Stand Up & Deliver: Family As An Audience
Photo: Step Wallace
Houston has such a varied landscape of comics, that it’s almost impossible to lump them all together. Comics that were around during what many comics call “the golden years” of the Houston comedy scene will tell you that audiences were fed a healthy mix of pros and amateurs during that era. This era would be that of Paul Oddo, Sam Demaris, and Kristin Lindner, who were all getting their feet wet prior to the turn of the millenium. When I interviewed the legendary Andy Huggins, he spoke massive amounts of praise for Kristin Lindner’s comedic timing, her willingness to take advice, and her rapier wit. One of Houston’s most proactive comics, FPH was lucky enough to catch Lindner between various gigs, a corporate job, and her family life to find out how she manages such a hectic pace.
You’re actually from Lubbock, correct? What brought you to Houston and what year was that?
I was actually born in Lubbock- both my parents were still students at Texas Tech. My crib was in their closet since they had a small one bedroom apartment! But we moved to Allentown, PA when I was 4. We lived in Naperville, IL (suburb of Chicago which I hear is very chi-chi now) for one brief year and then, much to my relief- I literally had to walk to school in the snow and it was almost a mile!!!- we moved to Conroe when I was in fourth grade. That was 1978. I have lived in several different houses in the same subdivision in Conroe since. At one time, my parents, my grandparents, my sister and her family, and my family and I all lived within a mile of each other here.
You’ve been at this for 15 years, who was in your “stand up class” here in Houston when you got started?
I thought I was the only one who referred to them as “classes..” I started in 1999 with Paul Oddo, Mike McRae, and Slim Bloodworth, among others. Sam Demaris started shortly thereafter.
The word on the street is that you decided that the corporate life wasn’t enough and you decided to give stand up a try. Is that really how it happened and what drew you to stand up?
What street is this word on? I majored in theatre in college and loved it. I started a family, we’ll say suddenly; and had to make the decision to let the dream of being an actor be delayed indefinitely. My youngest daughter was getting out of diapers when I interviewed for what would be my first “corporate desk” job. The evening of the interview, I went to watch the open mic at the Laff Stop. I fell in love with stand up that night. I began going up at that open mic two months later, thinking that stand up would take less time commitment away from my family than doing plays and musicals- HA! But, I was hooked from that first night in mid-1999.
You’re known for a bit of an unconventional style and a quick wit, have you always gone at it that way, or has it evolved over time?
One of the strange things about stand-up is that you are at your best when you are yourself. But, it still takes years to find your “voice.” People asked me early on what my “character” would be onstage and I didn’t understand the question, honestly. I would say, “Um. Me?” But the truth is that stand-up is a combination of the mechanics of performing and acting with the passion and personality of your own writing. It is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. My voice has definitely developed over time, and I hope it is still developing. I am not as comfortable in my own skin on stage as I feel I should be at this stage of my career.
It seems like you have a pretty hefty show scheduling, how do you juggle day-to-day life with a job and a family and still have time to write and perform as frequently as you do?
Painfully. Ugh, I don’t do it well is the only answer I have. My house is a MESS! I miss my daughters’ concerts, plays, and events way more than is acceptable. I try to be there for birthdays and the really important things for my family, but I still struggle daily with priorities. My co-workers know I am a comic and the comics know I have a corporate career. Unfortunately, my peers from both worlds feel I’m not as committed as I should be.
Who are your favorite comics both past and present?
My well-known influences are Ellen Degeneres, Bill Cosby, Rita Rudner, Jerry Seinfeld, Brian Regan, Maria Bamford, Kathleen Madigan, Eddie Izzard. My soon-to-be-famous influences are Andy Huggins, Billy D. Washington, Greg Warren, Henry Phillips, Matt Sadler, Sam Demaris, and Tommy Drake.
Back in the 80s I watched “Evening at the Improv” as often as it was on- typically seeing the same artists over and over again. One of my all time favorites, particularly on that show, was Robin Williams. When I started stand up, I was asked about my comic influences. When I mentioned Mr. Williams to the established comics, I was told “No. He can’t be one of your influences. He’s a performer, not a comic. He doesn’t do his own material.”
I was shocked and I was so new that I just took that as law. I stopped mentioning his name when I spoke about who my favorite comics were. I stopped watching and rewatching “Live at the Met,” which I think is such an amazing performance. When I saw that he had passed away, I cried. And I felt like I had lost a close friend. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t shake this feeling like I had betrayed him somehow. I finally realized that he really is my idol.
I am nothing at all like him onstage, but if I ever get to be a fraction as good as he was, I will consider myself a success. Influences? Robin Williams - straight up - I am proud to say.
This year you got the chance to perform in Chicago on the NickMom “Night Out” show. For people who don’t understand how a comic’s life goes; was it another notch in your belt or an “I have arrived” moment for you?
Filming “Night Out” was such a great experience! I had to take unpaid days off from my day job, and I went to Chicago knowing that when I returned, I would quit my job and within weeks be a full-time comic. Of course, it didn’t happen like that. The show didn’t air for almost a year. And even after it aired, not much changed. I did my job and performed at night, exactly the same as I did before. I’d sit at open mics immediately after the taping and think “I’m on TV! Why am I not a big deal?” As a comic, a TV credit is vital. That logo under your headshot is so crucial. When you do get it, then it’s all about getting the next one. And the next one. It’s all about continuing to grow. It was a fantastic experience for me, but all it means now is that I have something to give the MC to say when I am introduced.
This far in, is there any chance we’ll see an album in the near future?
I am working on a DVD currently and hope to have that ready for early 2015
The great Carol Burnett once said, “My grandmother, who raised me was my first audience, and her laughs are what inspired me to do what I do.” Do you feel like you can relate to that in having a family and using them as your initial audience when you write?
CAROL BURNETT!! Although she isn’t technically a stand up, she is a HUGE influence on my love for comedy. She and Lucille Ball are just so timeless in their talent and accessibility. — Okay, sorry, I got all excited there! Family was the question. Yes, my family is at the core of my stand up for sure. My poor husband and daughters make up most of my act. And 99% of the jokes I tell onstage about them are true. They are all way funnier than I am, I just need more attention than they are comfortable with. As far as using them as my audience for when I write? That is absolutely true, but not in the way you meant. When I get an idea for a joke, I will tell my husband and/ or my kids. If they hate it, or just don’t understand why it’s funny, then that’s a killer joke. It will, almost guaranteed, do very well in front of an audience. If they love the joke, it’s terrible and it won’t work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still try it. But it almost always gets stares. Like the more my family laughs at it, the blanker the stares.
What’s your definition of a successful comedy career?
I want to be a professional comic, full time. If I could make $50,000 a year doing stand up, I would be so proud of myself. That would be the ultimate “I’ve arrived” for me. Or having a personal jet to take me to my kids’ concerts.
There’s a great chance that you’d laugh until it hurts when you catch Lindner perform. As someone who has witnessed her on stage, I can back up all of the great things I had heard about her prior to seeing her perform. While she saves up enough for that private jet, you can catch her at the River Center Comedy Club in San Antonio November 28-30, the Joke Joint Comedy Showcase December 12 & 13th; and JoMar Visions Studio on New Year’s Eve.