This past week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Kirkman for the Vancouver Sun. I couldn’t fit everything into the Q-and-A, so here are some out-takes for the interview, wherein the L.A.-based comic talks about music, Morrissey and her French-Canadian heritage. For the rest of the interview, visit vancouversun.com.
SC: It seems like you’re a music fan, you even mention (British singer/Smiths frontman) Morrissey here and there. What’s your relationship to him?
JK: He’s my best friend, that’s my relationship – in my head. I always liked the Cure but there was something about those Morrissey lyrics, they blew my mind, probably the way like Jack Kerouac blew people’s minds when they first read him when they were teenagers. I just loved it.
My friend played me some Smiths songs when I was 14 and I had this visceral reaction, I got angry, and then I went home and cried. And then I bought all these albums the next day. I don’t know what that resistance was at first. That’s true love, I guess. And I’m still a huge fan. He (Morrissey) performs in L.A. all the time. I’ve probably seen him play 15 times in the last six years.
SC: I think he was supposed to play Coachella awhile back but wouldn’t go onstage because he could smell vendors cooking meat.
JK: Good for him! I love it. I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not like that about it. And I like people who are, God bless them. He’s not the healthiest eater though, he just basically eats bread. And beer.
SC: The Cure and the Smiths – were you a teenage goth?
JK: No, I was everything, because my sisters were ‘70s girls. So I was a little bit of a Led Zeppelin head as well. I wanted to look like a burn-out, I wanted to look like Madonna, I wanted to look like Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. I didn’t want to look like the Cure, I just liked their stuff. I was more into punk rock, I wanted to look more like I was in the Sex Pistols, the Ramones. I didn’t want to look goth. I wanted to have black hair because I thought it was very dramatic looking. I had a lot of weird influences for my look, but goth was never one of them. It was more of a burnout-meets-grunge-meets punk look.
SC: Were you the bad girl smoking outside the school?
JK: Yes, I was the bad girl smoking. We didn’t really have bad girls. The kids I hung out with, the little punk kids, none of them did drugs or drank. I didn’t even have a drink in high school once. The only thing I did was smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.
I was a bit obsessed with James Dean as well. That was my obsession, I thought it was very sophisticated. Me and one other girl smoked, and mostly it was older dudes. We’d smoke in the back of the school. I remember this one teacher, she loved James Dean, she was a sociology teacher. She would show James Dean movies in class, she said to illustrate psychology concepts but it was probably just so she could take a break. But she caught me smoking outside and she didn’t report me to the principal because she knew I was just going a James Dean phase, and she appreciated that. Which I thought was pretty bad-ass. Her, not me. I was stupid. Kids shouldn’t smoke.
SC: You have some French-Canadian heritage, at least according to Wikipedia.
JK: That’s true. My grandmother, whom I talk about in my comedy special – she is the one I say died on the floor alone – she is from Quebec. My great-grandmother grew up in Quebec. That’s my nana’s side of the family. We used to speak French together, and I’ve forgotten everything she’s taught me.
SC: Was there anything particularly French-Canadian in her home?
JK: Not really, she was always more British. She had tea every day at four and English muffins I only went over there once a week. We always had a proper tea time, every Sunday. I started doing that myself when I was little because I wanted to be just like her. Even though she was in a nursing home, I thought that was the height of sophistication.
Jen Kirkman plays the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver this Friday (June 26). You can see her latest comedy special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine) on Netflix.