Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kyle Kinane on farts, surf slang, and why he’s not writing a book

(Photo: Laurie Fanelli)
(Photo: Laurie Fanelli)

What you see is what you get with Kyle Kinane. The comedian and self-proclaimed “Uncle Barbeque” is exactly as his stand-up suggests: straightforward to a fault, occasionally a little drunk, and keenly amused with the world’s general absurdity. All of that is on display in Kinane’s new stand-up special, Loose In Chicago, which premieres this Saturday, October 15, on Comedy Central. Filmed in Kinane’s hometown at one of his favorite music venues, the Metro, Loose In Chicago finds Kinane among his people; most of them, he’ll admit, look exactly like him.

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Since Kinane is in the business of making other people laugh, The A.V. Club thought it might be interesting to find out what makes him laugh. He put together a list for us, and we ran through it together recently.

Canadians, including The Kids In The Hall, Chixdiggit, and Strange Brew’s Bob and Doug McKenzie

The A.V. Club: The first item on your list is Canadians.

Kyle Kinane: Yeah, my oh-so-mature list of things I find funny.

AVC: What do you like about Canadians?

KK: I think it was just a common trait among things I saw when I was thinking, “Well, what do I think is funny?” It turns out they’re all Canadian. I don’t know if it has something to do with the fact that their comedy is a little more absurd and goofy because maybe they’re not worried about politics or how their country’s leaders might bring on the end of civilization, as we know it. They can have more fun and be absurd.

The Kids In The Hall, first and foremost, was something I got into when I was younger. Everybody was watching Saturday Night Live, but I just never got that. I had cable from a very early age. I think my parents realized that Friday The 13th sequels would really shut the kids up in the basement. The Kids In The Hall was originally on HBO in the states, and I saw it. I liked the fact that it was on cable and there wasn’t a presidential impersonator on every episode. It was just weird and hilarious. Plus, obviously, the Monty Python-esque, dressing up to play all the characters in every sketch.

I don’t know what was different about it. Maybe it felt a little more exclusive being on cable. “Oh, you don’t have it? Sucks to be you.” It’s also the silliness of it. It was just so silly and I dug that. I think I was in junior high when I started watching it.

AVC: One of the clips you sent was “Ham Of Truth,” which is certainly absurd.

KK: I guess if you wanted to be analytical, you could say it dissects the family dynamic of that age and a father that can’t express his feelings. Or you can just say it’s fucking hilarious. Watch it. It’s funny, laugh at it. You’re an idiot kid that just wants to play guitar. Good.

AVC: You also mentioned Strange Brew, which also has a dry, matter-of-fact affect to it.

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KK: They don’t beat you over the head with it so much. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas were SCTV guys. That was one—without any history or knowing what those guys were from—that was a movie I saw on cable. It was so stupid that I was like, “yep, that’s for me.” Just from the beginning where they’re introducing their own movie but telling you how to scam free movie tickets by releasing moths into a theater and then them getting chased out of a screening of their own movie into their movie. I was like, “This isn’t how movies start. This is great.” I didn’t know about formats and things like that when I was younger. I was like, “You’re in your movie but you’re talking about your movie. This is nuts.” That was my first exposure to somebody breaking the rules and the fourth wall. And outside that, it’s just two dumb idiots drinking beer, being buffoons. I’m a simple person. I don’t need more than this. I don’t need high art. Clearly.

AVC: And Chixdiggit is just a fun Canadian band.

KK: Chixdiggit is a band that started off by having a dumb name and T-shirts, but then they were like, “I guess we’ve got to put the band together since we’ve been joking about having a band called Chixdiggit.” It’s just real silly power-pop songs and they don’t take themselves seriously.

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I’ve seen them live where they’ll play these punk festivals and talk so much in between songs. It’s great to see these punk-rock kids get so upset with them for not playing a song. It’s not like it’s a political rant either. It’s like, “Guys, it’s just great to be here. We’re Chixdiggit. We’re from Canada. It’s just so nice to be down here with everybody” and being so sunny and sunshine-y on stage. All these punk kids are hating it. That’s hilarious. That’s subversive. You’re finally getting a gig and you get to play in front of 200 people, and you’re just pissing them off but not in a G.G. Allin throwing shit at them kind of way. You’re just being the most wholesome, kind person, and your gratitude is obnoxious on stage. Oh man, I love it.

AVC: This is a sweeping generalization, but every Canadian I’ve met has been very kind.

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KK: The weight of the world isn’t on their shoulders as much in Canada. Americans’ perception of it is, “Oh, it seems like a pretty nice place to live. And everyone there is nice. So if people around you are nice, you have a tendency to be nicer.” What a wonderful lesson for the rest of the world: Just let a little kindness rub off on you.

And the fact is that these guys are goofballs and sing songs about how Henry Rollins isn’t any fun because the singer’s mom met him at a music festival and he was kind of boring. They wrote a whole song about that instead of normal punk fare, which is usually like, “I’m going to take down the government” and whatever those goatees and flat-brim hats are singing about. These guys just write real catchy pop tunes.

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Small dogs

AVC: The next thing on your list is small dogs. What kind of small dogs?

KK: Chihuahuas and Pomeranians. Clearly the things that are delightful are what I find funny. Little Pomeranians are hilarious to look at. How can you look at that and not feel a little bit of happiness, a little bit of ease in the world? And they just run around.

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I don’t think I need to explain it. If you don’t get it, I’m sorry that you’re dead inside. That’s what the scenario is there.

AVC: Can anything make small dogs funnier? Are they funnier wearing clothes? Are they funnier when they fall down?

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KK: It’s a pretty wide range of things. I think being a city resident and an apartment dweller shape my opinion. Logistically a large dog does not seem fun in a one-bedroom apartment. They’re slobbering and messy, and the logistics of handling that are not enticing to me. I’m more into a little dog that hangs out and is your buddy, especially when they’re mean. Pomeranians have big dumb hair, but they’re mean. They don’t realize they look stupid. I love that. Good for you. Little Chihuahuas getting mean. Go for it. You aren’t scared. I like that. That’s admirable. They’re not self-conscious. That’s what I like about them.

AVC: I like it when dogs have people faces. That’s probably why I have a French Bulldog.

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KK: My girlfriend just sent me a blog of a guy who’s shaggy looking and has a shaggy looking dog and he just dresses them both up the same and takes pictures. I found it very off-putting.

Dropping food

AVC: You can drop all kinds of food and have it be funny, but this popcorn video you sent was pretty good.

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KK: That video is by the Walsh Brothers and they’re a really funny comedy duo. They’re actually brothers, too. It’s not a show business lie.

But mostly this is on here because [my sister] Tegan and I for some reason decided early on that knocking food out of each other’s hands was the funniest thing in the world. Also, the various ways you could do it. Is it funnier to slap food down or slap food up? One of the things we found the most fun was if somebody doesn’t know about the game and they’re just holding a plate of food, to just slowly start pushing down on the plate. They don’t realize what you’re doing. It’s just a real slow, “What are you do-,” and then the food falls. And they’re like, “Well, what happened there?” And you’re like, “Oh, I was just being an asshole.” That’s probably one of the funniest things.

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Tegan’s precision is better. That’s a thing I learned at a house party. If you have a can of beer, she can high-kick from underneath and just hit the can and not your hand, and send a beer skyrocketing into the atmosphere. That’s funny because people not paying attention don’t even know what happened. All they know is that a can of beer flew out of their hands into the clouds. That’s another classic.

I prefer the slow, downward motion though. I think it’s crueler but I find that one more entertaining. There’s all different ways you can do it. You’ve got to find somebody else who wants to laugh at it. If nobody else is laughing at it, then you just look like a real asshole. One other person has to get it and say, “Ahh, that’s funny.”

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I don’t condone wasting food though. Let me just say that I understand there are starving people. I feel bad.

AVC: I have a brother and always find it interesting how much our sense of humor shaped each other’s. That sibling sense of humor is fascinating to me, and very comforting.

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KK: Yeah. I could augment this list and just say “Tegan.”

Again, with cable, when we were little and would watch TV, the movie North Shore was on frequently, which is just a surf movie. I don’t know if it’s a classic, but it’s an ’80s surf movie, and Tegan and I decided that it was going to be our dialect. We were going to speak like surfers. And so it would just be her and I at the dinner table like, “Whatever haole.” My mom would not understand what was going on at all. “Get outta here, kook.” I don’t know if it was Thanksgiving or something, but somebody was sitting down at the table. It might have been my grandmother. And my sister said, “Locals only, bro.” And that’s it. That was one of the funniest things I’ve heard. “Locals only” at a Thanksgiving dinner. And we were probably 11 and 9. So we didn’t even know what we were saying.

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Subtlety, like when Pee-Wee Herman crashes his motorcycle or Wile E. Coyote falls off a cliff

AVC: How did this stuff come up?

KK: I think one of the earliest lessons I learned about comedy was from the old Wile E. Coyote cartoons. If he fell off a cliff, it would take so long for him to fall, and you would just see a little cloud at the bottom. And that would express how far he fell. I knew that was funny and I didn’t know why that was funny until I saw some updated ones where they made a big explosion and crash and all this stuff. And I was like, “you guys ruined the joke.” You’re treating me like I’m dumb and like I wouldn’t get it. And I got it. That’s what was funny.

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It’s the same thing with Pee-Wee. There are so many big jokes in that, but it’s him just riding off and quietly hitting the billboard, and then seeing the motorcycle fall and cutting to an ambulance. Give the audience some credit. They’ll put it together. You’re not force-feeding jokes. If somebody misses it, it wasn’t for them anyway.

That was an early lesson. Comedy doesn’t have to be loud and obnoxious and beat you over the head. It can be this really small detail that, when it computes in your brain, you think, “That’s great. That’s masterful.”

AVC: I like the extra beats. With Pee-Wee, it’s not just him going through the sign, it’s also how at the end you can kind of see the motorcycle skidding out. They took it farther than just him going through the sign.

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KK: It’s quiet too. It’s just so distant, and then there’s ambulance noise. It’s like, “Of course he got hurt. He crashed a motorcycle.” You don’t have to show it. You know why it’s funny. We got it.

It’s shot with a wide frame too. That appeals to me in comedy and in horror films too. Paranormal Activity will do something so subtle that you might not even notice the first time you watch the movie. It’s so much more effective when you have to discover it yourself.

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People getting scared while watching horror movies and visiting haunted houses

AVC: Why did people getting scared make the list?

KK: There are these video compilations that come out this time of year of people getting scared at haunted houses, and they’re one of the greatest yearly things that you can enjoy around Halloween. Pennsylvania has some really intense haunted houses, and you’ll just see totally flat-brimmed bros pushing their girlfriends into whatever is scaring them. They’re coiling up behind them with their mouths open in fear.

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What a great unifier getting scared is. Not in an actual threatening, real-world way, but getting scared from horror movies or haunted houses or ghost stories. You laugh because it’s a release. People laugh when they’re nervous. I laugh so much at a haunted house. It’s out of fear, but it’s also a wonderful release. Getting scared like that, you feel good, and you feel exhilarated afterwards. I do. Some people get nightmares. I personally feel more alive than ever. It’s like we all shared in how frightened we were, and now look at us afterwards, laughing at how silly it was. Hopefully nobody gets PTSD. Some of these places are like pretty intense now.

I just like, like, “Man, remember when that thing jumped out and we all got scared and got popcorn on ourselves?” It’s a unifying experience, it’s an exhilarating experience, and I think it’s good for you.

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When I was growing up, there was a big haunted house at the Odeum in Villa Park and my dad would take us every year. One of the things we found to be the most fun was the mirror maze. We’d hide in one of the corners and jump out at people ourselves. Just like, “Boo!” When you’re on the controlling side of that and watching somebody get scared, I don’t think you’re being a predator. They’re already at a haunted house. That’s what they came there for. Somebody loses their mind and screams. It’s hilarious.

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I don’t wish ill-will on somebody, but have you seen the pictures of when people get scared? The biggest, gangbanger looking dudes grabbing their girlfriends like, “Oh, Jesus Christ!” It’s great! It’s great! They have enough humility to be like, “that scared the shit out of me.” Good for you. You don’t have to be a tough guy. You go to a haunted house to have fun. When you see the toughest guys allowing themselves to get scared in the name of fun, that’s heartwarming.

Arthur Bradford

AVC: What do you like about Arthur Bradford? How’s Your News?

KK: I saw How’s Your News? and I was definitely in the camp of not being sure how to interpret that at first. I was watching it with people who were watching it for the wrong reasons. I didn’t like that that’s how it was being viewed. You could see that wasn’t the intent of why it was made. It was a ruminating thing of how there are real people in our society and watching how people respond to that to shed a light on it. Disabilities, or whatever the proper term is nowadays.

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Anyway, it was actually a book called Dogwalker that got me into Arthur Bradford. I read a short story of his somewhere, and somebody else had Dogwalker at their house and leant it to me. It’s absurd and it’s not some heavy-handed comedy stuff. There’s one particular story about him having an arm wrestling match with someone that’s a fiction story. Whoever won would get a frozen turkey. He just sat down like, “This is what the story I’m going to write is. It’s not some epic idea.”

You take the four arches of storytelling and—I’m sorry for the genderizing of it—but it’s man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, and man vs. self. Those are the four epic plotlines that all stories have. This was just really none of those. Well, it’s man vs. man because it’s an arm-wrestling match. It’s man vs. self, because the guy’s an idiot. It was just so dry and matter-of-fact. “And then, my opponent threw up. Mostly because I punched him in the stomach but also I think he was sad that he lost.” It’s written in a very knowing, juvenile manner.

AVC: You can assume for yourself. You know what a guy throwing up looks like.

KK: Yeah. It’s like when a kid tells a story. “And then this happened. And then this happened. Oh, and then this happened because of this!” It’s told in that way, but skillfully. He’s using it a technique, not because he’s a bad writer.

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It’s so rare that the written word just makes me laugh real hard, like seeing stand up or something. And it’s refreshing to read something that’s also not sardonic, “Oh the darkness!” “What a sly witty take on drug addiction.” Got it. I know. Do we need more books about drugs? What about a book about a guy having an arm-wrestling match for a frozen turkey? That’s refreshing. If you go into rehab and don’t write a book, do you get fined? I don’t understand. What if you get sober and don’t tell anybody? Does it not count? Oh good. More memoirs out of 30-year-olds. Great.

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AVC: Have you been asked to write a book? So many comedians now are writing short essay books.

KK: I know. We’re all so fucking interesting all of a sudden, aren’t we?

No. I mean, what do you want? What is missing from my stand up that you want to know about me at this point? I’ve covered it with everything that’s out there. I don’t have any deep, “Let me tell you the darkness of my childhood” stories. I had a great childhood. It was fun. And I like to tell jokes. I’ve made some mistakes, and I will tell them to your face. I don’t have the patience to write stuff down and come up with like, “But what was the color of the inside of the Days Inn where I lost my virginity?” Nobody gives a fuck.

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AVC: Every story would be two pages long. You’d say, “Here’s what happened.”

KK: “And here’s a YouTube clip for reference of where I’ve already talked about it.” The six hours of material that I have floating around.

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Farts

AVC: The last thing on your list is farts, and you said you fought yourself on whether or not you should include it.

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KK: I mean, how basic. How juvenile. I’m going to be 40 in December. Sometimes there’s that duality of, “grow up.” How can this still be humorous? How can you feel like an actual member of society casting a vote for a president when in a professional interview you said that farts make you laugh? And you’re a professional in comedy? But then, have you ever seen a video of a small dog that farts? Welp. I don’t need to explain that anymore. If you can’t see the humor in that, good luck being a CEO somewhere where I’m not going to understand you. It’s a harmless thing to laugh at. It’s humor that’s not at the expense of someone else. And it’s silly. It’s juvenile.

On the other side of it, I hope I never lose the joy that comes. I think my friend Matt Braunger said, “The funniest thing you can see is someone playing the tuba, and then fell down and then farted after they fell down while playing the tuba.” I thought, “Yep. I agree. Entirely.” It’s not high art, but that’s not what I’m about.

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I look forward to the comment section on this article. Because, boy. The A.V. Club comment section. Put that in there. Let me have it, dorks. Tell me why I’m wrong. Sorry there’s no high art, deep-seated reference to classic Monty Python. I like farts and little dogs and talking like a surfer to old ladies. Give me hell! Give me hell, comment section.

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