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Standup’s Most Beloved Dirtbag Dishes on His Influences

Kyle Kinane tells us the forces behind his hilariously bleak standup bits.

Photo: Mandee Johnson

Somewhere between peddling gourmet cake decorations and barfing on Comedy Central, Kyle Kinane became standup’s most beloved dirtbag. A native of the western suburb of Addison, the 39-year-old has earned plaudits for his take on life’s lowest lows, from drinking in the shower to cabbing to a Wendy’s drive-through. Ahead of taping his new as-yet-untitled network special at Metro on May 21, Kinane opens up about the influences that shaped him.

Kids in the Hall
Photo: David Hawek

The Kids in the Hall

Growing up, everybody watched Saturday Night Live, while I was out getting into trouble. But Kids in the Hall was weird. It felt just a little bit dangerous. If your parents caught you watching it, they’d be like, “What is this?”

Johnny Carson
Photo: Herb Ball/mptvimages.com

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

It wasn’t so much Carson, it was seeing standup as a format. Here was this grownup—an authority figure—acting silly. Where I grew up, everybody was too bogged down by work and stress to act goofy. To see an adult have fun was like, “How does that even exist?”

Steven Banks

He had this one-man show that was basically him calling into work sick and screwing around in his apartment. At Career Day, I never knew what I wanted to do, and here was this guy just making people laugh as his job. I thought, That’s what I do in class anyway!

Calvin and Hobbes
Photo: Bill Watterson/Universal uclick

Calvin and Hobbes

Hobbes would always challenge Calvin with a counterpoint. That’s one of the best writing techniques. If I’m getting writer’s block, I take one of my hard and fast beliefs and try to argue the opposite.

Mitch Hedberg

At the end of the [1990s] comedy boom, I couldn’t relate to most standup—it was just middle-aged guys talking about their wives. But Hedberg was this weirdo burnout with perfectly crafted one-liners like “I want to see a forklift lift up a crate of forks because it would be so damn literal.” [He showed me] that standup can be cool.

The Far Side

It was Mitch Hedberg in comic strip form: weird, single panel, and efficient.

Addison, Illinois

Nobody took themselves too seriously [where I grew up]. Life wasn’t great, but you accepted your lot, and if you were going to complain, it better have been funny. There’s an art to complaining.

His sister

When the whole family’s together, I make jokes just to make my sister laugh—specifically because my parents won’t get it. That taught me you don’t need to broadcast every joke. It can be for just a few people.

'Things I Like About America' by Poe Ballantine
Photo: Courtesy of Hawthorne Books

Things I Like About America by Poe Ballantine

It’s a book about a guy with a bunch of shit jobs trying to find his place in the world. It’s accepting in its bleakness. The way it’s written taught me about details—not every story has to end like a Die Hard movie.

The Lincoln Lodge

I got my start there in 1999, 2000, and met this group of outsiders—Kumail Nanjiani, Pete Holmes, Matt Braunger. They were just a bunch of smart, hilarious guys. We all challenged each other.


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