For Laurie Kilmartin, her stand-up career moves seven minutes at a time, from late-night set to late-night set. This weekend, however, she’s bringing a full hour with her to Boston.
Although she’s been plugging away at the comedy game since 1987, the Boston comedy club circuit hasn’t come into the New York Times best-selling author’s radar until now, as she is slated to occupy Laugh Boston across three nights this week (May 31 to June 2). But just because this is her Boston club debut doesn’t mean she hasn’t been star-struck toward the city’s talent from afar over the years, as she cites Dana Gould, Paula Poundstone, and Marc Maron as just some of the best the city has to offer.
“When I started doing comedy in San Francisco, I remember so many great Boston comics coming to the city, and they were always just so good,” says Kilmartin. “Boston comedy, for me, has always been a very high standard, so I’m psyched to finally work there.”
It may come as a surprise to know that, although she certainly has put in her time and work, the Conan writer is constantly looking for new ways to improve her act, and it’s her time writing for the tall redhead from Brookline that has helped her craft her own jokes, simply by using the same processes she would in the writer’s room.
“[Writing for Conan] helps me, in the way that when we work on the monologues, we’re always trying to ask ourselves if it’s clear, and the best way to say it,” says Kilmartin. “I guess that sort of diligence that we put into Conan’s monologue every night does bleed off into jokes I write for myself. Do I want a joke to create a negative laugh and do I have to bring the crowd around again, or is it a booming, happy laugh? It really has helped me get really picky about that kind of stuff.”
When she makes her way to the seaport, the Team CoCo veteran will be tinkering with new material, as she always is, to make up her next hour of material to follow her 2016 special, 45 Jokes About my Dead Dad. But in order to really acknowledge the new hour as a follow-up, a few things need to change for Kilmartin.
“I guess a follow-up to that would be about my mom, but she’s still alive. So, I have to wait for her to die,” says the former Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn writer, with a chuckle. It’s that dark, sardonic humor that has helped Kilmartin cope with the death of her father in 2014, a stretch of time she so candidly chronicled in a series of widely-acknowledged live tweets as she sat at his bedside, as well as her newest book, Dead People Suck, a collection of essays compiled from notes she kept during her father’s last days, which she wrote in order to help other adults who have lost their parents cope with the grieving process.
“[The book] is about a death that isn’t tragic, but still incredibly painful,” says Kilmartin, a Last Comic Standing finalist. “It’s about all the comedy involved in sitting next to someone while they wait to die, and the people that visit, that people that don’t visit, and the awkward phone calls where people are saying goodbye for the last time, and all the other teeny tiny moments you have while in hospice. I took a lot of notes while it was going down, and I just wrote about those experiences.”
Following her father’s death, stand-up became cathartic for Kilmartin, as it allowed her to separate from the pain. But over time, the lines have blurred, and stand-up has taken on a new way of helping Kilmartin heal. “It is therapeutic to identify a feeling, get around it, and analyze so that you feel in control of it, instead of it controlling you,” she says. “In that way, it’s very therapeutic. Once it turns into material, because I feel like I’ve done a lot of public grieving about my dad, it doesn’t feel as sad anymore to think of him.”
LAURIE KILMARTIN :: Thursday, May 31 to Saturday, June 2 at Laugh Boston, 425 Summer St. in Boston, MA :: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. on Saturday, $20 to $25 :: Advance tickets: Thursday + Friday + Saturday (early show) + Saturday (late show) :: Featured image via Guinivan PR