What Andy Kindler Thinks Of Your Favorite Comedians (It Ain’t Good)
Comedian Andy Kindler hates hacks. Not Hacks, the HBO show about stand-up comedy (although we’re not sure where he stands on that one, either). But hacks -- comedians who are offensive, stupid, or worst of all, lazy. These aren’t gripes he whispers at the back of the bar while bigger-name comics take the stage. It’s the subject of his annual appearance at the massive Just For Laughs comedy festival, a 20+-year tradition known as the State of the Industry Address.
The very existence of hacks has irritated Kindler for years. In 1991, he wrote The Hack’s Handbook for the National Lampoon, a devastating takedown of all the worst elements of the 1980s comedy boom:
Anyone can be a hack! You don't need special skills. You don't need to invest in tools or uniforms. You don't need a microphone—the club supplies that. You don't even need material — other comics supply that. All you need is the courage to keep going.
Kindler supplied all of the comic premises a hacky comedian needed to get started: the differences between men and women, the (blank) on steroids bit, jokes about airlines, cars, and dicks. More than a few working comedians must have blanched when reading The Hack’s Handbook since it pretty accurately described their acts.
Just for Laughs invited Kindler to do a live version of his article, a performance that proved so popular that he’s been doing it to sold-out rooms ever since. One reason it became so beloved? Kindler has never been afraid to take off the gloves and bloody the noses of revered comics, roughing up the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld, and Louis C.K. long before it was popular to do so.
The Covid-averse Kindler (“I tested positive for common sense”) hasn’t shown up live for his State of the Industry for a couple of years now, but that hasn’t stopped him from offering his blistering appraisal in virtual form. This year, he appeared via hologram, a technical marvel that Kindler predictably and successfully milked for laughs. “Yes, that’s right, I’m a hologram! Coachella got Tupac and you’re getting Jew-pac.”
But these days, Kindler is almost nostalgic for the days of hack comedy, back when he could work up a head of angry steam because Jay Leno was sucking up The Tonight Show. Today he thinks comedians are actually making the world a worse place -- and he blames the Internet. Or more specifically, a world in which comics can connect directly with fans.
“The problem is that followers corrupt and a million followers corrupt absolutely,” he says in this year’s address, noting that the only thing comedians handle worse than criticism is acceptance. “If you can sic the army of people who accept you on anyone who criticizes you, you are now a fascist comedian. Congratulations. I’d rather hear how men and women are different than five minutes on ‘they won’t let you be racist anymore!’”
Kindler spends plenty of time this year, as always, making fun of himself (“I just hope there’s room for me at the Home for Aging Comedians -- Netflix”). But he still saved plenty of time for taking on today’s most popular comics. Here’s his assessment of where some of the biggest stars in the comedy industry stand in 2022:
“I really think Chappelle sees himself as Mean Jesus. And isn’t Mean Jesus the devil? No, that’s Ricky Gervais. Mean Jesus is still the messiah of comedy. He’s just mean and if he hurts your feelings and you say something about it, he gets meaner. Because it’s your fault for not understanding comedy genius.
“I watched his special. He keeps saying ‘it’s going to get worse, strap yourselves in, I’m going all the way!’ People don’t have to strap themselves in. It’s not like he’s delivering truth people can’t handle. He calls feminists ‘frumpy d!kes.’ That’s the whole joke. And then he says ‘watch out, it’s going to get worse!’ He’s right. The special gets worse.
“His last special included several fistfights … anecdotes about him punching people … He’s just walking around, being the GOAT, a hero to all, and people come up and say terrible things to him. How can he not punch them?
“Maybe Chappelle is doing a character. The guy who hates people based on their appearance or sexual orientation.”
“Even ‘Iranians work at 7-11’ beats ‘we should shoot homeless people.’ That’s what Joe Rogan suggested on his show ... It’s not bad enough that Joe Rogan punches down, now he wants to shoot down … I’m not sure which is worse--when Rogan plays smart and gives dangerous medical advice? Or when he plays dumb. ‘I’m just a comedian! Why are you listening to my dangerous medical advice?’”
“At least John Mulaney went the traditional route with his horrible handling of success. He just blew up his own personal life and those around him. He didn’t try to take down the Centers for Disease Control. Thank you, John. You backed out graciously. Of his marriage, is what I’m saying.”
“Patton Oswalt is here hosting the Patton Oswalt Gala. I don’t know, it’s hard to imagine Patton Oswalt celebrating himself … he’s a friend! He loves me! He’ll tell me it was fine if he answers the phone.”
“In his special, he opened with five minutes on how much people wearing masks make him mad. Mr. Libertarian loses his shit when he sees someone who’s choosing to wear a mask. He’s one of the only people I’ve ever seen who tries to talk everyone out of religion and science.”
“Who knew that Rob Schneider’s hot take on the Canadian trucker boycott would cause an international crisis? Why is Rob Schneider so angry? It’s not our fault that he’s an unrelenting hack. We didn’t force Rob to go over the top in every movie he’s chewed the scenery in. We didn’t insist that he staple himself to Adam Sandler’s coattails.”
“Hey young comics, we get it. You masturbate a lot. You smoke a lot of weed. You can’t buy a house. You have no hope for the future. You have deep existential anxiety caused by constant trauma. You have refreshing and open attitudes about sex and gender and sexuality. You are our only hope for a better tomorrow. We get it! Give it a rest!”
And a message for the future
Kindler summed up his one central theme for this year’s address:
“I’ve been telling you for years -- don’t form political opinions based on the ravings of aging, angry, hack, white, male, unfunny dinosaurs,” he says.
“Unless they’re in hologram form.”
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Top image: Proto Inc.