At the start of her debut album, stand-up comedian Jen Kirkman quickly disarms the at-home listeners with this, lest we start to think sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s got some serious comedic skills: Ã¢â‚¬Å“No one knows who I am except this room and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s even like semi-debatable.Ã¢â‚¬Â
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a typical subtle tool for a comic, to ensure the audience knows the comic herself doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe she has any right to stand on stage with a microphone and try to make people laughÃ¢â‚¬â€œ no less while being recorded for repeated listens!
But if Self Help (Aspecialthing RecordsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ inaugural release) is any indication of what this Los Angeles-based comic is capable of, Kirkman not only has the right to do such a thing Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that is, try to make people laugh Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but, since sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really good at it, sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also got the right to be cocky. Of course, that would probably kill her endearing qualities, of which she has many.
The umbrella that hovers above those qualities is that sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s normalÃ¢â‚¬â€ unless sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s criminally insane and simply plays a well-adjusted woman on stage. Sure, she talks at length about her insecurities, idiosyncrasies and fears. But you get the sense, whether sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s manipulating the mundane or humanizing the absurd, that it comes from a grounded, quick mind and not from an over-rehearsed zany comedy persona.
She has the amazing ability to take traditional stand-up topics Ã¢â‚¬â€œ flying on an airplane, sex, having kids Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and twist them so horrendously out of shape that you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even realize sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s touching on matters of this world.
On the other hand, she deftly takes absurdities Ã¢â‚¬â€œ zombies, the idea that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so easy to murder her friends for no good reason, the possibility of a cockroach raping her Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and blows them up into extended stories lined with hilarious realisms, which scarily make us wonderÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ could these things happen?
Wrapped up in a delivery thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part chatty friend, part zealous social scientist, Kirkman consistently balances her act between being wholly accessible and not-quite-hipster edgy.
When she contrasts her masturbation fantasies with that of the typical woman she explains, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just think about Johnny Depp in some friggin vacuum that makes no sense. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like Ã¢â‚¬ËœHow did I meet Johnny Depp? Why is Johnny Depp interested in me? I thought he was married. Is he still married? Because I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be an adulterer. Is his wife OK with it? Because I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be a step mom.Ã¢â‚¬Â And on she goes dropping mini punch lines on her way to the jokeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s end.
She tackles religion using simple words with hilarious effect: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I should get back into a routine of going to churchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ But then I go, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWho cares? GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forgotten about me. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve moved around a lot; sometimes I wear a hat. He might not know where I am.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Regardless of topic or tone, KirkmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s set at LAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is honest and funny from start to finish. Self Help is a refreshing release from contemporary stand-up comedy albums and offers proof that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plenty to look forward toÃ¢â‚¬â€ if not from underground stand-up comedy across the nation than at least from Kirkman herself.