“For some reason, my parents weren’t bringing home Richard Pryor records,” says comic and writer Laurie Kilmartin with a laugh when asked about how she first became interested in comedy. “(So) my entry into comedy was through Carol Burnett.”
That served her well. In addition to being a writer on Conan, she’s also a touring stand-up. She’ll be at Montgomery’s Go Bananas from Thursday-Sunday (Aug. 2-5).
“Now, when I look back, I realize she was doing crowd work right up top,” Kilmartin says of Burnett. “She’d open the show, take questions and then go into sketches. It was a very stand-up opening.”
Not surprisingly, Kilmartin subsequently gravitated toward sketch and improv when she began pursuing a career. But she switched to stand-up when she realized that if she did it, she wouldn’t have to depend on others to do a good set.
As for her other job, she never had her sights set on a career as a TV writer. “It never occurred to me,” she says. “It always seemed like a guys’ job and you had to be a certain type of guy to do it, like a crony in sort of a way.”
Her first writing job was on 2002-04’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Quinn insisted on only hiring stand-ups.
“I was like, ‘Oh I do stand-up; I can do that.’ ” she says. And so she started.
Once she got into writing, she fell in love with the stability of the job. Of course, she still does stand-up regularly, mostly in Los Angeles, using her own life as a reference point.
“We write a lot of jokes on Conan, and most of them don’t get used — for good reason. But I’m never like, ‘I’ll use that in my act,’ ” she says. “Because I just don’t do politics in my act. I save my act for my life and those frustrations that are a little more universal.”
Kilmartin struck a nerve when she appealed through Twitter for jokes to help her through her father’s time in hospice care in 2015. The result was 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad, which was released as a special on the now-defunct streaming service Seeso in 2016 and as a CD by A Special Thing Records in 2017.
Beyond showbiz, Kilmartin actually leads a pretty normal existence. For example, CityBeat caught up with her by phone as she was about to take her son to the orthodontist. Indeed, she’s not like a lot of her peers.
“I don’t build a new hour every year,” she says. “But then, I haven’t had a Netflix special either. If I’d had a Netflix special, maybe I would.”
“I don’t want this to turn into me grumbling about that,” she adds, with a laugh. “I just keep writing jokes and dropping jokes I hate or am sick of. That’s sort of my process. I don’t know how people keep writing brand new hours every year. It actually stresses me out.”
Describing herself as more of a joke writer than a storyteller, she says she improves her mostly autobiographical act in 30-second joke-telling intervals — a slow process. “I’m not having that many things happen to me where it’s an hour of new stuff a year,” she says.
And while Kilmartin does maintain a fairly regular schedule with a steady job, it’s hard to escape the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.
“It’s obviously such a show business town,” she says. “You can’t escape everyone else’s successes or failures. You’re just surrounded by people that are doing better than you or worse than you.”
She’s actually a little envious of comics like our own Josh Sneed, Geoff Tate, Brian Million and Gary Owen, who can live in a place like Cincinnati and still have solid careers as headlining comics.
“To be able to be based out of your hometown, where show business is not everyone’s prime reason for waking up in the morning, must be nice,” she says.
It’s far different in Los Angeles, she says. And the infatuation with show business starts early.
“All the kids in my son’s school seem to be working on a show,” she says. “I hope my son doesn’t think this is normal, but I’m afraid he does.”
Laurie Kilmartin is at Go Bananas (8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery) Aug. 2-5. Tickets/more info: gobananascomedy.com.