Going Hollywood: Meet Jackie Kashian

People were going Hollywood long before Bing Crosby starred in the 1933 film musical Going Hollywood. Certainly, though, countless unknowns have packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles in the years and decades since then, hoping for show business to discover them and make them a star! New York City may be the city everyone goes to make it there before making it everywhere, but Hollywood remains the place where stars are born and made. It’s Show Business, USA. This is a recurring feature, a complementary West Coast version of Meet Me In New York, The Comic’s Comic’s  mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of the Southland surrounding Los Angeles. It’s called Going Hollywood.

You may have seen Jackie Kashian first on NBC’s Last Comic Standing a few years ago, or perhaps more recently as the opening act for Maria Bamford’s in-house “special special special!” Even more recently, Kashian made her late-night TV debut on Conan this month. She recorded and released a fabulous stand-up comedy CD, It Is Never Going to Be Bread – Jackie Kashian, in 2010. And she holds court weekly in her podcast, “The Dork Forest,” embracing her inner dork as well as the dorks in all of us. What brought her from there to here? Let’s get to know Jackie Kashian.

Name: Jackie Kashian
Arrival date: January 1997
Arrived from: Minneapolis, MN
When and where did you start performing comedy? The Comedy Cellar in Madison, Wisc., 1984
What was your best credit before moving here? The HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen … AND … I think … Comedy on the Road (from the 1700’s!)

Why did you pick LA over NYC or anywhere else?
I had a friend who I could stay with. Yes… it was that complicated… heh.

How long did it take to get your first paid gig in LA after moving here?
Ah… I was on Murphy Brown in the 1890’s… the last season (ed note: 1998). I played an Airport Cop (of course)… in the first year. A comic friend of mine got me the gig to get me in SAG and said, “I do ONE favor for people I think are funny when they move here. Just one. Make it count.” I’m not certain I built on it enough.

How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you started in?
Comedy in LA is huge right now. LOTS of places to get up. LOTS of new, interesting people talking and doing comedy in new and interesting ways. I’m not even kidding. I’m more excited about comedy today than I was when I started in 1984. And, in 1984, finding comedy was a lot like finding free heroin — for me.

If you lived and performed in NYC, how would you compare working as a comedian in Hollywood to that previous experience?
Is the question: How do I compare the comedy scenes in NYC vs Hollywood? Because they can be eerily similar. In audience (young, smart and comedy savvy, to be quippy about it) … the main difference, I’ve found, between comics in NY vs LA is the hangin’ out. More comics in NY will hang, get a drink or coffee after a show. There’s always another train. In LA… you have your car… you might as well head home. So we do, mostly. I LOVE hanging out with comics… more in coffee shops than bars (because they’re quieter).

Was there a moment when you felt your life and career really had “gone Hollywood,” and how do you explain it to friends or family back home?
Probably the first time I didn’t take the extra jobs my brother and sister would get for me when I’d go home. I’d be on a run (comedy tour) that would bring me to their town and they would find a “project” for me. “You can make $50 if you clean my friend Nancy’s garage on Saturday day.” “UM… I’m already working this week.” “OH… You don’t want another $50?” And I finally had to explain that I made enough money, doing comedy, to NOT ACTUALLY need the $50. OH… I wanted it. But I stuck to my guns and now they don’t offer me those jobs anymore. Do I live in regret? NO! YES! NO!

What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here?
To LA? Or anywhere I guess… Know that you have to re-prove yourself. Consciously decide not to get mad about it and just show up at open mikes and go up. If you’re funny at the open mikes… you will meet the funny comics in your new town and find more places, possibly nicer places, to get up. Just don’t be so fucking entitled about the whole thing. I know… it’s hard. “I’M A GENIUS IN _____” insert town YOU NO LONGER LIVE IN.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Not answering this question. What are you, the HR of comedy?

If you haven’t seen Jackie Kashian’s late-night TV debut on Conan, please rectify yourself of that error now. You also can listen in on Kashian’s podcast, The Dork Forest, on the All Things Comedy podcast network. For her latest touring schedule, check Jackie Kashian’s tour page.

Here’s a clip from her CD talking about Los Angeles pet owners, lovingly illustrated. Roll the clip!

Profile photo of Jackie Kashian by Caroline Gandolfo.

Is there a comedian in Los Angeles that you’d like to see me style and profile for another installment of Going Hollywood? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →