IT'S A WONDER Kyle Kinane hasn't broken through in a big way. The 37-year-old comic found the connection between the everyman style of the Blue Collar Comedy crew and the self-deprecating, almost philosophical approach of peers like Marc Maron and Patton Oswalt. He hasn't exactly been flying under the radar—he's made appearances on Conan and Last Call with Carson Daly, had a stand-up special on Comedy Central, and made a memorable appearance on Drunk History where he described the Haymarket Riot of 1886 after downing a bottle of tequila. But where's his development deal with a TV network or role as a sidekick in a big-budget romantic comedy?
"They just don't want me," Kinane says, speaking from his home in LA. "I've auditioned for a couple of things here and there, pitched some shows, tried writing a few things. I'm not being picky about it, either. I'm aware that the middle-aged bearded guy is a limited-access role. I'm not going to trick myself into thinking I'm going to be a leading man."
It could also be that his particular comedic voice is simply too singular and too precise for the masses. Kinane's material tends to lean on his own misdeeds (usually alcohol fueled) and the whirring of his curious mind. Not really the stuff of half-hour sitcoms aimed at the flyover states.
Take, for example, a cornerstone of his 2012 comedy album Whiskey Icarus, where Kinane spends seven minutes peeling apart an otherwise innocuous sight: someone on an airplane eating homemade pancakes.
"If you're on an airplane, you're on there with purpose," he says on the album. "You're fighting gravity to travel through the sky to land on another part of the Earth's crust. Nobody's waking up casually like Amelia Earhart, like, 'I think I'll take to the skies today.' How do you have that purpose in your life but still do it with hastily packed hobo snacks in your midst?"
Much of the success of his material comes down to his delivery, a gritty, punchy cadence that should be familiar to anyone who has spent time conversing with barflies. And to hear Kinane tell it, that's pretty much how he honed his craft as a stand-up.
"It was the group of friends I would drink with in Chicago," he says. "If you were depressed and you wanted to bitch about your life, you'd better know how to make people laugh at it. Otherwise no one would listen. And instead of spending your time making fun of someone else, you'd make fun of yourself. That was far more influential than any comedian."
Hence, like so many of the best stand-ups around, Kinane tends to focus his material on his failings as a human. Over the years, he's turned everything from the first time he had to a take a dump in a bar bathroom to getting arrested for a DUI into routines that come off like a strange mix of a pity party and an ode to the tenacity of the human spirit.
Kinane does wonder, though, just how much longer he can continue down his particular comedic path.
"You mine the experiences in your life," he says, "but I worry that I've kind of ruined that mine. That we got all we can out of it. Do I do crazy shit now to try and get stories or find a way to get into more nuanced stuff? I think I'll be okay, though. I still enjoy seeing how ridiculous everyone's life is."