone who just did their first gig and you can give them all the advice you want, what advice would you give to them so they don’t go down the wrong path? I know you’re quite outspoken about certain comics and their approach.

Andy Kindler: I’m different when I’m critiquing comedy as a comedian, what I like and don’t like, as opposed to advice. I feel like the worst advice to give is to give too much advice at the beginning. People are just trying to get over the fear of performing. When someone’s starting, I try and leave them alone. People will obviously find their way. They can go into the territory of getting an easy laugh, but that’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own. The only thing I can say about the wrong path is if you just go by crowd reaction with jokes. That’s one of the things that makes comics give up too fast on a joke. “Oh, I tried this in my act and it didn’t work.” different types of It’s like a comedy Renaissance now. Crowds aren’t like they were when I was coming up where they were very mainstream. The only advice I have given people that I think is really good advice is to write every single thing down that you think is funny throughout the day. That’s where people lose their most material. They always come up with something and then decide it won’t work. If it’s funny to you during the day, it’s probably funnier than anything you would come up with by sitting down and writing from scratch. That’s what I think people don’t do. Or they drop the joke completely because a couple crowds didn’t get it. You have to keep going. If you try a joke for 8 months in every type of room you can judge if it’s working or not. But going by one crowd or a few crowds is not good.

Alex Obert: It seems as though it’s also about gaining confidence in the delivery of the joke.

Andy Kindler: You can say to be confident, but I like comics who are less confident. You take someone like Mitch Hedberg, the most hilarious person ever, I wouldn’t say he was confident. I would say he was kind of shy and he wouldn’t look at the crowd sometimes.The only way to become a comedian is to just do it over and over and over every chance you get. That’s one thing I think people don’t even realize. When people get into acting or comedy or writing or whatever it is, they’re already starting to worry about where they are gonna make a living at it. That stuff can’t stop you from just doing it. Keep your part of the brain that’s ambitious out of it and just focus on the love of what you’re doing, which is why you started doing it. You’re better off that way. I’m gonna have to teach a class!

Alex Obert: What are couple of your favorite clubs in New York and LA?

Andy Kindler: I grew up in New York City and I moved out to Los Angeles. When I went back to New York, I stayed with my parents in Queens at the age of thirty and I would do clubs. I think my first favorite one was Stand Up NY. In LA, I started out in a duo. It was Andy and Bill. And there was a club called Igby’s. I don’t know if this is true, but back in the day they had phone books and people would look up the number, and the guy over at Igby’s wanted his club to be right between The Ice House, which is a club in Pasadena, and The Improv. That was probably my favorite club then. Of all the mainstream comedy clubs in LA, I never felt like any of them were my home. But maybe the closest would be The Improv because I’ve always felt comfortable there. But it wasn’t until the nineties when Luna Park opened and a show called Uncabaret got popular that I felt really at home. The first place I ever played as a solo comedian was called Seymour Hamm’s. It was in Lomita, California and it serviced the local community theater crowd.

Alex Obert: Sounds like it should be the name of a standup comic.

Andy Kindler: (laughs) I would’ve paid them back then whatever they would’ve accepted to take that name. I would’ve been so much bigger earlier if I was Seymour Hamm.

Alex Obert: We were talking about comics not going down the wrong path and I know an example you are against is the Twitter of Ricky Gervais.

Andy Kindler: With Ricky Gervais, he’s always doing things for animals. He’s doing all these causes for animals, which is very nice, raising money to stop the abuse of animals. But then he has a picture of himself in front of all his awards and he goes “This is the only trophy hunting I believe in.” He’s trying to talk about trophy hunting, but at the same time, he’s showing you all his amazing awards. And that’s the thing, he really reveals himself to be such a materialistic guy. He’s always bragging about how much money he has and how big a mansion he has. It doesn’t look good. I know I don’t look good on Twitter when I’m arguing with a robot for eight hours about religion.

Alex Obert: Do you have any other pet peeves on Twitter lately?

Andy Kindler: I’m also obsessed by things these things like “smh”.

Alex Obert: I always get irritated by the parody accounts, especially when the tweets are blatant plagiarism.

Andy Kindler: Every once in a while, the parody accounts can be good. But there’s a million accounts with strange names that must be fake. “Vulture Head Bird”. A lot of the Twitter names are bathroom references like “Poo Poo Town”. (laughs) But it’s just terrible, why can’t people work out their bathroom issues as they’re growing up like they’re supposed to? You’re supposed to outgrow that kind of thing, you don’t bring it to your Twitter account!

Alex Obert: One of the comics who has captured my attention in a positive way on Twitter is Neil Hamburger.

Andy Kindler: (laughs) His act is just amazing! He can get away with a lot more because he’s doing a character, I couldn’t go that far.

Alex Obert: So I recently read that you were talking about TV shows that you weren’t too big a fan of. Are there any films that you find to be overrated?

Andy Kindler: I didn’t really like The Theory of Everything that much. I just felt like I didn’t learn a lot about his theory and it seemed like a TV movie to me. I haven’t seen that Grand Budapest Hotel movie, but it looks good. My wife saw it and she enjoyed it.

Alex Obert: You mentioned earlier that you’re Jewish, what was that like while growing up?

Andy Kindler: Both of my parents were Jewish, but we were reformed jews. My father is more like agnostic and my mom actually converted when I was fifteen years old. She became a Quaker, it’s a very cool pacifist religion. I actually got bar mitzvah’ed and to me, that was my first big gig. I killed, the Rabbi couldn’t follow me. I got six applause breaks during my haftarah reading.

Alex Obert: Was Hanukkah a significant part of your life?

Andy Kindler: From a young age, I preferred Christmas. Given the choice, I don’t see how any child wouldn’t go with Christmas over Hanukkah. I really think Hanukkah is one of those things they pumped up to try and compete with Christmas. Our holidays were inconsistent because my mom had mixed feelings about it. But when I was maybe nine years old, I read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and I just became fascinated with that book. Well I also like snow and I like cabins and cookies. The Jewish holidays, they try, they put the chocolate gelt, but it’s hard to stick with the Jewish holidays. (laughs)

Alex Obert: What is your take on the statement that many in show business are Jewish?

Andy Kindler: Why do we control the media? Jews are entertaining. I used to do a joke that all Jews were funny, even when they’re not trying to be funny. My friend Phil and I, we were driving down the street listening to the Whitney Houston song, How Will I Know. And she’s like “How will I know” and he says “You’ll know, Whitney. You’ll know. Believe me.” Any members of oppressed groups can band up in show business. Black people, Jewish people, the oppression somehow brings out what makes us become either comics or singers. (laughs) Obviously I’m ripping on my theories now. Italians are funny too. I mean yes, Jews are the funniest group, but others can be almost as funny.

Alex Obert: Who was the first comic that you discovered was Jewish and felt inspired by?

Andy Kindler: I didn’t really think that way. When I was younger, I saw Jackie Mason and I was like “Woah! Alright! I have a shot!” (laughs) I grew up a reformed Jew in Queens around Jews, so to me, being a Jew never seemed like it would tamper me. Luckily I was born eleven years after Hitler, I’m always thankful for that. And also, I’m obsessed with him, as a result of that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like him, but I can’t stop watching his footage on TV. I’m obsessed with World War II. It was very traumatic when I went to Hebrew school as a kid and they showed us stuff that happened in the Holocaust, I was at too young an age. It made me just obsessed at an early age with how horrible it was. It really is kind of in my DNA or my genetics to think about how horrible he is. But then I can’t stop watching footage of him. There is something comical about him. That’s why I think Chaplin and The Great Dictator was funny. I definitely got that from Jewish comedians, I think Woody Allen was a really early big influence. Mel Brooks too. Many Jews joke about Hitler.

Alex Obert: When you mentioned Charlie Chaplin, I was thinking of his similar facial hair and was reminded of something. Are you aware that Michael Jordan had the Hitler mustache?

Andy Kindler: (laughs) I didn’t know that! Not a good look for him. He was the Hitler of trash talking, wasn’t he? I’ve heard he was very mean on the court. Can’t argue with his tactics though, it worked.

Alex Obert: I’m a big fan of the Dikembe Mutombo method where he wags his finger after blocking a shot.

Andy Kindler: Like “not in my house”? I would be one of those guys if I wasn’t 5’5″ and a half.

Alex Obert: (laughs) Before we wrap up, what do you have coming up within the next several months?

Andy Kindler: I’m gonna be on the third season of Maron, that’s exciting. I just did my last standup performance on David Letterman which was was really fun. Also, watch Bob’s Burgers on FOX.

Alex Obert: Sounds awesome! I’d love to thank you so much for your time and a great interview.

Andy Kindler: Thank you so much!

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Andy Kindler
Photo Credit: Susan Maljan

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