Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I love every woman with a guitar that crosses my path, even if said woman is a comedian with Mr. Show, The Rosie O’Donnell Show, and The Ellen Degeneres Show writing credits to her name. I’ll even go as far as to say that I am a skeptic when it comes to musical comedy. That all being said, Karen Kilgariff is an anomaly, harnessing her own struggles, thoughts, and fears into short and sweet metaphor-driven songs.
Recently transitioning from classic stand-up to singing and songwriting, Kilgariff recorded her newest album, Live at the Bootleg, with ASpecialThing Records and managed to set the bar for the genre. This isn’t the musical comedy that you’re use to. There’s nothing contrived or forced within her lyrics. Instead, she says what everyone is already thinking: the random thoughts; the ones most people would be too scared to admit on stage much less record for the masses. Those are where Kilgariff finds her inspiration.
She boldly kicks off the show with “I Want To Win,” quipping that she hates Tina Fey because she wants “her money, her glory, her baby, her dog and her job.” You may gasp at first, but then you remember, comedy, and also that you feel similarly. I mean, who doesn’t want that life? She also threatens to kill the next person to tell her she just has to watch Modern Family, a sentiment I think we can all relate to. If not, you should totally watch Modern Family.
Relatability is Kilgariff’s niche, as is on-point cynicism and just the right sprinkling of self-deprecation. “Can I get a little more talent in the monitors on stage,” she asks before she tugs at the audience’s heartstrings on “Password,” a bit about forgetting online passwords, unrequited love, and the dementia of ‘losing’ your phone when it’s actually in your hand. She makes reoccurring personal admissions like on ‘AOK’ (“This is how my OK Cupid profile would read if I had one…which I never will”), and unabashedly honest feminist observations on ‘Solid 9’ (“If only life was like a sitcom, If only I could play the husband, then I could just be fat and funny and you could be hot and shut your mouth”).
The only criticism of the album is that she doesn’t give herself nearly enough credit, but that’s probably the point. “I just played a song that I had to finger pick when I barely know how to play the guitar,” she jokes before launching into ‘Chelsea Guitar.’
“I think it’s bold, and I think it’s punk rock, and I think it adds to the vulnerability that you feel because you’re not sure I should be saying what I’m singing and you’re not sure I should be playing the guitar. And I think that’s a very modern and powerful combination.”
She’s almost right. Any question of her musical prowess goes out the window after she plays a Daniel Johnston cover, “Golly Gee,” un-ironically. Her sensibilities are infectious as she blends punk rock and vulnerability and, in turn, creates genuine and dynamic comedy that is a must listen. Do yourself the favor.