Jen Kirkman’s new Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), is bookended by sketches in which she has conversations with people whom she has little to nothing in common with. At the beginning of the special, the interaction is with an overly permissive mom and her drooling, half-wit son. At the end of the special, it’s with an older couple who disapproves of her anti-marriage material and a younger man who took away the wrong message from her act (namely, that she wants to have sex with younger men). Thematically, these sketches fit very well with the content of her stand-up act itself, which is largely about the struggles of fitting into society as a single, childless woman in her forties.
Full disclosure: I am not a single, childless woman in her forties. I am a married man in my thirties, and I have a kid. That being the case, not all of her material was totally relatable to me. That’s OK, though. One of the great things about watching stand-up comedy is being able to gain insight into different perspectives if you’re open to them. I happen to enjoy Kirkman’s perspective, being a fan of hers primarily from her podcast appearances and delightfully uncompromising Twitter presence, and I enjoyed seeing it distilled into her 78-minute stand-up special.
You don’t have to be a Jen Kirkman aficionado to enjoy I’m Gonna Die Alone…, though. It is cleverly structured in a way that makes it inviting to the uninitiated. The special starts off with shorter jokes on broader topics like climate change, flying on airplanes after 9/11, and the stupidity of society as encapsulated by a man who does not know what a lime is. The jokes come hard and fast, to an extent that’s almost dizzying. Then a shift occurs when she does an extended bit about having gray pubic hairs, a topic that is probably a bit less universal than the ones that came before it. From there on out, her material gradually slows down and gets more personal. By the time she ends her set by talking about her grandmother dying on her kitchen floor in a black bra and no underwear at age 99, it’s about as specific and personal as it can get. The transition has happened gradually, though, and the jokes have never stopped being funny.
Jen Kirkman does not aspire to please everyone. Anyone who follows her on Twitter knows by now that she doesn’t suffer fools and she doesn’t dumb herself down or smooth out her edges to avoid rocking the boat. She is perfectly fine with who she is, and that’s the essence of I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). The first half of the title taken by itself might be seen as a lament, but with the parenthetical second half added it becomes a celebration. That celebration of herself is part of the singular, uncompromising point of view that makes her such a strong comedic voice and makes her Netflix special a joy to watch.
I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine) is available now on Netflix.