Fall Arts 2017

The Mercury’s Fall Arts & Culture Guide

The Only Guide You’ll Need to This Season’s Finest Books, Visual Art, and NPR Hosts Singing Songs

Lost Decade’s Rock and Roll and Children’s T-Shirts

Manu Berelli and Glenn Henrickson’s Homegrown Design Empire

Local Essentials for TBA

Because Art Isn’t Really a Once-a-Year Kind of Thing

Vanessa Renwick, Accidental Visionary

The Unlikely Career of a Portland Experimental Filmmaker and Installation Artist

Ari Shapiro is Coming Home!

The NPR Host Brings His Solo Show to Portland

Jen Kirkman Returns to Portland with New Material

The Veteran Comedian Takes on Politics (and Dreams of QVC)

Carmen Maria Machado’s Writing Lit Me on Fire

Couple Fights, Fucking, and SVU in Her Body and Other Parties

WolfBird Dance Choreographs Feminism

Where to Wear What Hat Shows the Reach of Gender Roles

After Jen Kirkman’s two decades in comedy, there are countless places you’ve encountered her material: in two books and two Netflix specials, on Chelsea Lately and Comedy Central’s Drunk History, and on her podcast, I Seem Fun: The Diary of Jen Kirkman.

Speaking on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, Kirkman tells the Mercury that, thanks to her 2015 special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) and her 2014 book I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales from a Happy Life Without Kids, she’s been accidentally branded a pioneer of the “You’re divorced! You live alone!” lifestyle. But as much as she enjoys living solo, Kirkman assures me she’s not trying to make a big statement about it.

“I’m down for marriage again. I’m a relationship person,” she says. “It’s just... be comfortable with whatever you’re doing, and just know there’s people that are married that are unhappy, and I was one of them. And I had people coming up to me all the time saying, ‘You’re so lucky, your life is figured out, you’re married.’

“Everyone is either single or in a relationship or in between,” she continues, “so I just feel like in those in-between moments, or when people are single for whatever reason, that they shouldn’t feel bad about it. Because it’s not how it’s going to be forever.”

The happily childless 42-year-old Bostonian kick-started her comedy career in New York, but for the past 15 years, she’s been grudgingly living in LA, doing shows once a month to work out new material. Now she’ll test it out on her “All New Material, Girl” tour to decide if it’s worthy of a taping.

“This tour is same as always: personal things that have happened to me but... they’re more about my reaction to things going on in the world,” she says. “It’s not Trump-heavy, but it’s [about] the emotion I felt after the election, how we deal with our families, what really went on in my brain inside the Women’s March, and how I was so annoyed at all the women that day.”

“I was this angry, idealistic third-party voter who thought she was really special.”

Kirkman will also take a deep dive into her past. “I talk about what I was like during this period of time when I was this angry, idealistic third-party voter who thought she was really special and making a difference,” she explains.

I Seem Fun listeners will be delighted to hear more political material, since the podcast has become an outlet for Kirkman to make rant-y political predictions and commentary. Carrying on a solo conversation for 45 minutes or more without an audience comes naturally for her.

“I’ve been talking to myself since I was a little kid,” she says. By the time she was eight, Kirkman’s two sisters had both moved out of the house, so she had to entertain herself as if she were an only child. “I loved it!” she laughs. “I would line up my stuffed animals and talk to them.

“That’s why I wanted to do [I Seem Fun] that way. It’s kind of very similar to book-writing, when you’re like, ‘I don’t have to be funny, I just have to be relatable.’ And somebody might be enjoying this, but the goal isn’t necessarily to make them laugh out loud,” she says. “It’s kind of cool to picture the audience but know they’re not in front of you. It’s way more freeing.”

But touring, specials, and podcasts aren’t even all of it: Kirkman’s newest venture is a limited-run jewelry line.

“You know like those ‘Carrie’ necklaces that say your name?” she says. “I ordered one off this website and I had it say ‘Over 40’ because I was tired of people telling me I look younger. I want people to know my age.” (It’s something Kirkman often jokes about: She doesn’t want to look like she “has four roommates and shitty towels.”) Other pieces will say things like “Child-free,” “Feminist AF,” and “Boss.”

“If it goes well, I want to keep doing things like that, designing things that don’t even necessarily have to be funny,” she says. “And so my goal—and I’m completely serious—is QVC by age 50.

“I think fashion’s a big part of my comedy,” she adds. “I love when women come and dress for themselves—and like, not to impress a date—to my shows, and they might wear some crazy big coat or whatever. I would love to have a clothing collection or jewelry collection. Because I know Melissa McCarthy has a clothing collection and Joan Rivers had her jewelry, so why not?”