Jackie Kashian is living the dork life and loving it. Her comedy career is growing, thanks largely in part to her podcast The Dork Forest and her critically acclaimed new album I am Not the Hero of This Story. She’s married to a game designer, and recently performed on a nerd cruise. I talked to Jackie about writing new material, how Trump’s presidency inspires her to live in the moment, and why DC movies might not be for her.
Isaac Kozell: The last time I talked to you was right before your new album came out. How things been going since then?
Jackie Kashian: It’s been great. The album was well received. The only thing that’s irritating is now I have to write new material again. I mean it’s not irritating, it’s just not fast enough. This is weird to say, but for the first time a lot of people have heard all my albums. I was in Peoria recently and a woman in the front row kept leaning over to her boyfriend and I was like, “Hey, I’m alive up here. What are you doing? Why are you talking during my set?” She said, “Oh, I’m just telling him that I heard this one and it’s a good one.” Things are going very well and I, of course, I found a way to complain about it.
IK: It’s hard to have fans, right?
JK: That’s right, my friend. It’s a beautiful moment in my career when people start to give a damn and I don’t know what to do with it. I’ve been doing standup forever. Traditionally I’ve been a very well-kept secret in show business. But clearly those days are numbered. What? Come on.
IK: So many comics I talk to are excited to start doing new material after they release an album or a special, but you seem to view it as a bit of a burdensome challenge.
JK: It’s a burden only because I’ve always been able to do my favorite stuff from any of my albums. I’m psyched to have all of that stuff recorded, even though as soon as you do an album you figure out a new punchline or tag. There’s always going to be one joke where you’re like, “Oh, I know how that goes now.” Which is too bad, but that’s the way it goes. I’m genuinely thrown this time by how many people have heard it. But I’m psyched to be doing new material and to not be doing jokes I’ve been doing for three years.
IK: Your last album opened up with some really fresh material about what’s going on in the world today. I was just browsing your Twitter and saw that you tweeted that the current president makes you want to live each day like it’s your last.
JK: That’s the good news. I’m living in the moment.
IK: How so?
JK: I’m doing all the things they tell you to do. Calling people I haven’t seen in awhile, going to visit my dad, staying in touch with my siblings, spending less time following the minutiae of the news. I just do a damage report every day, essentially.
IK: The daily sadness briefing.
JK: Yeah, the sadness report. What did he do today and how close are we to the Germans being the good guys in World War 3?
IK: You were in Humboldt in December for a show at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. Have you performed in Humboldt before?
JK: No, that was fascinating. First of all, we drove. I worked with a guy named Dash Kwiatkowski. The drive was gorgeous. There’s so much potential for these smaller places like Arcata to be part of a good comedy run.
IK: You started your podcast The Dork Forest in 2005, right?
JK: I think it was 2006 because freakin’ Jimmy Pardo beat me by like three or four months. I’m not bitter or anything though. It’s been a long time. It’ll be 11 years in September.
IK: A lot of people still don’t quite grasp what podcasts are, but you started before really anybody new what a podcast was.
JK: Right. There were other ones, but now there are so many. My nephew will be like, “Hey, have you ever listened to The Dollop with Dave Anthony?” I’m like, “No, but I know Dave and he’s very smart so I’m glad you’re listening to it.” My brother listens to WTF. My sister listens to ones I’ve never heard of, mostly financial stuff. When I got into podcasting you had to find someone who was in a band who knew how to work audio equipment so that you could figure out how to do it. You start out with only a couple hundred listeners and then 11 years later you’re doing pretty good.
IK: I imagine The Dork Forest has brought a lot of people to your standup. A lot of people find niche podcasts and then they’re like, “Oh, this person’s a comedian? I’ve got to check them out.”
JK: Yeah that was a weird side effect I never could have imagined. I’ve never actually counted, but I try to get the MC to mention Dork Forest when they do my introduction and I’ll get like 30 people applauding.
IK: I know it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite episode, but do you have one that is a real stand out to you, maybe because it was the most interesting or the funniest?
JK: It is almost impossible, but I can say that in the last year there was an episode with a comic from Washington named Jim Stewart Allen. He’s a young comic, probably 25. His day job is as a substitute history teacher. His stand-up has a three-minute bit about the First Crusade. His Dork Forest was about the video game Oregon Trail. He was so enthusiastic about it that it blew my mind. It was a fan favorite from 2016. A comic named Will Anderson from Australia who did his episode about cricket. I never understood cricket. For one hour after that episode I understood cricket. It’s gone now, but it was amazing. Most of the ones with Maria (Bamford) are fun just because we’re friends. She did a live one from Montreal where she freaked out her agent and manager. They were in the audience and she wanted to talk about spreadsheets and finances. The first thing she does is bring out her contract from Montreal and started reading aloud, like what they’re paying her. I see her agent stand up like, “Wait, wait. What’s happening?” and then he kind of shrugged and sat back down, because it’s Maria. I love that The Dork Forest can be about anything.
IK: Is there anything related to nerd culture that’s coming out this year that you’re really excited about?
JK: It looks like Wonder Woman might be good. It looks to me like the first Captain America. I still haven’t had a chance to see Lego Batman. Every single DC movie has been a disaster in my opinion. Maybe they’re not for me. They probably weren’t like, “You know who we’re making this for? A middle-aged white lady who is relatively cheerful.”
On Twitter @jackiekashian