Comedy’s sharpest and funniest critic

Andy Kindler holds his peers to high standards

In his two-plus decade career in the comedy world Andy Kindler’s learned plenty. He’s made stopovers on Letterman contributed politically charged fare to The Daily Show and recently made an appearance on Maron. He’s also celebrated as the comedy sphere’s sharpest most acerbic and downright hilarious critic. In 1991 he wrote The Hack’s Handbook for National Lampoon detailing the cheapest standup techniques and since then he’s beloved for his yearly State of the Industry speech at Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival where he’s been known to carve up comedy’s biggest names.

This year’s topic-targets? Jay Leno (obviously) Ricky Gervais’ claim that he’s a standup comic (“he’s done standup what like 18 times?”) and most deservingly comedian-cum-hate monger Adam Carolla who he famously described as “like Hitler if Hitler weren’t funny.”

A media storm ensued but Kindler says those words were taken out of context. “All these websites didn’t even know what they were reporting on. They were saying stuff like ‘Kindler calls Carolla Hitler doesn’t seem to be kidding’” he says adding his trademark cackle. “It’s an obvious joke. I was saying that he was racist. And there’s ego involved there and he had his fan base coming at me [on Twitter] but the people who follow him are goons.”

For Kindler though it’s all part of the program: Whether on Twitter or during his standup routines he famously loves attacking the U.S. right. “Republicans in North Carolina are making black people go through hoops to vote [with their new voter ID law] and I was tweeting stuff like ‘The GOP: We’re not your father’s racism we’re your grandfather’s racism” he chuckles. “It got really nasty. I had the Twitter gulag defence league on me.”

But Kindler is quick to add he’s not just comedy’s antagonist even if he voraciously mocks his kids: Many of his critiques are based on experience in and love of the standup world. And largely he’s simply asking comedians to be better — dick jokes and toilet humour he maintains is for hacks. Kindler’s proud of his alt-comedy heritage and he holds his peers to high standards.

“To be gratuitously shocking — that’s become hack now. I mean use politically incorrect language sure but be sure to have a point” he says. He also maintains that he’s no PC bulldog. “I mean I love Don Rickles and he came from a certain generation and had some beliefs that aren’t in sync with today. He had opinions that were wrong. But he’s also hilarious.”

But for Kindler’s famed rage-filled delivery — “I’m an eternal optimist” he deadpans at one point — he insists that he’s not disillusioned with the state of comedy at large. “When I started in the ’90s things were terrible. There was a need for alternative shows. Now people are trying new and exciting things.”

And he’s willing to give new comics props — when they’ve earned it. Once a comedian’s lost their comedic edge however no matter how established they’ll earn Kindler’s ire. Take for example Louis CK. “The media celebrates Louis as the best comedian ever” he says. “And I liked the first season of Louie . It felt close to reality. But by season two it started to become really contrived and people are such rabid followers of him they’ll accept anything.

“When you get to the level of fame he has — and this is why I’ve avoided fame — you go down the cellar. It’s like what Eddie Murphy said when he quit standup: ‘[Everyone was always laughing at my jokes] but I couldn’t even tell if they were funny anymore.’”