No one ever accused comedian and writer Laurie Kilmartin of being being "Mommy Dearest," but then again, she hasn’t received her "Mother of the Year" award yet either.
But the good news is that you can watch Kilmartin’s piercing insight and bald sarcasm at The Sacramento Punchline, where she will regale you into joyful delirium on Aug. 13 and 14.
A seasoned comedian and writer, Kilmartin is back in Los Angeles for a while (or, at least, until the lease on her apartment expires) after being voted off as one of the top-10 finalists of “Last Comic Standing’s” season seven.
Not to worry, however. Kilmartin, a noted and sought-after comedy writer who moved to back to California from New York to write for the now-canceled "Bonnie Hunt Show," vowed to continue to advance her 20+ years as a stand-up performer and writer.
Kilmartin, who launched her stand-up career in the Bay Area and then moved to New York, is unstoppable. She continues to write and perform, in spite of the pressures of single parenthood.
Her act has changed considerably over the last three years. An unplanned pregnancy, a dark sense of humor and an absent baby-daddy tend to color her stand-up material. Sometimes, she brings her son, William, on the road with her. At other times, she doesn’t. She’s convinced that, someday, William will have an even darker sense of humor and tell jokes about his mommy.
"He has been exposed to my negativity and seems to not give a damn. He seems okay. I’ll tell him they’re just jokes, Mommy is being a comedian at work. He’ll be okay,” Kilmartin said.
"When I travel alone, it’s nice to completely escape and just be by myself like I was in the ’80s and ’90s, where I was just this lazy douchebag on the road who just did what I wanted to do and then did a show at night. Although, when I do bring him on the road, it’s very tiring, but we have a good time and he gets to see different parts of the country. So one’s good and the other is good, too.”
Kilmartin has performed at the Montreal, Aspen and Edinburgh comedy festivals. She has done stand-up on “Comedy Central,” “Jimmy Kimmel” and “Showtime,” and appeared on “Best Week Ever,” “The Today Show,” “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” “Fox & Friends” and “Oprah.” As if that isn’t enough, Punchline Magazine called Kilmartin’s CD, “Five Minutes to Myself,” one of the “Top Ten Comedy CDs of 2009.”
As a writer, Kilmartin was on the staff of the “The Late Late Show,” “Tough Crowd” and “The Bonnie Hunt Show.”She also coauthored Sherri Shepherd’s memoir, “Permission Slips.”
Recently, we had the good fortune to chat with Laurie.
I’m finding a niche of people who want to know more about the comic and listen to the non-performance riffing than just watch a comedy special.
“It’s so neat that there is a market for that now. It seemed that comedy was dead for a little while. And, then, all of a sudden the Internet caught up. Whatever it was doing for music, it caught up with stand-up in the past couple years really quickly. Live comedy is like a million times better than what you see on TV and YouTube, you know. It’s just like the electricity of being there, being in the room with somebody makes all the difference really.”
What made you go to New York?
“You know, I got to see new faces in Montreal in 1998. There, I met a woman who would become my agent for a little while. She said, ‘Why don’t you come to New York?’ I visited it, and I loved it! I was only going to stay for a year, and I ended up staying for 10 years. It’s really a hard city to leave. I still am kind of sick inside that I am not there right now. The comedy scene was amazing there. It was like Noah’s ark, there’s like, not two of every race, but a hundred thousand of every race in a housing project. It’s just amazing. I love it!”
Have you ever thought about doing television, movies, that type of thing?
“I have a really hard time auditioning. I get very angry at auditions, because I don’t like being judged, which is probably the wrong attitude to have if you’re trying to have an acting career. Maybe I can try to mature and see if there’s anything open for me along those lines, but I feel more comfortable doing stand-up and writing. You just go out less vulnerable than you are when you are running around to auditions and memorizing copy that probably isn’t that funny. You know it’s not funny, but you’re supposed to be a comedian so that you’re supposed to make it funny. It’s hard. I have a hard time with that whole process.”
You found a niche in early 2000 in writing. You did some dynamite writing. Is that something you enjoy more than stand-up?
“Thanks. No, I don’t enjoy writing more than stand-up. I had a great time writing on ‘Tough Crowd,’ but I was writing for comics about a show starring stand-ups. It just was part of my world. Since then, writing jobs have been a little disappointing. I have not had as much fun on a job as I had on ‘Tough Crowd,’ but it’s a decent way to make a living, and it’s hard to turn down that kind of money if you have the offer. But I do prefer stand-up.”
So, your son is 3 years old?
“Yes, my son is three. That whole pregnancy and having a baby, that really knocks you down. Not to say that the comic dads aren’t decimated by that experience, as well, but if you’re the one who’s having the baby, it’s just really frickin’ hard to bounce back immediately and get right back into stand-up, roadwork and stuff. So, that was a nice reason to take another writing job.
Your comedy is pretty dark when it comes to motherhood and your son. Do you have a plan to explain to him as he’s growing up that Mommy’s a comic and she didn’t mean it?
“Yeah. Someone brought that up on stage recently, saying, ‘The first time I saw this woman, she had 20 minutes of abortion jokes, and she was pregnant at the time.’ Actually, I remember that time. When I was pregnant, I was openly debating, via jokes, whether I was going to have the baby and keep him and all that stuff. So I think that, since in utero, he has been exposed to my negativity and seems to not give a damn. He seems okay. I’ll tell him they’re just jokes, Mommy being a comedian at work. He’ll be okay.”
You just released a new CD called "5 Minutes To Myself." Are you doing all-new material now, or are you just kind of gradually fine-tuning your set?
“I’m like, ‘Wow, if I don’t need this chunk anymore, I will be so happy.’ That’s my attitude toward stuff. Since ‘Last Comic Standing,’ I went to New York for to and a half months and worked on a lot of new material that I was not allowed to perform, but it’s ready to go. I’m excited and feeling very creative and full of ideas. I will have a significant portion of new material at the Punchline that’s not on my CD.”
Do you sell your CDs when you are on the road?
“Yeah, I guess so. I have a bunch. I should get rid of them. I hate that, but I’ll bring some. Usually, what I try to do is hide. You will actually have to find me to get the CD. I can’t really sit there as people are leaving and make eye contact. I feel like, ‘My job was to make you laugh, and now I’m done.’ But if you want a CD, you can go through a series of trap doors and hidden rooms and find me, and I’ll sell one to you.”
Is “Last Comic Standing” as highly manipulated with the editing as we’ve been told?
“I’m not really sure. They do edit. My set that got me picked for the ‘Top Ten’ was me telling 2.5 jokes. Other people’s full sets were shown. That’s a way to manipulate because you’re seeing someone else doing 2.5 minutes and me doing a minute and a half, and one of the jokes doesn’t have a punchline. Anytime they’re going to edit the stuff that a comedian does, that’s manipulation. What the comic’s intention was and what you’re showing are two different things. Part of comedy is the rhythm of the set, and if it just seems jumbled and half-broken, it doesn’t feel funny.
The other thing that’s really horrific is that people get angry with you if you’re still in the competition and they don’t like you. If you saw me in a club and you didn’t like me, you’d be like, ‘Whatever.’ But you wouldn’t hate me and go online and say that I suck. You just wouldn’t be that invested in it. The emotions that a comic’s success bring out in people are kind of scary. It’s like, ‘Well, could you just direct that anger toward BP or Goldman Sachs and not at a fucking comic who is telling a joke?’ I mean, what are we supposed to do, turn down an opportunity to be on primetime television when we’re asked?”
Are you big on social media?
“I like Facebook. I like the immediate commentary and to find out if someone likes a joke. It’s very addicting. Yeah, I like Facebook a lot.”
Steven Bloom is the founder of AmericasComedy.Com, formerly SacramentoComedy.Com, the official guide to the Sacramento comedy scene. This website is dedicated to comedian interviews, comedian biographies and videos, and consolidation all of the Sacramento comedy events into a single comedy calendar for your convenience. You can send your questions directly to The Comedy Guy at Steven@AmericasComedy.Com.