Comedy veteran and New York native, Andy Kindler, has appeared on the HBO Young Comedians Special, Late Night with Conan O’Brian, The Daily Show, Dr. Katz Professional Therapist, Home Movies, The Larry Sanders Show, and is often recognized for his character Andy on the CBS sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. He is also a frequent guest and correspondent for The Late Show with David Letterman.
Kindler recently performed at the Moontower Comedy and Oddity festival in Austin, TX, and I was able to catch one of his performances, which turned out to be my favorite show of the fest. Hosted by the legendary Dom Irrera, the showcase featured Bil Dwyer, Lucas Bros, Marc Maron and Judah Friedlander. Kindler killed, and his energy had the sold out club rolling.
I had a chance to sit down with the very friendly and very funny Kindler right before the festival got underway.
Describe your process for generating material.
Let’s see. I drink coffee. Actually (Kindler takes a sip of coffee) that was just an excuse for me to drink coffee, although, energy is good. For generating stand up material, as opposed to technical manuals, I really don’t sit down and write. I just wait for things to happen. Because most of the comedy is something that is bothering me on TV or is something that’s bothering me in the world. So it’s almost all interacting with the world, and then because I give a speech every year, or have been lucky enough to give a speech every year at Montreal, (Just For Laughs). I give a speech about what’s wrong with comedy, so that makes me have to focus, and that’s actually a good process. Then I write things down.
I’m not big on giving advice and stuff, but good advice for anyone who writes anything: anytime the idea comes to you, write it down, and you can’t judge it while you’re writing it down. For most people that’s the main mistake they make. They think about the idea and go “oh that wasn’t good” so they’re constantly editing when you need to separate your editing from your creating. So that’s one thing I’m pretty good about. I’m also trying to do more voice memos lately.
Are you your harshest critic?
The thing about stand up is, I’ve tried many different things in life, I was a singer-songwriter, and I can say honestly without being falsely humble I’m confident that when I come out with a joke I’m going to enjoy it, so I feel like I can do it. So I’m not a harsh critic that way. In other words, once I find the joke, if I like it, I like it. The critical stuff is more of how much stuff I’m coming up with.
You were on DR. KATZ…
Yeah that was one of the first things I did on TV.
How do you like TV? You were also on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. How does that compare to doing stand up?
I would pick stand up over anything because I’ve been doing it enough years – I can tell the process of it is the most enjoyable of all the things. I can be a very harsh critic of my acting, not because I feel like I can’t act, but I feel when I go on auditions I’m very self- aware, so a lot of times if it’s going to be a part where people get it because the person commits to a thing, I usually don’t get that part. When I started stand up there were many years of a lot of pain. I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. So a lot of the time on stage I was thinking “oh what am I doing?” On stage I was really wrapped up in thinking about what I was doing on stage. That took years to get rid of.
What do you think about taking classes or going to school for comedy?
That’s a tough one, because you know, I was in a duo. We had a day job together selling stereos. So my school was doing a couple years with him (my friend). We signed up for open mics. I think it’s something that you can’t really be taught. I definitely am not against people who take classes, because it’s so scary to start, a lot of times at that beginning level you’re just performing for other people in the class. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, just don’t ascribe to anyone’s Svengali-like advice.
Who are your biggest comedic influences?
I was influenced by Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, David Letterman, I was a big sitcom fan so I knew about Bob Newhart’s sitcom before I knew about his stand up.
So I didn’t specifically follow stand ups, but then of course I knew about several, like George Carlin, and then later I got into Lenny Bruce. I also remember loving Richard Pryor as a kid, all the original Saturday Night Live people were great. David Letterman was a huge influence on me because he kind of took that Johnny Carson thing one step further in terms of he was able to make fun of the joke when it didn’t go well. Dave took it to the next level of “isn’t this ridiculous?” Everything is ridiculous, very funny. And the Albert Brooks and Woody Allen movies.
Were you the class clown? Did you entertain for your family?
I did entertain for my family, but I was always afraid of getting in trouble as a kid so I wasn’t like a prank guy. I didn’t do physical stunts, but I was trying to make everybody laugh. If not the class clown, certainly the class mime.
Were people telling you you should be a comedian before you ever thought about it?
That’s the thing that is so weird about it. First of all, I grew up in a time period where stand up wasn’t as all over the place, . There was a lot of it, I grew up really wanting to be a member of the Beatles or Bob Dylan, and also everyone in my family was really funny. My dad was really funny. I just took it for granted.
What are you going to do if the whole comedy thing doesn’t work out?
I could always wait tables again. I really liked waiting tables. I did a lot of bad day jobs. That’s my other piece of advice for people, if you’re going to get a job where you have to pay the bills, you should get a day job that you can start up with that also isn’t going to commit you to a business that you will eventually regret doing. Waiting tables was like stand up, you can relate to people. Same with bar tending. I was a bartender too. I could also do…why can’t people just pay me a lot of money to come give them a pep talk?
Like a motivational speaker?
Something like that. Life coach would be good.
Let’s see, what else…
I’m sorry I’m not funnier.
It’s okay, I’m having a great time! So how do you like voice over work? You do stuff for the show BOB’S BURGERS?
I used to say “I’m a recurring character”, but why am I introducing myself by defining my contract? Now I simply say, “I voice the part of Mort on Bob’s Burgers.” I do love voice over work. I don’t get a lot of commercial work, I go out for a lot of auditions. I think that hopefully on the basis of this interview i will start to get more voice over work. I need more work in general. I need about a million dollars a year just to tread water. Is this (interview) an inside thing? I’m nothing but inside, I’m so inside even the people inside don’t know about be. I’m a best kept secret in many ways.
Do you write scripts?
I have what they call two blind script deals. You’re paid to write the script, but you’re not attached as the talent, even though that was the idea. The idea for both of those scripts was like “look, we want a show with this guy Andy Kindler, but if you want to take it and sell it to somebody else that’s possible.” None of those decisions happened. I did get paid though.
Yeah. I don’t think I’m a natural sit in the room and write kind of a person, I don’t know who is, but some people love writing.
Well, it seems like it’d be fun to write in a room with a group of people who knew what they were doing if everyone got along…which, how often does that happen?
I meant like novels.
Are you a big reader?
I tend to have a little ADD, or a lot of ADD, but I love graphic novels a lot. I love stuff like Ernest Hemingway, but I do mostly non-fiction stuff.
What’s next for Kindler?
That’s right. What’s next for Kindler? Every morning, when I have my team meeting, with all the people from Kindler enterprises, including my Twitter and Facebook staff…
…my publicist. I actually have an idea for an Andy Kindler type show that I made a demo of. So, I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re sending that around. So you might not be able to get me for one of these in-depth interviews.
Well I’m glad we made this happen while we still can.
You know, there are going to be several levels of people to get through from here on on out.
So would you say you’re about to be ridiculously huge?
I’d say what’s happening with me, my inclination to be grandiose, is increasing. I think it’s the jet lag. The jet lag when I go East, it makes me think my career is better. When I go West, it’s over. I go, “it’s my fault.” But, it’s not about having a career, or eating well, or taking care of nagging medical problems. It’s about interviews.
I don’t have good closing lines.
Come on, this is going great!
That’s the hardest part about an article. That’s what I hate about the news, when they wrap it up, you know, it’s a story about fish “and now you can see how they can catch fish and teach a man etcetera”, you know they always have some closing line.
Right, right, right.
Like we’re four years old or something and need them to sum it all up.
Who do you really respect in the Industry?
I love Colbert. I always mention Letterman because he’s the man. But Colbert, I think is like, not like he’s under the radar, everyone knows who he is, he is so amazingly brilliant night in and night out, on a level that it’s not like so subtle you can’t get it, but you really have to listen and be a part of it. I just think he’s the greatest.
At what point does a stand up retire, and do you call that sitting down?
I could not see myself retiring unless I got to the point where I just didn’t want to do it anymore. But I think that would come from loving to not do anything.
But then I get bored.
So, I just can’t see where I’d say I don’t want to perform any more. But maybe I’d do it less, and I’d do it wearing more expensive clothing.
Follow Andy on Twitter: @AndyKindler
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