Jen Kirkman works the laugh track

Wine riot
By LINDSAY CRUDELE  |  March 14, 2011

Jen Kirckman
 “I think starving for your art is stupid, and being able to meet your needs and have some self-esteem around that is probably going to make you a better performer.”

"Yeah, I think we can do this," said President Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Their friendship was an ardent one. "He's a great guy and I respect him," Douglass later eulogized the 16th US president. More or less. This was actually comedian Jen Kirkman's approximation while narrating an episode of HBO's Drunk History a wine bottle and a half deep. During her more lucid moments, the Newton-born Kirkman writes for TV shows including the NBC sit-com Perfect Couples, is a regular contributor to E!'s Chelsea Lately, and does stand-up across the country. She returns to Boston with the Women in Comedy Festival March 9-13.

What's your take on the predominantly male lineup at SXSW Comedy this year?
I had heard that not a lot of women were in it. . . . I have beef with another comedy festival and I'll not mention their name, but this other comedy festival has blatantly never booked me and I don't think they include a lot of women either. I confused the two, so I wrote a comment on somebody's blog — "Screw SXSW, they're jerks" or something like that. Ten minutes later I realized, "Oh wait, that's not the festival," and within 10 minutes, the guy that runs SXSW emailed me and said, "I would've loved to have you in it. I honestly thought you were too big for it, because I know you tour and charge money and this is a free thing." So long story short I had the comment removed. But because I made a mistake, I got to talk to the guy. My opinion is that there is a ton of sexism in comedy and I'm a little confused why the focus and the fire is on this festival, because I do think that they are not sexist; I talked to the guy personally. He feels awful and he did extend the offer to many women who couldn't make it. I think honestly in comedy, more women are actors than men, and it's also pilot season, and a lot of women have jobs and can't do it.

Also, because it's a free festival and you have to pay your own way there, I think that's more of a boys' kind of thing. A dude will want to scrounge up some money and go down there and stay with friends and sleep on a couch and just hang out, and I think women who are comics in this business, if they have a few extra hundred bucks to spare, are going to spend it on other things to further their career other than a couple days at a festival. I believe what he said and I just know in a very . . . I guess sexist way myself . . . the difference between men and women is that a lot of female comedians I know are actually successful doing other things and actually couldn't go, and/or this doesn't appeal to them, to pay to go do something when you could get paid somewhere else. I think other things are more shocking to me that nobody ever talks about.

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