Jen Kirkman Wants to Get You In the Mood

Jen Kirkman Wants to Get You In the Mood
Robyn Von Swank

It wasn't Jen Kirkman's wisest move to name her current tour after her recent Netflix special, I'm Gonna Die Alone and I Feel Fine. She says she figured Netflix could use her tour as promotional support, but she quickly came to realize that the movie-streaming giant didn't need her help. And getting people off their couch is hard enough -- why would anyone make the effort (and drop the cash) to see a show they've already seen? In the world of comedy, the answer is nobody.

"I'm an idiot to name my tour the same thing as the Netflix special," she admits.

Kirkman insists her musician friends have it much easier. Sure, they have more gear to schlep around, but repeating a joke that's already been told is a huge no-no. Playing a song over and over again, on the other hand, is par for a musician's course.

"I totally wish I could just play 'Freebird' and everyone would be happy, but they're not going to be," she laughs.

But you're not going to hear I'm Gonna Die Alone verbatim on Kirkman's self-titled tour. Sure, there may be a familiar joke or two mixed in there -- after all, not everyone has seen the special. But perhaps the premise has changed. Maybe there's more to it now that she's had an entire tour to work out the kinks.

Maybe the fact that the show is taking place at the Firebird, rather than a traditional comedy club, will make a difference as well.

"I think with this tour, why I chose to do rock clubs and small theaters is because I think the real die-hard comedy fans will be there and they will find new things," Kirkman says. "A lot of my new stuff has more of a story thing. It's a lot of going off on tangents.

"It may not be a rhythm that comedy club-goers are used to," she adds. "It's funny, but it's not the same rhythm as a comedy club, where if you don't have them every second they're going to get up and get a drink or something."

It's not just the change in venue that Kirkman took into consideration for this tour, either. From the time you walk in the door until the time you walk out, consider yourself in Kirkman's world. She says she wants the audience to settle into the mood she's designed for the entire night -- not just for her time on stage. In keeping, she's put herself in charge of the evening's music as well, and takes great pride in her DJ skills.

"It's almost an evolving playlist, but I like to also get people in a mindset," she explains. "At comedy clubs, they'll play something that's for like a monster truck rally, and my music taste is more... You might hear some Johnny Cash or a David Bowie/Queen song, or a French pop song, or something like that."

Kirkman doesn't have a bag of tricks or gimmicks. But she does have a stash of stories, experiences and an understanding of "the unspoken energy that happens between a performer and an audience."

And above all else, she vows to do her job -- "make them laugh really hard."

Jen Kirkman 8 p.m. Sunday, July 12. The Firebird, 2706 Olive Street. $16. 314-535-0353.

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