Depending on which waters you swim in, Jen Kirkman is most famous as a panelist on Chelsea Lately, a narrator on Drunk History, a podcaster, a comic or a nonfiction writer. While there's plenty of overlap between those disciplines, very few comics have translated their writing into a full-length book as skillfully as Kirkman has. Her first title, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids, topped The New York Times best-sellers list. Now she's got another one. Kirkman will be reading from I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself and speaking at the Hollywood Theatre this weekend.
WW: Of all the paths comics can take, why did you choose New York Times best-selling author?
Jen Kirkman: I just love writing. Long form, short stories, etc. I've been writing short stories since I was a kid. I secretly wanted to be an author, but put most of my energy towards performing because that's my bigger love. Now, I realize a person can do both, and I hope to continue to do both until my hands fall off. Even then, I'll use voice-to-text to keep writing books.
You tell a lot of embarrassing stories. What is it about embarrassment that interests you?
I'm not embarrassed by anything I put out there. I think people who are less extroverted than me might find them embarrassing, but I don't know how people live that way, being so fragile and worried about what others think. What I'm truly embarrassed by are my personal shortcomings in my personal life, and those tales are private because I do have some boundaries.
Are you secretly super-competent at life? Do you play up your mistakes or moments when you aren't the hero to stay with a theme?
Of course I play up those moments. It's my job as a performer—it's literally in the job description. I think audiences would be getting sorely ripped off if they bought books or paid for tickets for shows that weren't played up. It's an emotional experience that results in the main goal: laughter at pain! I'm very competent in many areas, just like everyone. I'm complex!
Do people who know you from Chelsea or Drunk History react differently from people who know you from books or podcasts?
Yes, that's definitely a phenomenon. There are people who prefer the standup or podcast me, and I've had experiences—back in the heyday of Chelsea Lately—where 20-something drunk girls showed up to my standup shows screaming out Chelsea's catch phrases and asking me to call her on stage for them. One time I was just honest with these two girls and I said, "She would hate you." It was so evil [laughs], but they interrupted my set so that's what they get. One of them very unironically said, "Um, rude." As if she had been an example of polite behavior.
This show isn't exactly standup, but it's not a traditional book reading either. What should people expect?
It's standup, but it's broken up into six short stories, and there is more depth to them. It's like a funnier one-woman show, or a more feeling standup set.
See IT: Jen Kirkman presents I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-493-1128. 7 pm Saturday, April 30. $20.