Jackie Kashian is a hilarious stand-up comedian and a pretty serious dork. Her act (which she’s been perfecting for over 15 years) is both biting and relatable. She’s also host of the The Dork Forest, a podcast where fellow comedians and other non-funny folk can talk about their most prized dorkdoms. We chatted with the comedian about her favourite guests, what makes someone a dork and why she hates wicker.
When did you know you wanted to be a stand-up comedian?
I didn’t know until I actually did it. We never watched it when I was a kid. My father is very funny, but enjoys listening to sales techniques and motivational speakers the best.
What was your big break in the comedy biz?
The biggest break in comedy is when you get to do it, in front of great people, anytime you want. As in, there are comics who can just show up at the big clubs or alternative venues, and the people running the shows are so happy to see them they offer them a spot on whatever show is happening. Different comics for different venues obviously. Damon Wayans, Louis CK, Joan Rivers, Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, the names go on quite a bit. But that’s the break I’m still waiting on. Oh, I don’t have to “sign up” for open mics in my hometown anymore, but it’s really not the same. People think TV is the big break but it’s amazing who hasn’t seen me. I did a stand-up show in 1994, Comedy On The Road with John Byner, and Premium Blend on Comedy Central in 1999, a half hour special on Comedy Central in 2003, a Just For Laughs gala on CBC in 2003 as well, Last Comic Standing in 2006 and I just did a standup showcase on the TV Guide channel. There’s so many ways to define “break” — that’s how I do.
How did your podcast come about?
I heard about a guy taping, for free, a conference call and the website automatically released it to iTunes. This was in 2005. I thought, free? I’m in! The title, The Dork Forest, comes from a joke I did on my comedy special in 2003: “how deep in the dork forest do you have to go to get to war reenactment guys? You have to go by...” and then I listed a variety of things that people collect and enjoy: Beanie Babies, Star Wars, Pokemon, and I decided to interview people about the things they are enthusiastic about. Whatever that is. Everyone is a dork about something.
Other than comedians or people you know, how do you find guests for The Dork Forest?
Well, now people are asking to be on the show. Listeners email me, “I’m a Shakespeare dork in a society that believes that some Earl wrote the works of Shakespeare. Can I be on the show?” Uh, yes. Yes, you can.
Who’s been the most memorable guest so far?
There are almost 500 episodes. I have my favorites. I just put up the fan favorites of the year, which is a good list to start with, if you’re thinking of listening to the show. Michelle McNamara ( who is Patton Oswalt’s wife and so enormously interested in true crime that the police have talked to her about her theories about some cold cases) talks true crime, Greg Proops talked about old timey baseball, Lizz Winstead (co-creator of The Daily Show) talked politics, the guy who collects Planet of the Apes props (he owns the statue of The Lawgiver), there are so many great episodes.
What do you think qualifies someone as a “dork”?
Enthusiasm. I dare people to try to bore me with minutia. The guy who loved View-Masters went into the history of photography.
What do you like to geek out on the most these days?
I read a lot of comic books and regular books (I’m on the road a great deal). Since starting the show I’ve been introduced to a lot of new dorkdoms. Boardgames, Elvis trivia...all kinds of stuff.
What are you most looking forward about performing in Toronto?
I’ve heard so many great things about the crowds at Comedy Bar from other comics that have come through: Jimmy Pardo, Maria Bamford, Myq Kaplan, that I’m excited about the crowds. I’ve heard they are on board with a journey through the brain box of the comic. I love the openness of that. Those are my favorite clubs and, I’ve heard, that’s what Toronto has cultivated.
Any favourite Toronto talent? Rhiannon Archer. I met her at a festival in Portland, Oregon, and found her delightful!
What’s on the horizon for the rest of 2013?
Lots of comedy and live podcasts!
One last thing, why don’t you like wicker?
It’s a torture device for people who can’t afford bamboo.