Writer and comedian Jen Kirkman doesn’t have kids. Doesn’t want them, doesn’t think you’re a more complete person than her if you have them, and is really tired of people telling her she’ll “change her mind” once she comes to her senses and realizes what she needs to do to fulfill her ultimate female destiny.
Whether or not a woman has or wants to bear children is one of the few things that many people still seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask women about and then, if you don’t like their answer, give completely unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Apparently you just can’t beat the American pastime of indicating to perfect strangers of childbearing age that their entire existence is a sham unless it involves changing diapers and putting their career on hold.
I’d started reading Kirkman’s new book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids, a couple of days before getting the assignment to interview her. She’s a smart, skilled comedian whose latest comedy album "Hail to the Freaks" debuted at #13 on Billboard's top-selling comedy album list. Her podcast is called "I Seem Fun," she narrated the Funny or Die series "Drunk History," and she's a writer and roundtable regular on Chelsea Lately.
Mercury: I’ve been enjoying your book and was happy to have the chance to talk a little. The childfree thing resonates with me and a lot of people I know.
Jen Kirkman: Thanks, I’m glad you like it.
I hit a point a couple of years ago where not only do people ask me if I have kids, but they just assume I do, and they ask, “So, how old are your kids?”
That’s so weird! I’ve never gotten anything that blatant. What do you answer? “Well, I don’t know how long he’s been in limbo...”
You wrote an entire book on being childfree by choice. how much of your act is about not having kids?
Not having kids is literally only like five minutes of my act. It was was like three jokes. But what started happening was I’d do my act and then after the show, people would come and talk to me about those jokes. Women would come up to me and tell me I’d change my mind about kids, and they’d start giving me advice.
How did you decide to make it into material for a book?
I’d start answering these strangers, and talking about it with other people. The book came about because of the standup, as sort of a response to all of these people giving me advice I didn’t want.
I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’d pitched many agents in the past, and this one lined up. My editor had been wanting to do a book about people being childfree by choice, but she was waiting, looking for someone to do a funny take on it. And it lined up. Because of people’s reactions to my act, it became this wealth of material. My act was about not having kids, and the book is about other people just not being able to accept it.
A lot of people who respond well to your comedy say that they like how relatable you are. You don’t dwell on one specific subject, but talk, in general, about just trying to figure out how to live. What kinds of things can people expect from your show on June 1?
I think figuring out how to live is definitely a big part of it. It’s over an hour of mostly new stuff. It’s so lame when you try to describe your own act. I do jokes about being divorced, about being the first person in my group to be divorced, and looking back on how terrible a married person I was. You know, life, death, love, sex, marriage.
What else are you working on right now?
Right now I’m mainly working on standup. We’re always working on our acts, always trying to get a TV show. I’m also working on a pitch for another book. It’ll be about divorce and relationships. A little more revealing and juicier than this one. I also want to talk about how it’s OK to be on your own.
Jen Kirkman performs at the Hollywood Theatre at 7:30pm on Saturday, June 1. Tickets here.