by Andrew Wantuck
This week I spoke with a comedian whose stock is rising in Hollywood. His name is Kirk Fox. He has a casual style and dry observations, Kirk, at times steers audience into the realm of the absurd.
Andrew: I wanted to interview you for a professional journalism article.
Kirk: Wouldn't it be better to do this is person? With your little recorder? How is this going to work?
Andrew: I'm calling you from Skype, and if it's ok with you, I'm going to record this call, and then the whole interview is just our back-and-forth conversation.
Kirk: Wow, that's interesting.
Andrew: Yes, and is it ok that I'm recording you, and do you accept these terms as I've laid them out for you?
Kirk: Well, yeah, but you may not get the answers that you're after, I'm going to be very guarded now.
Andrew: [laughs] Ok, we'll see how it goes.
Kirk: I mean, do I get to see this article before it's printed? It could change my life.
Andrew: [laughs] What kind of stuff are you planning on saying during this conversation?
Kirk: I have the answers. I hope it's already recording, I mean, that was some of my best stuff!
Andrew: Yes, it is recording.
Kirk: Ok, so we're already on track.
Andrew: Ok Mr. Fox, what are you currently working on, what projects do you have either recently in the can, or you're looking forward to accomplishing?
Kirk: Wow, this is how the questions are going to be? That aggressive?
Andrew: [laughs] Is that an aggressive question, I thought it was a fair question.
Kirk: They're all fair, if you're dealing with a human being. Well, I don't have that much going on. I'm trying to write, trying to write a couple jokes, I have a little part in "Post Grad Survival Guide", and that should be out in a month or two, that was fun, Michael Keaton is in it, with Alexis Bledel, that's a movie, right?
Andrew: That's a movie, that's big time.
Kirk: I don't know if it's big time. I got a little part in Reno 911, that's going to be on in the next week or two, maybe, unless they cut it out.
Andrew: And what's your character like?
Kirk: God, look at you, fuck. These are great questions!
Andrew: What is the premise behind your character?
Kirk: You probably thought it was going to be easy being a reporter, didn't you?
Andrew: [laughs] Yeah, I know. Not too many guys throw my questions right back in my face and force me to analyze it right after I say it!
Kirk: Yeah, well that's what's going to happen! Get used to it. You're just talking to someone who's trying to make sure stuff doesn't get "found out".
Kirk: Well, I play an undercover police officer who has been undercover for 11 years, and he has been undercover for so long, no one even knows he's a police officer anymore.
Andrew: And then the high-jinx ensue?
Kirk: There might be some high-jinx. There was some kind of funny stuff on the day. I thought they were coming out to bust the biker gang, but I guess they haven't been getting any of my tapes that I've been dropping off for the last 11 years, because they're in a mailbox that hasn't been opened, so there's beta, and VHS, and mini cassettes, and they're in there. So for 11 years, I've been having sex and smoking crystal meth, undercover, and no one even knows who I am, because I've been undercover for so long. See? It could be great, I hope they air it.
Andrew: I hear they have a pretty lose atmosphere on set, and that they give you a lot of freedom as an actor to perform. What's it like working on that show?
Kirk: It is a wonderful environment, everyone on there is very funny. They kind of give you a ballpark, and then you can kind of swing around in it.
Andrew: How do you like working under those circumstances, do you like being able to have a bunch of takes, and take it in a bunch of directions?
Kirk: Well, I enjoy improv, so I kind of like doing a different take every time, but it has also back fired in some situations. When you have an audition, and they say, "Go ahead and improv it.", sometimes you forget what the scene is even about and the writer doesn't even know what your talking about. So at the end of day, it's kind of better to follow the script until you have the role and you're actually the on set. And then maybe you can try some of the improv. But I don't do too much improv in the auditions anymore. It's back fired lately.
Andrew: I'd read your blog, and it said you have been traveling recently.
Kirk: Which blog? You read my last blog?
Andrew: Yeah, the last blog, where you were talking about the font, I believe you went with Geneva font.
Kirk: Yes, I went with Geneva today, too. Because I thought it represented Switzerland, and Switzerland is peaceful, and neutral. And since I was in the Middle East, I thought I would go with neutral since there are so many battles raging in the desert right now. But yeah, I was in Beirut, and Dubai.
Andrew: What can you tell us about Dubai?
Kirk: Is this a big paper? Should we start over? [Andrew laughs] I just want to know how you cut and paste this shit together.
Andrew: It is transcribed and then edited a little.
Kirk: See, that's the problem. No, but It's exciting! I'm excited for you. I hope this all gets in there. I'd like people to see the dialog that goes into trying to get together an article for them.
Andrew: You know what's funny is all this stuff like this where it's not question, answer, question, answer and I always send it 'cause I always think this stuff is the most interesting, and I have an editor that gets final say in what actually goes in the paper and he tends to kind of cut this stuff out a little bit.
Kirk: Of course he does! That's why I don't do these things.
Kirk: I do these when I can write out the whole answer and it has to be as written.
Andrew: Well, the nice thing about me recording them is I do a really good job in terms of getting what you say when you say it, and I don't clean up your words a whole lot. I take out the "umms" and the "you knows" and that kind of stuff but...
Kirk: Well, that's wonderful. Those are my specialties.
Andrew: [laughs] And then, if you'd like I can even send it to you before I send it to editor if you want. I'd be happy to let you punch it up a little if you'd like.
Kirk: No, that's too much work.
Andrew: [laughs] Ok.
Kirk: I have complete faith that you'll butcher it just enough to get the point across that I don't know anything.
Kirk: And that you've really gone after the wrong guy.
Andrew: Ok, so tell me a little bit about your experience in Dubai and Beirut. What were you doing there, and what'd you think of the cities?
Kirk: I was completely jet-lagged; I don't remember any of it. Dubai is under construction. I was there two days. I didn't leave my hotel. I went out once. I mean, what do you want to know about it? It's not what I thought it was going to be.
Andrew: And why is that?
Kirk: Well, you know, these are trick questions. Why wasn't Dubai what I thought it was going to be?
Kirk: Well, I thought I was going to be sitting on the beach and just resting, but there's no beaches. I didn't see any beaches. It's just all under construction. It doesn't seem to be finished. [Andrew laughs]
It's Vegas without the gambling and the strippers. You know, there was very little appeal to me, but then again, I like golf and tennis and I didn't get to play any. I was only there two days. I did comedy one night, and the rest of the time I was trying to sleep. It's a different part of the world. It's like two hundred degrees out [Andrew laughs]. So then I left Dubai, and then I went to Beirut. And Beirut I guess was bombed a lot in the '70s and '80s, and there's a lot of bombed-out buildings. But I didn't get to sleep then either. I didn't sleep for five days [Andrew laughs]. What do you want to know? I didn't see anything. What did I do for five days? I tried to sleep! I can tell you about my room... I can tell you about my room... There was an arrow on the ceiling in Dubai pointing toward Mecca, so I guess you can pray. They laughed when they were supposed to. There was a big comedy convention, and I was part of it.
Andrew: In your opinion, Kirk, what makes a good stand-up comedian go to become a great stand-up comedian?
Kirk: I think you'd have to be talking about something that more than a hand full of people can identify with. It's nice if they're unique and fresh. Why? Who's a big comic? I'm a good stand-up comic because I'm not really a comic. I'm just kind of up there talking a little and trying to tell some jokes. Basically, I'm just doing some well-constructed knock knock jokes. I mean, I'm not really talking about much, so would I ever be a really famous, big comic? No, 'cause I don't really have a POV, and eventually, you're going to need one.
Andrew: Is finding a point of view something that you are actively working on?
Kirk: No, I'm actively trying to do anything I can to not do stand-up comedy.
Andrew: Oh, really?
Andrew: So you'd really like to get into the acting world?
Kirk: I don't know. I'd like to golf all the time, and I just would like a paycheck and this really rich woman to massage me.
Kirk: I mean, that's really what I want. I mean I'm kind of getting ready for this Tonight Show set, but you know, I'm doing the Tonight Show in a couple weeks and I really peeked the last time I was on the Tonight Show so the fact that they want me to do it again is like really? Can't we just show the other one one more time? [Andrew laughs] So now I'm trying to piece together four or five minutes that I can at least appear like I'm interested in.
Andrew: Now, I think that's a huge honor. I've heard that you are going to be the last stand-up guest booked on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Kirk: I don't know about that, but I know I might be. I'm sure there might be one more. Who knows? I could be the last. I know I'm in the last week, but I don't know what that means. I just had a really good set the last time I was on, and I think I've used up all my good stuff.
Kirk: You don't know.
Andrew: [laughs] I love your cavalier attitude about it. It kind of sounds to me like it just doesn't matter either way.
Kirk: Well, it doesn't. If I come out and at least explain that NBC wants a laugh every fifteen seconds and then they get one every forty seconds, it's too late to replace me.
Andrew: [laughs]Now here's a question about your writing.
Kirk: I like writing. I do like to write, and those blogs that I was doing every week or two. That's kind of the essence that I'm trying to take to the stage, and if I can bring my blog essence to the stage, which are those five-minute stories that are based in truth, then I can get to the next level. Then I can be that real famous comic, but until I start doing that more often, it's just not going to happen. But it's getting better; they're getting better.
Andrew: It's a question about your writing style, not necessarily the blog stuff. In terms of jokes or material that you take to the stage, do you pen and paper your jokes ahead of time and then go onstage and tell them or will you go up with a premise and then work it out and over time it sculpts into the act?
Kirk: Well, I always have a kernel to build on and in the moment, I'll add some things and if they get a huge laugh, then they'll make it to the next time. But I always have kind of a foundation to start a joke with, and a lot of them come from blogs. You know this blogging is just me writing out a ten-minute joke that I sculpt down to two minutes or three minutes. That's the cool thing about blogging is you can write something out and someone will respond to it and say "wow, that part's funny". My stuff isn't really short, little one-liners anymore. I'm just trying to tell little stories. I like Mark Twain, and if I can talk about things that not everyone else is talking about, I have some fun.
Andrew: Who are some of the guys who came before you that you look up to?
Kirk: I have no idea.
Andrew: [laughs] Twain is one person.
Kirk: No, I like Mark Twain, because I like the way he writes. He's a good storyteller.
Andrew: Was there a moment in time when you were growing up that you knew you would take this career path?
Kirk: No, November 11 will be seven years that I've been doing this. Seven years ago, I just went up onstage and I just kind of enjoyed it. I needed something else; I had nothing else going on. It was my last resort.
Andrew: What city was that in?
Kirk: Up here; up at the Comedy Store. Like last time I was at The Comedy & Magic Club, it was my 1,356th time. I count every time I go onstage.
Andrew: Ok, and in closing it out...
Kirk: Closing it out? Closing it out? Have we even talked about anything?
Andrew: Yeah, this has been a good interview. The Comedy & Magic Club itself, can you tell me a little bit about this club versus other clubs?
Kirk: I love that club, because it's almost like being on a road gig. You know, as soon as you get out of Los Angeles, people seem to laugh a little harder and listen a little better. So, living in LA and being able to drive down to The Comedy & Magic Club, you can get a real feel 'cause you get a packed room of people who are looking forward to a night of comedy. They're not coming there hoping to see a star or judging or jealous and wondering why they're not onstage. They're just there to laugh, and the food's great. It's got a great history.
Andrew: Cool, well I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
Kirk: Did you get any answers? The bottom line is you go onstage and you try to be honest and you try to connect with people and you try and talk with them and not at them. You just try to find a way to connect and talk about something that they can relate to. I'm only starting to figure it out right now. I'm still just trying to talk about some things that mean something to me. I'm a good enough writer and a good enough actor where I've been able to fake it really quick and I've have a lot of success really quick but at the end of the day if I'm faking it, I'm just lying to myself. So, that's why I'm kind of at a little bit of a crossroads where I either have to change my approach or just stop.
Andrew: And what do you think you'll do?
Kirk: Well, I'm working on it. I'm trying to talk about some things that are really happening, but to get up onstage and be completely naked and open, that's what makes the great comics - the ones who are willing to be completely vulnerable and talk about the truths and foibles. I mean, Richard Pryor and Carlin and all these guys... Chris Rock... they're all talking about real stuff that means something to them and they're voices and until you're a voice... There's a difference between getting just a laugh or getting people to laugh and really thinking about something and talking about it the next day. No one's talking about my shit the next day.
Andrew: [laughs] You're a little hard on yourself.
Kirk: No, I'm not hard on myself! I'm realistic, man! Come on! You think I don't know?
Andrew: Well, I mean, obviously, you've started to get a fan base here in Hermosa Beach.
Kirk: We'll just say that I see improvement, and as long as your improving in something, you can keep doing it. If you start going back the other way, then it's time for you to get off the train. You can only slide back so far where you're back to square one and something's not worth starting again. But you can use some of the things that you've learned along the way and give you a stronger foundation. Maybe get up toward the penthouse instead of staying on the first floor.
Andrew: Well, I hope you get in that penthouse and eventually there's a good looking woman there that gives you a massage.
Kirk: Oh, they're there on every floor. [Andrew laughs] That's what makes every floor fun.
Andrew: Cool, man. Well, thanks for taking the time.
Kirk: Don't make me look too much like an idiot.
Kirk Fox will be part of our 20 Comics A Night shows on Saturday, May 15th & Saturday, May 16th 2009. Reservations Required. (310) 372-1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com. ER