Keith Lowell Jensen's new stand-up DVD, CATS MADE OF RABBITS, just came out. Instead of just telling you to buy it (since it's hilarious), I thought I'd let you eavesdrop on a conversation with the man himself.
So you've been doing stand-up for a long time. How does your routine evolve when you're planning to record it for a DVD?
Going into a recording, I try to get on stage as much as possible and get each bit really polished. This mostly involves getting rid of any tags that don't work as well as I'd like 'em to and cutting out anything gratuitous. I also put all my material on paper, word for word, and that seems to tap a totally different part of my brain for editing and punching it up.
Then there is the period where I decide it's all crap and I hate myself and I shouldn't bother but I do it anyway because I put the wheels in motion and people are counting on me and I know I always feel that way and it'll go away after the recording is done, or a few months after at any rate.
Who were the comedians and what were the comic films that really influenced you when you were young?
Andy Kaufman, Emo Philips, and Steve Martin were early influences. Then Carlin, Woody Allen, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, and just too many others to name as I started collecting comedy records and really geeking out on comedy.
Lately, because of course I'm still young, Doug Stanhope, Louis CK, Katt Williams, Patton Oswalt, and Maria Bamford, which kinda worries me because those influences are less unique. Everyone loves these guys! I think like most comics though I'm being most influenced by the comics who are in my scene and we're all influencing each other as we try to develop unique voices.
As for movies, as a kid I really liked the stuff that was just pure madcap comedy. KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, STRANGE BREW, THE THREE AMIGOS. I loved the unabashed silliness. On the other end of the spectrum, I enjoyed the very thoughtful and thought provoking films of Woody Allen, which I'd watch with my dad.
You said recently that you'd been listening to other stand-up artists on Pandora, but not really enjoying a lot of it. Whose work do you recommend to people now (besides your own)?
Well, the folks I named above but some that maybe not everyone has heard of yet would be W. Kamau Bell, Nato Green, and Janine Brito of LAUGHTER AGAINST THE MACHINE. I love Kristen Schaal.
Let me back up, I don't mean to sound like a jerk saying I dislike so much other comedy, but I'd be jerk if I did. So much of it is just angry and hateful towards women. So I'm driving around listening to comedy and it's misogyny, misogyny, and then a track from someone amazing like Bamford, and then back to the misogyny. It made me feel good about where I'm coming from as a comic.
Since this is a movie column, can you recommend your top 5 stand-up performance DVDs?
Doug Stanhope: NO REFUNDS
Just brutal. So smart and bold and he manages to talk about real, important shit while keeping the punchlines coming fast and furious.
Richard Pryor: LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP
Theatrical, and painfully honest, and almost funny in spite of itself. This album best captures why Pryor was the first recipient of The Mark Twain Award.
Louis CK: HILARIOUS
Louis at his best. CHEWED UP was cool catching a really funny man during a dark period of his life, but I was glad to see a bit more optimism come back into his act on HILARIOUS.
Emo Phillips: LIVE AT HASTY PUDDING THEATRE
Made me want to be a very different comic then I am. I try to be so true and honest in my comedy, but Emo is just surreal with amazing flights of fancy and the best one liners you've ever heard.
Patton Oswalt: WEREWOLVES AND LOLLIPOPS
The opening joke about KFC bowls is just a perfect, perfect joke, and Patton mixes is a good amount of expertly done storytelling with one of the best examples of abusing a heckler with the viciousness they deserve while still keeping if funny.
How about your top 5 comedy movies?
Chaplin's hilarious, touching film, which is also a propaganda film for socialism. He put so much heart into this movie and it shows. It's a very brave film and a very funny one.
The Marx Brothers at their best taking on the absurdity and idiocy of war, lampooning high society and staging some of the busiest most insane production numbers ever put on film.
THE BLUES BROTHERS
It's one of my favorite comedies, but it also sits near the top on my list of musicals, and it's a fantastic action flick.
MAN BITES DOG
A French faux documentary about a poetry spouting professional murderer and rapist that is the darkest thing ever to have me crying laughing.
BAXTER: THE DOG WHO THINKS
The French again. The reality of what goes through the minds of our furry friends is depicted brilliantly and hilariously.
I love Woody Allen and it's hard to choose my 2nd favorite of his movies with ANNIE HALL, TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, DECONSTRUCTING HARRY, and many others battling for the spot, but ZELIG is clearly number one. So clever and miles ahead of it's time in ambition and technical wizardry.
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL should be on this list too. Five? What the hell? Why Five? Why not fifty five?
Just to upset you, Keith. Just to upset you.
Keith Lowell Jensen is the resident atheist in the multifaith COEXIST COMEDY TOUR. You can see him host comedy Wednesdays at Luna's in Sacramento. His blog, schedule, etc are at http://keithlowelljensen.blogspot.com/. Bring him into the comfort of your own home by buying CATS MADE OF RABBITS on DVD or CD (or invite him over for tea, I suppose).
Laugh. It's good for you.
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