Bad jobs became comedy gold for Addison man

Updated 11/8/2011 5:30 AM
  • Comedian Kyle Kinane

    Comedian Kyle Kinane

  • Comedian Kyle Kinane, who grew up in Addison, gets some of his material from the suburban jobs he had. He's performing this weekend at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago.

    Comedian Kyle Kinane, who grew up in Addison, gets some of his material from the suburban jobs he had. He's performing this weekend at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Kyle Kinane

Kyle Kinane's career began with grunt work in the Clyde's Delicious Donuts factory in Addison and in the stock room at the now-closed Kmart in North Park Mall in Villa Park, where he once used a broomstick to rescue a mouse stuck on a glue board.

"That's what I did. I saved rodents," said Kinane, a 1995 graduate of Addison Trail High School. "I was not the face of customer service. They kept me hidden."

One night, after he'd delivered pizzas, he was doing a shift at the Marathon gas station in Wood Dale. While sitting behind the counter reading the Daily Herald, he saw a listing about Chicago tryouts for the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen, Colo. He decided to try out.

"I think I got about $300 in parking tickets that day. I was like, 'Ah, nobody checks the meters,'" he said. "There were hundreds of people there and I didn't know anybody. So I did my three minutes ... and that was terrifying. But I thought, 'OK, that was good.'"

Kinane didn't get called back, but a friend at Columbia College encouraged him to keep trying and perform at open mic nights around Chicago. It took him almost three months to muster up the courage to do it.

"Then I did it, and I said, 'OK, I got a laugh.' That was in 1999 and I haven't stopped," said Kinane, 34, who has since appeared on numerous television shows, toured the country performing stand-up and released a popular comedy CD "Death of the Party."

He made Comedy Central's "Hot List," has been named a "Top 10 Comedians to Watch" by Variety magazine and was listed as No. 5 on's Top 10 Emerging Comedians list.

Kinane is returning home this weekend to do shows at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago.

"(Those titles) are nice, but they kinda put you behind the 8-ball. Now, rather than saying, 'Oh, hey, I found this guy and he's pretty funny.' They're like, 'Hey! This guy was supposed to be funny!'" he said. "I try to be grateful. I don't like to analyze too much. Whatever I did to get here, I just try to keep doing it."

Kinane eventually performed at the HBO Comedy Festival in Aspen in 2007 -- then his biggest chance for exposure -- but it didn't go well.

"I did mediocre at best. That's when I started growing a beard," he said, of his trademark bushy facial hair, which he says makes him look like "a quality homeless person."

"That (festival) was supposed to be the high point of my career and I thought, it's all down hill from here," he said. "Between the beard and failing at a giant industry comedy festival, that gave me the freedom to talk about anything I wanted to."

Onstage, he'll often talk about things like Trader Joe's goofy Hawaiian-shirted mascot, soul-crushing jobs he's had, insomnia, his friends having kids, and the mistake of believing in yourself.

He's currently taping a new show for Comedy Central and working on a new album and maybe a TV special. He goes on auditions for acting and voice-over roles, too.

"Anywhere they have me, I'll go," he said.

Kinane's parents feared he might pursue a career in a punk rock band (he's been a punk fan ever since seeing the Screeching Weasels perform at McGregor's in Elmhurst when he was a teenager). So they were relieved, and supportive, when he began a career in comedy. They still live in Addison.

"They were great about it," Kinane said. "They said, 'Follow your dreams, but get something with health insurance.' I think they're thinking, at least the comedy thing, there's no overhead to it. He's not going to ask to borrow money for an amp."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.