Despite dedicating her second book, I Know What I’m Doing — And Other Lies I Tell Myself to her parents with a plea for them not to read its contents, veteran comic Jen Kirkman probably suspects they did anyways. After all, with two Netflix specials in the bank and several prominent credits to her name, Kirkman’s family has surely seen or heard her stand-up material at some point. Especially the bits concerning them.
Hence why the Chelsea Lately and Drunk History alum decided to end her latest special, Just Keep Livin’? with a segment featuring her actual parents. Not to mention two actors playing fake versions of the pair — just in case her real parents “sucked,” as Kirkman tells us. In addition to her family’s involvement, the comedian also talks about growing up Catholic, Walking Dead fans, and her upcoming All New Material, Girl tour in September.
I topped off my vacation by rewatching your Netflix specials on a flight crowded with screaming children. Laughing out loud helped me remain sane.
That’s so awesome. I mean, I hate you because I fly a lot and I hate people like you, but I’m glad it was about me. Though I guess you were allowed to make noise in that case.
Having heard so much about your parents in your books and previous stand-up, seeing them pop up at the end was a nice touch.
I’ve never thought about involving them in anything. I knew I wanted to do the same kind of book-ending, like a little sketch at the end. I thought it would be funny if I got my real parents involved. Originally it was supposed to be about something totally different. My dad hates that I have a tattoo and he was all mad, but I told him I was 42 years old and that he couldn’t be mad at me. Because my mother wanted to look cool, she took my side. So I thought maybe the sketch would be about my dad bursting in on me backstage and saying, “I can’t believe the tattoo is real!”
I realized I’d be asking them to do a lot of acting, so I came up with a secret plan — to have actors play them, then have them bust in on the scene. That wound up being the scene. On the off chance they sucked, we would try something else with the actors playing my parents. We could’ve done something different, but I liked having them be a part of it because it involved flying them to New York City and putting them up in a hotel. They also got to wait around all day on a set, and get their hair and makeup done. It was meaningful to me to include them in the process of the stuff I get to do all the time.
Did they enjoy it?
They were so nervous. I tried to explain to them about doing a lot of takes, and how it isn’t personal. It was so hard for them to get their minds around how many times we ran the scene. I was trying to explain to them the first three takes weren’t even going to be used. It’s just the guys adjusting the lighting, and how the cameras weren’t looking at them. They just kept taking it personally and forgetting their lines, even though we were going to edit it all together. It was like they were in a play. I don’t think they really understood that you can screw up and it’s fine. I think they were nervous in front of the “real” actors, too. So my dad flubbed his line and it looked pretend, but it was my favorite part, so we kept it in. I think they ended up doing pretty great, and they got really big egos about it. They’re very non-show business, but their egos are enormous now. They’re like, “We thought we were really good!” They really aren’t modest at all.
I can’t help imagining them taking a screenshot and posting it on Facebook for all their friends to see.
If they knew what a screenshot was, I’m sure they would. That’s the thing: I asked if they were getting any compliments about it, and they said no one they know knows how to use Netflix. The fact that they said “knows how to use Netflix” tells you everything about that. No one they know is ever going to see it.