Even if you aren't familiar with the drunken, poetic stories and words of comedian Kyle Kinane, you've at least heard his voice.
The Chicago native, who has three very funny comedy albums and two Comedy Central specials to his name, has also done voices on animated series such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Triptank, Bob's Burgers and Adventure Time. He's also picked up a recurring role on the new TruTV series Those Who Can't.
But even if you've never seen those shows or his standup, you've heard him if you've watched even a single half hour of Comedy Central. He's the man behind that scruffy voice on the comedy network that reminds you to watch new episodes of South Park or Nikki Glaser's new primetime show. And this week he'll perform two shows at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth.
"I thought it's just a bar voice," Kinane says. "That's all it is. Anything that's come from, it's all been stand-up. Stand-up was the focus. Anything else I'm doing comes from the standup. It's just someone who saw me do jokes."
Kinane started in the late '90s in Chicago's burgeoning alternative comedy scene and has become a gifted storyteller who's not afraid to mine the stranger and more embarrassing moments of his personal life to entertain his audiences.
"I think comedy is cool now," Kinane says. "It's a hip thing. When I started in '99, I was kind of embarrassed. I didn't want to tell people I was trying to do comedy because I was coming from music and everybody was funny and just on stage. And of course, you're funny on stage but you also play in a band, stuff like this, and I was like, 'Nah, I'm just going to strip away the music part because I'm not that good at that anyway.' It was still like a cheesy thing, like it left a bad taste in people's mouths back then. In Chicago, there was no fame and no industry to it. So it was just a bunch of people who found this thing, this pursuit, and wanted to be really good at it."
Kinane still brings a very unique voice to comedy. He doesn't come off as the typical gruff comedian who complains about his status in life. He seems to be a genuinely happy guy, in person and on stage, who likes to make his living telling stories about sitting next to a guy on a plane who eats pancakes out of a bag or about treating drinking in the shower as his "spa day."
"I don't think I was ever miserable," he says. "Everybody has their low points in life but because I was able to make jokes about them, that's what made them not so bad. People who are miserable — and I think I get this from my dad because he didn't like his job but he was laughing while he was complaining and he was like, 'You either laugh about it or cry about it. What do you want to do?' That's a pretty good philosophy for life. You can either laugh at it and be delighted and filled with wonder about it or cynical and jaded about it."
That demeanor carries over to his comedy very easily because it's so honest, he says.
"It would be disingenuous to act depressed," he says. "Everybody has their lousy days but I get to tell jokes for a living and it's hard to be upset when that's my situation in the world."
He can also get any audience on his side because he's so willing to bare his most embarrassing moments to them in such bold and witty ways. For his "Whiskey Icarus" album and special, he describes loneliness from lacking "the simple courage to sit next to somebody on a bus" to the moment "that I realized I had forgotten I was masturbating at a motel in Green Bay, Wisconsin."
"I've pretty much pimped out everything in my life for a story at this point," Kinane says. "I don't have any problems embarrassing myself but if it's somebody I care about, I wouldn't want to throw them under the bus. My folks are very supportive. They come see every show I do in Chicago and there are some things that are like alright, I don't know if you want to hear this one and they would be like, 'Well, it's listed online for a show for the public so we're gonna go to it.' I'm like alright, you're gonna hear about how I lost my virginity."
He's also not pretentious about his act or his humor, even though he seems like a gifted writer who knows how to weave words into a pointed, funny story. He's not trying to achieve an unrealistic goal with his comedy and elevate it to a level that he thinks the audience should appreciate.
He's not the kind of comic who records and listens to every performance because he thinks listening to his own sets regularly is "a little too self-involved" and "I don't want to listen to myself," something that came as quite a surprise for a guy who is literally the voice of a major cable network.
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"I'm glad for the work but I never thought, 'There's me again,'" Kinane says. "I just wonder how soon people are going to get sick of me."
He says his only goal with his shows and his comedy is "to have a room full of strangers validate your efforts and try to make them laugh and genuinely laugh."
"There's those pity laughs at open mics but to legit go, none of these people know you and half of them are starting at you like alright, let's see what you've got," Kinane says. "If I can crack that type of audience, that was it. That was the goal."
Kyle Kinane will perform at 8 and 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Amphibian Stage Productions located at 120 S. Main St. in Fort Worth. Visit AmphibianStage.com to purchase tickets.