Andy Kindler is so good at figuring out what’s funny about a given situation that he can even figure out what’s funny about unfunny situations. There’s no such thing as a failed joke in Andy’s act; there are only set-ups for more make-’em-laughs and crack-’em-ups. It’s not, however, that Andy figures out what’s funny so much as he feels what’s funny. And when Andy feels something is funny, he laughs, and because so much of his act is improvised, Andy laughs plenty onstage. And his laughter must be contagious because his audience laughs right along with him.
But not everyone has had the pleasure of seeing Andy live. Sure, plenty are aware of his work on Letterman, Everybody Loves Raymond, or Comedy Central Presents, but it doesn’t compare to the experience of seeing Andy in person. Luckily, Andy’s first DVD, I Wish I Was Bitter, is available for purchase. While you wait for the DVD to come in the mail, this interview — full of on-the-spot jokes, jokes about jokes told on-the-spot, and spot-on jokes — will whet your appetite for laughstruction.
Ben Kharakh: I saw a copy of your resume and it said you have martial arts training.
Andy Kindler: That’s actually true. A lot of the stuff on my resume is not true. I do not speak German; I am not an experienced sky diver; I was not captain of a vessel; I am not a ballet dancer; but the part about me being a martial artist is true. I have a black belt in Taekwondo, which is the art of punching and kicking.
BK: When did you achieve the rank of black belt?
AK: It took me only 13 years and I achieved it in 2008. Eat your heart out, Ben. Eat your heart out.
BK: So this was two years ago?
AK: Oh, wait a second. I think I’m lying about that. I lie about lots. I don’t know who’s me and who’s not me anymore, but I’ll tell you that I’m pulling out my card. Okay, so I lied again. On the 5th of June, 2005…why did I say 2008? “On the 5th of June, 2005, this is to certify that the person named above is the holder of Dan grade. First Dan, first rank, grade in the Kooki Won, World Taekwondo.” The Kookie Won is the organizing body of the World Taekwondo Federation.
BK: Oh, I thought you were referring to yourself as the Kookie Won.
AK: You know what’s amazing is I have had this card for three years and I’ve known that word for 13 years. I just realized that could be my moniker — the Kookie Won.
BK: It seems that if you add Andy Kindler to any situation, you get hilarity. This is what David Letterman has figured out by sending you to these different places, but what place do you think you’d be unable to find hilarity?
AK: You don’t want me to be obvious and say if he sent me to The Jay Leno Show?
BK: My first thought was of one of your old jokes where your agent calls you up and says, “Hey, I booked you to do this Comedy Ha Ha Show,” and you’re like, “Comedy at a comedy club? Are you crazy?”
AK: I’m the opposite of Sasha Baron Cohen, where he is unafraid to put himself in situations where he might get shot or beat up. Did you see Bruno?
BK: Yes, I saw that.
AK: Where he visits the terrorists, right? So I don’t want to be in those situations, and I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted. So he pushes the envelope and I seal the envelope. But what I also do is put a little scotch tape on it, which I recommend because a lot of times the self-sealing envelopes don’t work. Sometimes I push the envelope, like let’s say I’m at the mailbox and I’m pushing the envelope in — then I push the envelope.
BK: My thought was if there was a beached whale and there were people trying to push it back into the ocean, that would be a great place to send you.
AK: Oh, that would be funny. I’d make it into a roast for the beached whale. “By the way, the ocean called and they’d like you back in. “
BK: Were you at the roast of Chevy Chase?
AK: You know this, Ben. I don’t like these kind of “gotcha” interviews. This is a “gotcha” interview. You know for a fact that I was on the Chevy Chase roast and was cut out.
BK: I actually don’t remember. I’ve never seen the roast; I only know of it because of its infamy.
AK: Right, and he was very unpleasant the entire time. He did not want to be there. I think this was the 40th time he’d been roasted. None of his friends showed up and he hated all of us who were roasting him. I was cut out because I had to follow Lisa Lampanelli. The roast started at 6:30 at night; I went on at quarter to 12:00 — one of the few gigs I’ve been on that was in danger of going on into a second day. I had to follow Lisa Lampanelli, who was doing…at that time, Christopher Reeve was still alive, she was doing Christopher Reeve jokes. Then I had to go on. I implore you, Ben, does that sound right to you?
BK: How did you get into Taekwondo?
AK: The reason I got into Taekwondo was a series of arguments — things that happened at comedy clubs. I made fun of Adam Sandler once, and a friend of his was very upset so he kind of confronted me. I thought he was going to punch me. Then I said to myself, not verbally, “It’s not good.” I’m just under 5’6″. Or as my friends say, Cinco de Mayo, 5’5” and a half. There was one fight when I was a kid — it was at summer camp, and the counselor thought I was tough so he made me fight this other kid who was a bully. I was basically crying when we started the fight. Then he became one of those bullies who didn’t really fight, so that was the only fight I’ve attempted in my life. I’m not saying all Jewish people are scared, but I am of the fraction of Jewish people who are. I couldn’t live my whole life in fear, so I started to study martial arts and I really do love it.
BK: There is so much in this anecdote! So was this guy who spoke with you a comedian?
AK: You don’t need his name, right? I’ll let the people guess, but it was one of the people who’s in all of his movies. I had known him socially. I used to love Adam Sandler when he did stand-up, and I loved the “Hannukah” song. When he started doing movies, I thought everything went horribly wrong. So when people I think are funny start to go off the tracks or take the easy way out, that actually bothers me. So I started making fun of him, but then I realized that would not be good for the career, probably. Then he confronted me after the show. Adam Sandler was in a movie called Bullet Proof or something like that.
BK: Yes, with Damon Wayans.
AK: Yes, and I was supposed to go out on an audition. I don’t remember all the details, but I’m pretty sure I was supposed to go on an audition for some small part, and in the script, it said “the ugliest woman in the world walks up to Adam Sandler,” then there is some hilarious bit with the ugliest woman in the world. And for some reason, I became incensed by that. I just felt that the idea that they were going to have an audition for the ugliest woman in the world… I just felt like, “What the hell?!” It just made me mad so I kind of threw the script down and was angry about it. So that night, that was in my head, so I came up with this joke and the joke was, which was true, I had seen Adam Sandler on Conan and it was during the Happy Gilmore time. And Conan said, “Do you need to set this clip up?” and my joke was, “Oh yeah, you really need to set up the clip to the Adam Sandler movie; otherwise you won’t know what’s going on. I’ll set it up for you: Adam is going to drive through a chicken coup and he’ll come out the other side and there will be feathers flying all around him. I’ll set it up for you: Adam is going to dive under water, he’s going to come up to the surface and spit a fish out of his mouth. I’ll set it up for you: Adam Sandler wouldn’t read a script if you tied his hands behind his back and attached his head to the script.” Something along those lines, and then after the show, the guy came up to me, “How can you say that about Adam?” He was in my face, couldn’t believe I would say on stage these things about Adam. So that got me in the spiral of, “Okay, it’s not good to be scared.” So then I got into Taekwondo from there. Did that add anything to your life?
BK: We have not discussed this particular facet of the Andy Kindler legacy, but in the world of wrestling, there is a character named Jamison. A lot of people, I don’t know if the word “accused” is right — they say you were Jamison.
AK: I would say “accused” is right because people seem to think they got me or caught me or something. To me, it’s fairly…not hilarious but amusing to me that people think that. I guess there are some resources, but he’s with a group called The Bushwhackers. Jamison was their manager or something like that, and he used to go on this show…I saw actual footage of him on The Bobby Heenan Show. If you take a look at the picture of this guy, he looks Semitic, like me — he looks like a Jewish fellow. So all of a sudden, I think people thought, “He looks like a Jewish fellow; it must be Andy Kindler.” Now, for the longest time, I assumed he had the same name as me and that’s where the confusion began. The confusion was increased by the fact that at first they had two Andy Kindlers on my IMDB page. They separated him from me, then they combined us and said I was that guy. Then, most recently, they came back and said I was not that guy, but then the last time I checked IMDB, they said I’m not him, but I had his credits like I am him. Then, on Wikipedia, anybody can say anything they want, pretty much.
BK: What fascinates me about this is that the implication of the accusation is that you were Jamison but one day decided, “I am ashamed!” and decided to deny it ever since.
AK: Well, I dressed up during the OJ trial as an inflatable globe for Comedy Central’s Just Say No J campaign, and I was a huge world; it was like those commercials where someone is dressed up as a hamburger. I’m not denying that. If I’m not denying that, I’m certainly not going to deny Jamison, which I still think, had it been me, might have been the best work I’ve done.
BK: Have you ever tried to seek out this Jamison?
AK: No because I don’t have anything to go on if his name really isn’t Andy Kindler. He might not be acting at all and he might not even be aware that this is going on. But I actually would like to find him sometime and do a two-man show with him.
AK: Probably. That would be just desserts. That would be terrible. That would be even more upsetting than the cyborg robots who yell at me online, because he’s an actual person and I love his work.
BK: You have the DVD out; you’ve got a new Comedy Central Presents this season… Are there any other pieces of Andy Kindler news that we should send out?
AK: I think I’m going to be doing field pieces for The Late Show, so I hope that happens. I don’t count my chickens before they’re hatched. I don’t count my field pieces before I’m on location. There are other things in the works, but I can’t talk about them because they are either imaginary or I’m trying to pretend there is something happening that I can’t talk about. I’m trying to create fake buzz.
BK: So it’s not the third option — that there are things in the works that you can’t talk about?
AK: No, that would be a lie.
BK: So it’s either pretend or imaginary? Those are our choices here?
AK: The only two choices.
Photos by Susan Maljan