After 20 years in the trenches, the NYC-based comedy powerhouse shows everyone how she’s one of the best with her debut special
Not many comics on the grind today can say, with confidence, that they’ve been a straight-up killer since they started the way Jessica Kirson can. Now, after 20 years on the scene, the power-hitting headliner is finally getting the special treatment.
Marking Comedy Central’s third special presented by Bill Burr and Al Madrigal’s All Things Comedy production banner, Kirson’s debut special, Talking To Myself drops on Friday (December 6), and while she has poured years of blood, sweat, and tears into her critically-acclaimed craft to reach this milestone, the New Jersey native has some mixed feelings about the type of attention she’s garnered leading up the premiere.
“I feel like I’ve worked incredibly hard for this special, and I’m just ready and excited for it to come out,” Kirson tells Vanyaland. “It’s a weird thing too, because there’s a billboard of me in Times Square, and pictures of me everywhere, and a lot of attention, which is a little uncomfortable, believe it or not.”
To people not entrenched in the comedy world, Kirson’s hard-earned confidence might be seen as arrogance, but when you put into account the grueling amount of work she, and so many others, have had to go through in order to get to this point, the feeling of validation that’s come with finally attaining her first special is quite understandable, and comes from a place of celebration rather than self-righteousness.
“I’ve worked for so long, pretty much constantly, and I’ve never really broke out,” says Kirson. “But I’ve gotten so much attention from other comics, and club bookers, and just around the city, so the fact that people can now see what I do, and as a lot of comics have said to me about it, see what they’ve seen for so many years, it feels very validating, because I’ve worked so hard for this. That I do know, where I can say I worked my ass off.”
Kirson is not shy to admit that, for the first time, she’s actually feeling like she deserves what she’s worked so hard towards. The elements that make up her first taped hour act as sort of a time capsule into the devices she’s used in her act over the years, especially when it comes to her giving credence to the special’s title, and literally talking to herself on stage.
What started as a bit of its own that didn’t fare too well with crowds for a long time, but later became a way to give herself a real-time pep talk after other jokes may not have landed as intended, Kirson has enjoyed the ability to keep things fresh and unexpected on stage. Gearing up for the special, she knew that the quick turnaround move would be a part of it, as it has become somewhat of a staple in her act, but with twenty years of prep time, Kirson had the bulk of her material ready to go for years.
“I love doing those types of spontaneous things, but I’ve also done these jokes thousands of times, so I knew which ones were going to work and which ones weren’t,” says Kirson. “Then I also went in to edit it, which I think is very important, because I feel like you should definitely have a voice in the editing process.”
Of course she’s feeling good leading up to the special’s premiere and she’s looking forward to how it’s received, but at the end of the day, the real payoff for her is coming in the form of how her hard work, determination, and desire to help her fellow comics grow over the years has inspired the comics that are also working towards that type of acknowledgement to keep pushing and grinding, and honing their own craft.
“The biggest thing I’m getting out of it right now is that I have other comics telling me that it gives them hope,” says Kirson. “If you talk to any comic around me, for my entire 20 years of doing this, I’ve been really focused on helping other comics. I used to run new talent shows at Gotham Comedy Club, and I taught people like Amy Schumer and Chris Distefano for years. I’ve always worked to get other comics work, so the fact that this can happen for me, twenty years in, thanks to an incredible comic like Bill Burr, is just such a great thing.”
Jessica Kirson: Talking To Myself premieres Friday, December 6 at midnight ET on Comedy Central