The Austin Chronicle

Moontower Comedy: Jen Kober

By Kate X Messer, April 23, 2014, 4:45pm, Qmmunity

Watch out, Austin, and lock up your daughters. Or your moms. Louisiana-bred comedian Jen Kober is in town for the Moontower Comedy Festival, and she's loaded with chewy SweetTarts.

Jen Kober: Hello, Jen Kober. I never answer my phone like that, but I knew it was you.

Austin Chronicle: [laughter] Well, that's great, because you answered my first question, which was whether your name was phoenetic, "KO-burr," or if in real life outside of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, you had one of those French-Louisiana names, like "Ko-BARE."

JK: Wouldn't that be awesome? But, I don't. It's just plain ol' Kober. It's not even French; it's German.

AC: So, this may not be your typical comedy fest interview, because I have a strange and wonderful fascination for Lake Charles, Louisiana, your hometown. And I was hoping we could talk a little bit about it.

JK: [laughter] Yeah!

AC: Yay! Well, I poked around your Facebook and cyber-stalked you. So, here's my first Lake Charles question: Are a denizen of – or have you ever visited – Crystal's?

JK: [laughter] I have! How do you know Crystal's?

AC: How do I know Crystal's? I'm a big ol' dyke, and I travel I-10 a lot.

JK: That's hilarious! It's a local gay bar. I met my first wife there.

AC: Your first wife? Did that relationship end in a bar as well?

JK: [laughter] No, in the airport.

AC: I'm so sorry.

JK: I'm not. I'm not. You have to practice on the first one.

AC: [laughter] Thank you for the advice. Did you ever play there?

JK: You know what it's like in there. [Narrow. Gay Bar-ish.] So, it's not really set up for any other show other than drag. I have not done a comedy show there. A couple of times, the DJ has called me up and made me talk to the crowd – in which case I tell some gay joke, and then get back to the booty music, 'cause I just wanna dance. [laughter] So, no, I've never played Crystal's, but I certainly spent a good deal of my late 20s there.

AC: Did you grow up in Lake Charles or move there later?

JK: No, I was born in New Orleans. And then my dad, who is a doctor, did his residency in Memphis, Tenn., where I went to this peachy little all-girls school where we took ballet and violin lessons as part of our school day. So, I did that until I was 10.

And, in 19... well, I won't say what it is, because that'll give away my age… . When I was 10, we moved to Lake Charles, and I really thought my world had ended. We came from Memphis, where there was so much to do. Then we moved to Lake Charles, and I was like, "Are you shitting me?" It really blew my mind. So, I had a lot of things to say about it. A comedian was born with a little Jewish lesbian in the middle of Lake Charles, Louisiana … going to Catholic school. I had no choice but to become a comedian. And now my new girlfriend and I are living in Hathaway, La., which is a good 30 miles east on the ol' I-10 near Jennings. We're out in the country across from a crawfish pond.

AC: I love it! So, are you more of a country gal than a city gal?

JK: I tell people that I get to go from LA to L.A. It's good for me, it really is. And I'm glad that I have both, because each could get easily on my nerves. I can't take either place for too long.

AC: You do seem like a woman for whom things get on the nerves sometimes.

JK: [laughter] My new girlfriend has children, so this whole parenting thing has gotten thrown on me.

AC: How recent is the relationship?

JK: We got together at the very beginning of the year.

AC: Oh, congrats!

JK: Thank you. We're just doing a lot of back and forth – fly by the seat of my pants – and when you have kids, that can't be what you do. So, it's been really good, because it makes me prepare for things, and I feel like I'm really on my game now. I'm more organized. My lovely partner has done that for me. It's been really good.

AC: Is she a nice Louisiana lady, or did you meet her somewhere else?

JK: She is a nice Louisiana lady.

AC: Excellent. Congratulations all around; that sounds lovely. So, I believe we have a mutual friend in Paul Soileau, who is originally from Lake Charles?

JK: Yes, I do know Paul Soileau! I coached Paul Soileau in speech when he was in high school. We went to Queen of Heaven Catholic school together. His daddy was the town's vet. I love Paul Soileau. He is a sweet, sweet kid. What a good kid.

AC: [We catch up on what Paul does in Austin.] Were you teaching in the high school, or were you in a class with him? What was that relationship?

JK: I was older than him, so I was coaching him. It was one summer, like in competitive speech or prose, preaching… that kind of shit that you do in high school. He was such a little muppet then, such a bouncy energy. Just always a smile on his little face. Such a good kid.

AC: May we talk a little about your hair? You've been through an evolution. An evolution of the lesbian hairdo. Tell us about the different decisions made through the years.

JK: People are always like, "Oh my god. What happened to your hair?" I had short hair when I went out to San Francisco first, to get out of the Louisiana scene in 2004-ish, to try to see if I could make it out in California. Then it really grew, mostly because I couldn't afford a haircut. I've never been so broke in my life as when I lived in San Francisco.

So my friend was like, "Girl, I could put in these little extensions. They just fit through this little bead at the top of your head, and your hair will look fuller, and you can cut it however you want!" And I spent like 15 hours in this chair getting these individual strands of hair. It was insane! But when it was finished, I had this crazy Pocahontas hair. Like to my ass! And I said to myself, "Oh, my god! I'm fucking gorgeous! Look what a cute girl I am! This is amazing!"

I've had my hair long, then straight, and then long and curly. I had a good time with it. And then, when I got this part in Anger Management, they wanted someone with short hair. So I took out all the extensions and chopped off all my hair. I went into the audition, and I got the part. It's so much easier and more manageable and more me. It felt better, so I kept it short.

Then I started getting cast in everything! Apparently, my hair was what was in the fucking way! I had all these parts, they weren't big parts, but I had five or six parts like boom, boom, boom. All at the same time. What the fuck? Apparently, all of a sudden I'm a cute lesbian missing my casting call.

AC: Thank god for Miley Cyrus, huh?

JK: Exactly. Exactly. Get it right, girl. Hashtag. I've been listening to that album nonstop for two weeks.

AC: Well, she paved the way.

JK: I have to support my fellow Southern girl. So I just loved it and I kept it going. It seems to be working for me. I got a gorgeous, straight girl to love me, so obviously I'm doing something right.

AC: Good work! And the toaster oven?

JK: Exactly. But she came with a mixer.

AC: So, how many times a week on these press junkets have you been asked about working with Charlie Sheen?

JK: [laughter] People want to know that: "What about Charlie Sheen?"

AC: Well, honestly, if it's not ridiculous dirt, then I don't even want to hear it.

JK: It's not even dirt. There's no dirt. You know he's kooky. But, I'll tell you this: He's good at what he does.

On the sitcom, it's not shot in front of a studio audience. They add the laughs in later, because the studio is physically too small to put an audience in. So, you're doing this live play, essentially, in front of cameras for the laughter that you might get from the camera crew – who have all been told not to laugh. It's difficult, because you sometimes don't know if your jokes work until you get them off your feet. Sometimes, those writers will send in new jokes three minutes before we're fucking taping the thing.

And, I don't know whatever he's done… I don't know what the Tiger Blood does for him, but that motherfucker can look at lines and three minutes later, nail it in one take. I mean, he is good at what he does. So, whatever the craziness provides him, God bless him.

Here's what's so funny: People that have stopped doing drugs or drinking a lot of times just replace it with candy, right? An AA meeting is just a wall of cake in the back. Like, you're off the drugs, but here's some sugar. So he always had candy in his pocket. He was going around the set one day, and he had some chewy SweetTarts and he asks, "Hey Jen, you want some chewy SweetTarts?" And I said, "Awww, dude, I'm sorry. My mom taught me never to take candy from Charlie Sheen." So he laughed. And he says, "That's good advice!"

He's really funny. The first time I was on the set, I had an LSU T-shirt on, and he was like, "Oh, you're from Louisiana?" And I said, "Well, I was born in New Orleans, but I was really raised in Lake Charles." And he says, "I was in New Orleans once. I got kicked out of a bar for disorderly conduct." I said, "Disorderly conduct?! In New Orleans???"

AC: Right? It's got to be really bad!

JK: He said, "I don't fucking remember!" [laughter] He's got a great sense of humor about his life and his situation. The best part of working on that show is that I got to work with Meredith Salinger. Do you know who that is? Did you ever see The Journey of Natty Gann when you were a kid? It's this Disney movie about this young pioneer girl, and Meredith played her. She was a child actor.

AC: Oh, yes, yes!

JK: She's gorgeous. As a child, she was stunning. Like, 10-year-old Jennifer was crushing hard. When I worked the table read, and she's playing his sister in the episode, and I keep staring at her, "I know this woman. How do I know this woman?" It's not coming to me, it's not coming to me. And in the middle of the table read, like every one is there, in the middle of the table, and I went, "Natty Gann!!!" Everyone is staring at me! And I'm like, I'm gonna shut up now. I spent the whole break telling her, "Oh, my god, seriously, when I was in fourth grade I would have killed to touch your hair." She had this thick, black hair that she always wore in a braid in the movie. And now she's my Facebook friend and "Likes" all my pictures and stuff. Sixth-grade Jennifer is super happy.

AC: What a beautiful tale of dyke redemption! I love it.

JK: She was super cute about it, too.

AC: Your interviewing voice is so different from your comedy voice. You go Deep South in your routines. How and why does it come out?

JK: I feel like that's my filter. I see things in a rednecky way without being a redneck. There's just a simpleness to thinking like that. And it's genuinely how I think. I have a lot of left-wing ideas. The way to sell those left-wing things … the reason you can say you're a big ol' pot-smoking lesbian in the middle of Lake Charles, La., is if you say it with that accent that they know and love. And they have to realize you're one of them. but you're not.

AC: Could you try that out on me and say that very phrase in both voices?

JK: [laughter] What phrase do you want me to say?

AC: "I'm a big ol' pot-smoking lesbian in the middle of Lake Charles, La.""

JK: I would say [cosmopolitan voice like a newscaster], "I'm a pot-smoking lesbian." Or [slow, lyrical Southern-fried lilt], "Yeeeeeaaaah, I take myself to the lady pond with one of them left-handed cigarettes." Makes it more palpable to Earl.

AC: [laughter] Do you know a lot of Earls in Lake Charles?

JK: Oh, yes. I'm related to many of them.

AC: Would you care to offer a little field guide for lesbians on I-10, encouraging women to stop over in your hometown?

JK: Well, I think what is really going to sell Lake Charles over the other places is the number of lesbians and the variety of lesbians that we have in our particular city.

AC: Amen.

JK: In New Orleans, those ladies are more like ladies, lesbian ladies in New Orleans, right? They're a little bit older, a little bit wiser. They have some property and have some kids. They're looking for stability.

You get to Baton Rouge, and those are like, you know, college lesbians. It's a little more fuzzy, more conservative.

Go to Lafayette, now you're dealing with the Cajun lesbians, and those women will throw you down on the ground, hogtie you, and make you eat some kind of roadkill that they cooked in sauce. They have heavy accents, the Lafayette lesbians, but they do make a mean, mean shrimp po-boy.

See, now, Lake Charles is where all these lesbians from all these places, New Orleans/Baton Rouge/Lafayette, they've all tried to get to Houston and didn't quite make it, so they stopped in Lake Charles. So we got a good variety of all those kinds. Plus you mix in the good little Baptist girls that are trying to piss their daddies off by sleeping with girls, and that is a really true picture of the lesbian scene along I-10.

AC: Where do I sign up? Give me some phone numbers.


AC: [laughter] Girl, you need to start that site right now. That is brilliant! In my Facebook stalking, I noticed that the dominant numbers of hits from places you frequent were at L'Auberge [Casino]. Is that because you play there, or because you play there?

JK: I do shows there. I would love to be wealthy enough to be a high-rolling gambler, but I have not reached that status yet. A couple of times, I did stick a hundred bucks on red and sometimes it won, and sometimes it didn't. I did 15 weeks of sold-out shows last summer, so the marketing campaign for it was insane. We were just there all the time. It ended up turning into holiday shows: Thanksgiving and Christmas. We're about to start another summer with them. I do love my job.

AC: Are you in residence there?

JK: Oh, no. I play all over the place. It's really nice to have a venue like that in your hometown. That casino is gorgeous. You don't even feel like you're in Lake Charles. It's so Vegas-y. The service is great, and we do a killer show there. It's been really nice. I certainly do feel at home there. It's a great place to do gigs.

AC: I got to stay there one time that happened to be the weekend that LSU was playing in the championships. It was bananas. I was so enamored with the room that I didn't even go into the casino. That is a hell of a world-class place right there.

JK: It really is. You don't feel like you're in Lake Charles anymore. It's that different.

AC: What's your favorite part about your hometown?

JK: Just the people. I can throw up a show with three days notice, and there will be 150 people in that room, every time. I love that. I love that they come week after week. I love that they let me work out my new material. Someone in that audience will be like, "That wasn't good, Jen! Work on that one! It needs work!" That happens! I love that they're just so honest with me, and I really can come here and work out so much new material. I just put out a new album last year, in October of last year, and I got a whole new hour-and-a-half right now that I could lay down and record and be perfectly happy with, because I've gotten to spend a lot of my time down here this year. I'm very lucky to have Lake Charles as my workout place.

AC: Workshoppin' it in L.C. Love it. Thank you so much. I hope you have an amazing time in Austin, Texas.

JK: Thank you! Hope to see you in one of the shows.

AC: Kiss Lake Charles for us from Austin, and take care.

JK: Definitely. Thanks, girl.

Jen Kober plays Moontower Festival starting tonight.

April 23 Parish Underground, 7:30pm
April 23 Parish, 9:15pm
April 24 the Hideout, 7:15pm
April 25 the Hideout, 9:45pm
April 25 Speakeasy, 10:30pm
April 26 NY, NY, 8:15pm
April 26 Parish Underground, 10pm

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