The Mighty Jen
Comedian and Writer Jen Kirkman Returns to Town with All New Material

By Lee Valentine Smith

Jen Kirkman just may be the human embodiment of multi-tasking. With two books, two Netflix specials, numerous high-profile writing credits, the popular "I Seem Fun" podcast series and even a limited-edition collection of jewelry to her resume, the performer has a decidedly busy schedule.

Her finely detailed storytelling style examines the life of a proudly over-forty woman with a universally appealing delivery that speaks to all ages and genders of fans of well-crafted comedy. Her "All New Material, Girl" tour is just as advertised – all new stories and observations that even her most ardent fans haven't heard.

Last month during a short break from her current tour, Variety and Deadline announced that she'd added another task to her hectic days. The trade papers excitedly declared that Kirkman had made a new ABC comedy development deal on the day before she called from her home in New York.

It was just announced yesterday in the trades that ABC bought your project called The Mighty Quinn. That's great news!

Oh thank you. We'd worked on it forever. So now I have to write a script while I'm tour, and it's due probably around Christmas. Then in the new year we'll know if they'll make a pilot. So it's not a show yet. It's just me writing on airplanes. But to be clear, I will take the congratulations!

And there's quite a backstory for this one.

Yes, it's about me getting dumped on Christmas Day. Well really the day after Christmas, but it's still the holiday season. I thought that was a good idea. But I didn't think so at first; it wasn't like, 'Oh, what great material this will be!' I was on my couch for two months, like in a daze. I was walking around New York and listening to this song "The Mighty Quinn."

Which version, the original by Bob Dylan (1967) or the cover by Manfred Mann (1968)?

Well, I like the Manfred Mann cover version better. I was listening and thinking it could be a great theme song, I could just see it. Then I thought, 'Oh, her name could be Quinn' and then I just back-engineered it. This woman in the show becomes mighty. I knew women would love it and I've been getting a lot of feedback already. There's something relatable about it. Not because it's happened to everyone but it's like, 'Oh my God, to start a show with someone getting dumped on Christmas in the first minute!' For me, I love Christmas, it's my favorite time of the year and I've managed to make a comedy out of something really awful, rather quickly.

Some comics might have gotten a few minutes of stand-up out of that situation, but you've created a series concept from it.

It was something I wasn't gonna talk about in my stand-up because it's not stand-up funny but it's TV funny.

Having written for TV, print and your own stand-up material, how do you shift gears between the formats?

It's a whole different mindset for a whole different result. When you're writing for someone else's projects, the really big difference is it's not to service your personal voice. So if you're writing for a late-night show or a script for someone else, you might have the funniest joke in the world but that doesn't mean it works for that particular thing. You have to learn how to service other people's voices - which is a great skill to have. It keeps you employed when your own stuff isn't selling.

Now that you've written two books, do you enjoy the process?

It's very tedious. There's something about putting it in a book that gives it - in the neurotic person's mind - a sense of importance. You start to recoil from your own self as you're writing it. This is going to be in a book? When you write for TV you're trying to be funny and entertain people. But with anything, it's just this: if it makes sense in my head, then how do I communicate it out to the people?

And stand-up is the most immediate style of communication.

The easiest is stand-up. You can change it, during it. I can sit on stage and go blah, blah, blah. Oh that didn't work? Well I won't do that ever again. If I turn in a script and there are no jokes on it, I can't say, 'Trust me, it'll be funny!' With stand-up you always have the ejector seat. I know most people think stand-up is the scariest thing you can do. It's not. You always have an out, because you can always keep talking about what just went wrong. You just can't do that in a TV show or a book.

Once it's on the page of a book, it's final because there's no interaction.

Yeah, otherwise I'd have to stand over your shoulder and go, 'Um, did you like that part?' Ok, well let me explain…

Jen Kirkman will perform at the Variety Playhouse on Friday, November 3rd. For more information, please visit variety-playhouse.com.

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