Comedian Kyle Kinane, appearing at Harlow’s on March 18, is the poster man-child of aging hipsters – self-aware, self-deprecating and somehow charming for all his self-inflicted faults.
You know the type – guys of a certain age teetering on one side or the other of 40, with lumberjack beards, pants tapered, flipping channels between Bill Maher and ESPN, thinking they should be out partying but lacking the motivation to go beyond the growler in the fridge.
It’s a lonely, often lackluster existence that the 38-year-old mines for its humor in his recent Comedy Central special “I Liked His Old Stuff Better.” Coming to the end of a fast-paced tour that took him down the frigid Eastern seaboard and then to Texas and Arizona, he’s been honing his stories of “the stagnation of life,” like his bit on downing beer while bathing.
“I choose to drink in the shower because everybody deserves a spa day in this world,” he says during his show. “Why is it perfectly acceptable (to) go to a spa and if you lay down in their establishment with rose petals and Champagne, that’s fine? But I do it vertically in my own home with a six pack on the back of the toilet for easy reaching and I’m some sort of scumbag all of the sudden?”
Pulling the shower curtain back on the life of a middle-aged urbanite is territory well mined by comics including Louis C.K., but what makes Kinane different is his unexpected optimism. Kinane isn’t maudlin or sad sack for all his single solitude. He’s OK with the torpor of his mediocrity. And for those old enough to have doubled down on 20, that’s funny for its familiarity.
“It’s not so much failure as accepting what life should be,” he says of his outlook, crediting his Midwestern roots – he grew up near Chicago – for his pragmatic fatalism. “It’s not going to be great. It’s going to be OK with some high points, and that’s fine.”
Despite the ordinary veneer – he’s quick to point out that with his facial hair and untucked shirts, he looks like every third guy in the trendy Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles where he lives – Kinane has been dubbed a raconteur, a bard and a cult hero for his storytelling approach to comedy.
The past year has brought him a new level of recognition. In addition to his show (coming after his first successful special “Whiskey Icarus”), he’s appeared on “Drunken History” (espousing tequila-soaked views on Chicago’s Haymarket Affair, a famous union protest) and late-night staples including “Last Call With Carson Daly” and Jimmy Fallon’s incarnation of “The Tonight Show.”
Some might also recognize his sandpaper baritone from his behind-the-scenes work as Comedy Central’s show announcer – the guy who voices the promos.
There are few if any one-liners in his monologues, most jokes snaking in and out of each other until a payoff that comes 10 minutes later, all dispensed with that deep drawl almost void of emotion. Kinane is a master of holding audiences’ attention for the long run by making them wait, and wait, and wait, descending the ladder of decency one mundane rung at a time.
“I am a guy who’s turned his bar (patter) into profit, which is kind of a scam,” he says. “My career has been the longest joke so far – the fact that I make more money at jokes than I ever did at one of my dumb day jobs. Ask my parents, they’ll say the joke has been lasting for 16 years.”
Kinane says he grew up with guys much funnier than himself, but what set him apart was that “I was not on the path to having a fulfilling day job career type of life … . I didn’t see myself getting married, or have a family, so I found comedy. And it was like this is the nut I can’t crack no matter how hard I try. That’s what keeps it interesting.”
Despite eschewing a 9 to 5 existence, he does have a work ethic that would make a Protestant proud – he’s eager to finish up these last few tour dates in California and beyond and get back to L.A., where he can test-run untried jokes on the free-show circuit of comedy spots where pros go to practice new stuff.
“Yeah, I take it seriously,” he says. “It’s my life. The fact that the universe is going to let me tell jokes for a living, I take that very seriously because I don’t want to sound too cheesy about it, but I think that’s a pretty special gift. It’s almost like someone gave me the responsibility for looking after this golden child baby. That’s a terrible metaphor by the way. But it’s like something that wasn’t supposed to be.”
But is his old stuff better? Audiences can be the judge, but Kinane says the title of his Comedy Central special is just a gag to pre-empt the haters.
“I’m just trying to get ahead of it. … Ninety-nine percent of the people online just suck; I would say 100 percent of the people in the comic section. So I’m like, let me just beat them to the punch of what they’re going to say and be like, ‘Yeah, I already got you (expletive), all right? Just laugh at it, it’s a joke.’”
What: Comedian who mines the milieu of a middle-aged urbanite existence with unexpected results.
When: 8 p.m. March 18
Where: Harlow’s (2708 J St., Sacramento)
Cost: $15 in advance; $18 at the door
Information: (916) 441-4693; harlows.com