By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Comics can often be surprisingly boring in interviews, tired of being "on" all the time. Not so Andy Kindler. Like a needy puppy, he's eager to please with a million quips and he's fast with them. But this puppy bites.
The veteran comic, who will be at Tampa's Side Splitters Comedy Club today through Saturday, just finished a stint as one of three judges on NBC's Last Comic Standing and regularly serves as a comic correspondent for David Letterman. He re-released his grammatically incorrect DVD I Wish I Was Bitter with a bonus feature where he critiques his own act.
It's only fair, since he's famous in comedy circles for his annual State of the Industry speech at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, where for 15 years he has skewered the entertainment industry, from Jay Leno to Dane Cook to comic favorites ("Can we all admit that Parks and Recreation is horrible? Is this something we would all know, but don't say?").
So you'd think he would have been as mean as a snake, or at least Simon Cowell, as a Last Comic Standing judge. But he was generous with the praise as the finalists were whittled down to the top 10.
"I criticized the show for so many years," he said breaking into his spot-on Jay Mohr impression, though he twists it to, "You will decide America, one scientist will move forward. One will be the Last Scientist Standing."
So he feels odd defending the reality show he roasted, but he insists the format can work, and he was brought into it in a year where there was more emphasis on the comedy, not so much the dramatic backstories or pitting the comics against each other.
As for his newfound niceness, "I really liked everybody. You cannot pick apart a comedian's act so easily.
"If I love a comic but they have an off night, who am I to say they should have taken out this or added that? It doesn't work that way. . . . I have no interest in hurting people's feelings."
If they are famous, however, he has a lot of interest.
He rags on Bill Maher for being arrogant and still using old standup crutches like, "but I kid the president." He loves that Betty White is hot again but thinks it's comical that the industry is amazed, shocked really, that an 80-year-old can be sharp and funny. "That's Betty White. Robin Williams won't be funny when he's 80, because he's not funny now."
And a favorite punching bag is Cook, who has a wildly popular act on college campuses that he has turned into an acting career.
He compared the Dane Cook phenomenon to Hitler in the 1930s. "People were really excited, but you didn't really know why, didn't really get it. But at least Hitler had a point of view."
His motivation, he insists, is a pure love of comedy as an art form.
"I don't hate Dane Cook, but I am trying to go after people I think are capable of more," Kindler said. "He had a movie where they were plugging it as his first noncomedic turn. I beg to differ."
Leno, however, gets the most venom. "He could be a serial killer and still get the same ratings."
He's shocked that America didn't punish Leno for the Letterman or Conan O'Brien shakeups, but "I think Leno dumbed down the audience."
"They got so used to snoozing off after the monologue, so no wonder Conan would be off to a slow start."