Laurie Kilmartin and I only worked together one week, but she was and is a huge influence on me and my comedy. I’d kill to work with her again. She won’t remember this story because I was just another comic trying to be a better comic. I remember cause it kept me going.
In August of 1996 I left Memphis and began a full time career in comedy. Doing comedy by car, bus, and plane for 16 weeks without a break, and I was ready to quit in week 6. None the comics I was working with were writing or attempting anything new. I was burnt out from seeing hack after hack. In that 6 weeks I literally saw the exact same joke done by three headliners, all claiming to have written it… yuck. I was just emceeing shows and the club owners only cared if I announced who was next week’s special event and the wing specials. They were never special…either of them. Same fucking wings as last show. Same fucking comics as 6 weeks ago. I actually had a joke stolen from me by a guest spot who had seen me do it the night before, then did it the next night. My saving grace, a headliner who I had seen on t.v. and loved her funny even before meeting her… Laurie Kilmartin. Laurie is now a writer on Conan and formally Tough Crowd. She also co-wrote a book called Shitty Mom. I still love her and watch every set of her’s whenever she’s on t.v.
Back in ‘96 she was doing the road gig thing. She was the middle act that week and I was so excited to meet her! I had seen her on some obligatory t.v. comedy show and fell in comedy love. It was in Augusta, Ga. I walked back into the Green Room area and met the headliner for the week who I had seen in Memphis once and I thought sucked. Laurie was writing in her notebook. Something she did every night. She was pleasant and busy, so I got her intro and let her be. The show started and I did my best at that time, but the audiences in Augusta were trained to be as dumb as possible. Laurie went up and was killing me, but she was getting only a slightly better reaction than I did from the crowd. The headliner complained, “Great. I have to follow a funny chick… Ugh!” I brought her off and the headliner went up and killed with every hacky, stereotypical, bullshit street joke you could imagine. Backstage, Laurie and I looked at each other after hearing the laughs. We both went “yuck” and laughed.
We spoke about how no one writes on the road, we compared notes. She said that she needed a Starbucks and a lap pool and she would be able to survive the shitty week. This was 1996 and she was from San Francisco, so when she said Starbucks and lap pools I had no clue what she was talking about. I just nodded and said that I’d help find whatever she needed. She challenged me to do a different set each night. I knew I could do it. I had that much time but she said ” No, do at least one new joke a night. I’ll do the same.” OMG! She was a real comic and she wanted to write! Every night that week I tried a new joke that I’d go back to the room and write down that night or the next afternoon, Laurie did the same, and the headliner did his same old bullshit that he had written in the early 80’s.
Working with Laurie was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point in my comedy career. It gave me hope that I could be more than what I had seen over and over in the previous weeks. Laurie, for that week, had pushed my boundaries.
I tell this story because I find now that I’m a kind of Laurie for some comics. Last week I was back in Augusta, GA., at a different club and with different people. This time I was the headliner. My opening acts: Ryan Van Genderen and Blayr Nias… or as they call their future tour, the Bi-Polar Express. Ryan paid me the greatest compliment, “You and Hoop (Paul Hooper… check him out. I dare you!) are the two headliners that constantly do new and funnier stuff.” I thank Laurie for that. These guys listened to my opinions and took my advice. Every night of our tour I wanted them to push themselves and do something different. Try it. What could it hurt? So do me a favor, if you get a chance, go check out Ryan Van Ggenderen, Blayr Nais, and of course… Laurie Kilmartin. I’m not Laurie, but one day I hope that I can write as much, and as funny, as she does.
Recently Laurie lost her father, and painful as losing a parent can be she truly showed the funny surrounding his last days by live tweeting most if not all of his final moments. You should follow her on twitter @anylaurie16