Andy Kindler is known for being outspoken on what bothers him about comedy. And in 1996, he began what would come to be an ongoing tradition at the Just For Laughs Festival each year. Seemingly lost in time, Comedy Dynamics recently released Kindler’s first address as a comedy album. Long before the art of ranting through social media (as most of us do), Kindler felt it was time to put some people in their place and make sure the audience knew the difference between comedy and “industry comedy.”
Not a traditional comedy album, State of the Industry Address (Just For Laughs 1996) is a rare chance to hear a unique moment in time. Over 20 years ago, Kindler let it loose at the festival by riffing, ripping, and ranting on just about anything bothering him in the business. You can even hear him shuffle through his notes and take pauses between topics. Yes, there are even awkward moments of silence where the audience appears to be thinking “is he joking or is he serious?”
The first track on the album is entitled “No Structure.” A perfect name for an intro that was as anarchic as a Trump prayer breakfast. In under 3 minutes, Kindler covers a variety of topics such his self-introduction to the stage, allowing the audience to photograph him, Burt Reynolds’ divorce from Loni Anderson, thanking his agent Bruce Smith as only he could, mushrooms and acid, and finishing by saying “Please try to add the structure later, and let me know what I was talking about.” From there he was just getting warmed up. Kindler moves right into Comic Relief and its hypocrisy of making the performing comics seem charitable. By ridiculing the head of Comic Relief (who’s name he couldn’t remember) for claiming comics were sacrificing a paid club spot to perform for charity, Kindler goes on to say, “They [the comics] are in front of 80 million people! What a bunch of givers. Comics who will stab each other in the throat to get on Comic Relief.” Here, Kindler recognizes the real reason for their “charity”. As the second track, this sets the tone for the rest of album.
Kindler was truly no-holds-barred that night taking aim at everyone from Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams to Jay Leno and NBC’s former VP Warren Littlefield. What’s most surprising is Kindler’s attack on Littlefield dealt with Must See TV – and this was 1996, Must-See TV’s prime! “In the Hollywood Reporter, someone from NBC actually said ‘Our timeslots are our stars,’” Kindler mentions quite annoyed and befuddled. He follows by imitating an NBC executive, “Have you seen 8:30 to 9? Mmm. We’re very proud of it. It’s a half hour!”
At one point on the album, Kindler allows himself to vent on his frustration with the industry’s attempt to brand comedy. Putting aside jokes for a moment Kindler declares, “You know what the branding of comedy should be? It should be funny… Just. Make. Your shows. Funny. Don’t make them for [ages] 20-55, 18-12.” He continues, “If I can get one thing through to anybody is that I watch the same shows when I was 18 that I watch now. This idea that as you grow older, you turn into some other person or that people can be put in some category like 18-49 is complete, total bullsh*t.” While he admittedly burned some bridges over the years with his material, his commentary on the comedy TV industry has been shared by many artists. To the crowd’s applause, Kindler criticizes the misconceptions networks have on viewers only tuning into their network and that older age groups are no longer valuable to their ratings. It’s the track that solidifies the value of releasing his original address to the public.
With the release of State of the Industry Address (Just For Laughs 1996) comedy fans, outsiders, and even insiders can get an inside peek at the business of comedy. Known for his outspoken approach, Andy Kindler will always tell it like he sees it. Sure, he has become an enemy to some in comedy but a hero to others. Whether you agree with him or not, a person like Kindler with a non-mainstream perspective can start a conversation people will realize they need to have. For example, at one point he calls out racism in Hollywood for the treatment of African-American artists. The comments made by Kindler are still as valuable 20 years later as they were in 1996. That lack of progress is frightening, but the release of this album today shows there are those who have been fighting the ills of Hollywood all this time. While State of the Industry does go after the comedy business, it is self-deprecating at the same time. Love him or hate him, Andy Kindler has been keeping the conversation going with his State of the Industry addresses. Judge for yourself.
Andy Kindler’s State of the Industry Address (Just For Laughs 1996) is available on all streaming and digital audio services via Comedy Dynamics.