Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kyle Kinane: Whiskey Icarus

Kyle Kinane's Whiskey Icarus special airs on Comedy Central this Saturday, November 24, at 11 p.m. ET; the uncut and uncensored audio version will be available digitally on Tuesday, November 28.


Kyle Kinane is an exceptionally smart comedian who’s made a career out of acting stupid. He perpetuates and revels in his hobo-clown persona, characterizing himself on Whiskey Icarus as “Uncle Barbecue [telling] his dum-dum stories,” or perhaps “the wise high-school janitor,” the type of genial burnout who would name the tracks on his second stand-up album after the songs on Kiss’ Destroyer, just because. (He did the same thing with 2010’s Death Of The Party, only with Cheap Trick’s Dream Police.) But the mind behind that character is as sharp as they come, capable of sussing out the unexpected angles in an anecdote, as in a tour-de-force bit where he breaks down the multitude of questions raised by his airplane seatmate deciding to bring a Foot Locker shopping bag full of pancakes on board. (“Pancakes got X-rayed that day!”)

The other great contradiction of Kinane’s comedy is his ability to render ostensibly depressing material playful, and even heartening, via silly details and sly wordplay. He turns a lonely, drunken Wendy’s run into a late-night heist with an unamused cabbie in the role of getaway driver. He sees his sad life reflected back at him on the face of an unsliced pizza, and soldiers on anyway, marveling, “This giant taco tastes like Italy!” And finally, he proposes using his own headstone as an opportunity to elicit laughs from cemetery passers-by, perhaps the finest distillation of his ability to fuse the bleak with the uplifting. Kinane’s material is frequently self-deprecating, sardonic, and debased, but the underlying joy informing his approach gives it life, even when he’s talking about death.

The interplay between Kyle Kinane the character and Kyle Kinane the writer is what makes Whiskey Icarus such a compelling listen. It’s full of surprising moments that feel natural, the ramblings of an eccentric who has far more control over the situation than he lets on. Kinane’s lack of self-control is the centerpiece of many of his stories, whether he’s getting drunk on an airplane, making a sad meal of 7-Eleven cheeseburger dogs, or pondering whether a Twizzler would fit in his butthole; but he’s extremely savvy in how he portrays these moments, manipulating and stacking them for maximum impact when the punchline falls, turning what could be a one-note character into a power chord.