Joe Kilgallon is “an aggressive storyteller.” His brand of comedy appeals to folks that like to see guys lose their cool. And as one of the six members of Comedians You Should Know, he’s a stand-up producer and performer based in Chicago. After selling out an 80-seat room once a week for a year straight, the group decided to record an album. It debuted last spring at No. 1 on the iTunes comedy chart, and since then, the group has toured constantly, with its members finding better and better solo gigs to boot. Kilgallon is currently hosting at the DC Improv for Steve Byrne.
Washington City Paper: When did you start doing stand-up?
Joe Kilgallon: August 2006. I was 21.
WCP: Do you feel like you’ve found your voice?
JK: Yes and no. I feel like I’ve made significant strides. I’m able to get at the idea I want to talk about but there’s other times where I’m performing instead of being me.
WCP: Do you want to be yourself on stage?
JK: Yes. The reason I became a stand-up is because my friends told me I was a great storyteller. My flaws are what make people laugh. I’ve got a really bad temper and people that know me for more than a few days will tell you that. When I get riled up over nothing it’s hilarious.
WCP: Are you worried that if you put angry things in your act awful things will happen?
JK: I was worried about that because what if I get happy and lose that inspiration?
WCP: Are you happy after a set?
JK: Oh yeah. I want to be myself on stage but I have no qualms about exaggerating for affect.
WCP: Who are the guys you look up to?
JK: Bill Burr, Louis C.K., Steve Byrne, Patrice O’Neal, Marc Maron.
WCP: A lot of those guys peaked around 35, 40 and a lot of them have gone through style changes.
JK: True. It’s like anything in life, you don’t know who you are until you hit a certain age.
WCP: Those aren’t the happiest men.
WCP: And you want to be happy.
JK: I’ve talked to Marc Maron about this. His feature, a very talented guy named Ryan Singer, is the happiest, bubbliest guy you’ll ever meet. Maron picked him because of that. He needed someone that’s happy. Maron knows he’s miserable.
I think I think too highly of myself. I don’t have any self loathing. That’s the difference.
WCP: You’re a member of Comedians You Should Know, six stand-ups that produce shows in Chicago. Is producing a show with other comics good for your stand-up?
JK: Absolutely. If I was doing comedy with five other guys like me I’d get lazy. One of the best things about getting on the road is that it makes you grow as a comedian. I know I can make people my own age, from my own background laugh. Give me a group of 65 year olds. That excites me.
WCP: Are you where you want to be as a performer?
WCP: What do you need to do?
JK: Get more stage time. I know my weaknesses. I get ad-lid happy. I get off track a lot. I rely on swearing too much but I’m cool with that. I’m happy with swearing but when there’s an audition, I can’t swear. I can take the swear out but it’ll change the cadence.
Being a young comic, I decided to fail doing something I’d be proud of rather than what an industry can want from me. I’m having a blast travelling and doing stand up. I’ll boost your liquor sales. I’m shaking everyone’s hand after shows, talking to everybody.