Jackie Kashian fell hard for comedy while attending University of Wisconsin-Madison, but the elements were there while growing up in South Milwaukee….NOT Milwaukee.
“I have been explaining to people that South Milwaukee is its own town in between Cudahy and Oak Creek with its own water treatment plant. We have a football team, Go Rockets,” said Kashian.
The comedian now lives in Los Angeles and has been traveling the world for decades performing stand-up in clubs and on television. Kashian also hosts two podcasts: “The Dork Forest” and “The Jackie and Laurie Show.”
Kashian will be returning to her homeland and performing in Milwaukee on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2019 at The Underground Collaborative.
WPR’s Maureen McCollum recently talked with Kashian about her comedy style, her podcasts, and how growing up in Wisconsin has influenced her material.
Comedy With Wisconsin Roots
Jackie Kashian: My act doesn’t scream Wisconsin. Then people are like, “You sound so much like you’re from Wisconsin!” I think I know what it means? It’s sort of like you have a wholesome farm-grown upbringing, but in my case a factory town upbringing.
Most of my act is about my family. I’m the youngest of six siblings. I’m married. It’s just sort of about that Wisconsin sensibility.
I always think of Wisconsin…and this is based on nothing…I think of Wisconsin as the New York of the Midwest and Minnesota as the Los Angeles of the Midwest. My theory is that everyone in Wisconsin is nice to you until you are mean and then they are mean back. That is exactly how New York City is. In Minnesota, people are nice to you even when you’re mean to them. That is exactly what Los Angeles is like. And then I assume they plot against you when you’re not around.
The kind of stand-up that I do has always been storytelling-based with punchlines kind of peppered through it. And hopefully one at the end.
Returning To Packerland
JK: Whenever [being from Wisconsin] comes up, people consistently mention the Packers, cheese, and beer. Two of those three things I can expound on.
I know more about the Green Bay Packers just by osmosis because sports are not my jam. I went to my high school reunion not long ago. It was at a small bar in South Milwaukee and we were in the banquet room with the steam table food. I walked into the main bar to get a beer and I saw a woman from high school and her husband sitting at the bar. Her and her husband were wearing…and remember this is a formal event…so they were wearing matching Packers jerseys that say “Matthews” on the back. They were the really nice ones. As I walked up I said, “Your last name isn’t Matthews!”
And there was a quiet in the bar. There was a silence. I just looked around and I said, “Just tell me who he is so that I’ll know. You don’t have to go to tar and feather just because I don’t know the person listed on the back of your jerseys.” And then they told me that he is a football person.
I wish I cared to some extent, but I don’t. I’m busy, busy reading. I’m usually reading a lot of romance novels. Jack Reacher. I’m on the road a lot. I’ll read whatever found item is in front of me, ha!
“The Jackie And Laurie Show”
JK: There are so many podcasts where it’s just two middle-aged white guys talking about stand-up comedy. Laurie Kilmartin and I decided to do one with two middle-aged white ladies talking about stand-up comedy. It isn’t exactly the Civil Rights Movement, it’s more of a lateral move, but you know, we do what we can.
So on “The Jackie and Laurie Show,” we talk about stand-up. We talk about our stand-up. We talk about our writing process and we talk about the business. She writes on “Conan,” but she also does stand-up on the road. I only do stand-up on the road for a living.
We didn’t actually know each other until we started this show. So what you’re listening to is us becoming friends…or enemies!
We have these parallel experiences so we can riff off of each other because we have almost the exact same comedic trajectories. We have so much in common. But Laurie came up on the West Coast and I came up in the Midwest. We know essentially the same people in the industry by different names because there are certain tropes and the same eleven people. It’s the same guy who runs the club. You’re going to run into a weird bartender and you’re going to run into the good club owner. You’re going to run into the good bartender. You’re going to run into awesome wait staff you’re going to run into insane wait staff.
It is amazing how many of the newer comics started listening to “The Jackie and Laurie Show.” It’s become super popular. I have comics come up to me in every town that I go to and there they want to talk about the craft. They want to talk about joke writing. They want to talk about banana-heads they have to work with sometimes. There’s no way to learn to do stand-up comedy, the business, or the art except by doing it right. There are no classes or seminars. There are and they might help, but for the most part, what you want to do is just perform.
“The Dork Forest”
JK: I’ve been doing my other podcast, “The Dark Forest”, for 13 years. I interview people about what they love and it’s a super fun, safe space. Most of my guests are comics because those are the people I know. They are folks who are easy to talk to for an hour because they’re plug-and-play and chatty magoos.
Some of my favorite ones aren’t traditional dorkdoms. They aren’t video games or action figures or comic books, although there are super fun ones in that group, too. I did some episodes with Michelle McNamara. She was married to Patton Oswalt and passed away a few years ago. She’s a true crime nerd. Lovity-loved the true crime. There are two or three episodes of her explaining murder to me. And I hate murder. I don’t enjoy it. It actually frightens me, so I don’t know who any of these serial killers are. But because of her dorkdom and her research, she was actually instrumental in helping find out who the Golden State Killer was.
So many times I’ve fallen for something featured on “The Dork Forest.” The most recent one was with Amy Miller, a West Coast comic. I went and did her podcast. In her apartment, there is a photograph, life-size poster of Dolly Parton. I looked at Amy Miller and I said, “Would you like to be on ‘The Dork Forest?’” It was fascinating because I saw “9 To 5,” but now I genuinely love Dolly Parton. You know she gives away books? She’s giving away like a million books to kids. Dolly Parton is amazingly nice and her songs are super fun. So, I’m now a Dolly Parton fan and I did not think I would be in my twilight years.
Jackie’s Own Dorkdoms
There are two episodes where my husband, Andy, and one of my very best friends, Maria Bamford, interviewed me about my dorkdoms.
Andy talked to me about science fiction. That was an easy one. Then, Maria talked to me about chicken. I happen to love roast chicken and the different ways that it could be prepared. Of course there’s regular baking, right? There’s roasting, which feels like baking to me. Then there’s rotisserie, which feels like baking and roasting.
I have a dream one day of a calendar with twelve different roast chicken recipes. I’ve been sitting on nine recipes for about ten years.
Yeah. A dorkdom can be anything.
Performing On Valentine’s Day in Milwaukee
I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a Valentine’s show in the city of Milwaukee and it’s a little indie space.
But women comics always work on Valentine’s Day. It’s like Groundhog’s Day. Essentially, a lot of comedy bookers come out of their caves. Like in three weeks, I’ve already been offered two other gigs. They wait until the last minute, they’re like, “Hey are you working February 14th?” And you’re like “Yeah I’m working…” I mean for some reason, if they don’t book women the rest of the year they’re like, “You got to get a woman on Valentine’s Day.”
I believe it’s sexism. I mean, I don’t think it’s everything. They’re like, “Oh Valentine’s Day. Women like Valentine’s Day. Maybe women would want to see a woman comic?” That’s all I can think they’re thinking. But you know what? Women like comedy and they might want to see women on other holidays.
(This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
SONG: “9 to 5” by The Acoustic Guitar Troubadours