Andy Kindler may be known for his criticism of the comedy industry, but he doesn’t really think it’s all bad.
He admits there are many very talented comedians, including Hannibal Buress, John Mulaney and Maria Bamford, all of whom will be performing with Kindler at the Just for Laughs Festival in Toronto. But there are lots of really bad comedians out there as well.
The American comedian is probably best recognized for his recurring role as Andy in Everybody Loves Raymond, as well as his annual State of the Industry address at the Just for Laughs Festival, in which he roasts comedy stars and the industry itself. He drew controversy this year after accusing radio personality and comedian Adam Carolla of bigotry and racism.
Despite the controversy, he stands by his comments, admitting that people might have misunderstood his intention.
The crux of his argument, he said, is that so many comedians these days use racial stereotypes to be funny, but if it’s not a joke, then it’s just bigotry and racism, and Kindler wants them to know that.
Despite his being known for slamming his fellow comedians, Kindler stressed that he’s not a mean guy. In fact, he said he hates personal confrontation, and when he meets people face-to-face, he’s almost too nice, saving his anger for the stage.
The New York City native said that, as a kid, he took comedy for granted. “I always thought everyone was funny,” he said, adding that his father was his comedy hero, and that his early standup often involved impressions of his mother.
Kindler originally thought he would be a musician. It wasn’t until he was 28 that he “stumbled” into the comedy industry, after doing impressions at a company picnic.
That’s when he started to perform with his friend as a team called Andy and Bill.
“There’s nothing more frightening than standup,” he said. “Having someone else there is good because you can blame them when something doesn’t go right – and you can commiserate together.”
He said that ever since he began his career, his Judaism has often been a source of material. Stereotypically, he added, Jews can be annoyed and disgusted, which works very well for comedy.
“I’m not a practising Jew because I’ve got it down,” he said, a joke that’s part of his current material.
He speaks the same way he performs – in a stream of consciousness, often commenting on his jokes and then commenting on those comments. He described his standup as about two-thirds scripted and one-third improvised.
“I didn’t realize until a few years ago I had ADD. I always thought I just couldn’t concentrate,” he said, explaining his style. “My mind does go blank every 10 seconds on stage.”
Despite his famous, or perhaps infamous, social commentary, he said he’d like to branch out a bit more to cover politics, adding he’s sick of the U.S. political system, where people “use racism to get elected.
“The fact that I’m calling it racism ruffles feathers,” he said. “I don’t want to be known as the guy who is fighting for truth and justice, but… I want to turn over that rock and expose it for what it is.”
And that’s what he’ll continue to do, both in his standup and online, no matter who he annoys.
Kindler said he’s looking forward to visiting Toronto for the Just for Laughs festival, despite Toronto’s lack of good smoked meat and bagels – compared to Montreal, anyway.
He’s scheduled to perform three shows at the Toronto festival on Sept. 24, 25 and 26.