Jen Kirkman at the Royal Cinema

Have you ever wanted a guide to help you organise your life? To find peace, meaning and perhaps the love of your life? Then Jen Kirkman would be the first to tell you to stay the fuck away. At The Royal, promoting her new book I Know What I’m Doing – and Other Lies I Tell Myself, Kirkman gave advice as best she could: through the lens of a cautionary tale. Though none of the six stories told appear in her book, they weaved together to create a compelling blend of hilarity and honesty. In her hands, there was little difference.

From her fear mongering parents preaching Armageddon, to the struggle of losing her virginity, Kirkman’s tales showed an ever-present tension between seeking connection and her disconnect with the world around her. It would’ve been heartbreaking if she wasn’t so goddamn clever. Ribald and self-deprecating, her bullheaded earnestness found her crashing through ridiculous scenarios one after another miraculously unscathed. Whether it was her disappointment at her boyfriend surviving 9/11 (it made breaking up so much harder. For the next two days at least), or inventing a deceased mother to win an argument in traffic, her candid confessions were as sugar coated as a rock.

The crowd was hers from the moment she took the stage. Her larger-than-life character was only amplified by judicious use of physical comedy. Ever seen a grown-ass woman perfectly recreate her eight year old choreography for The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”? It’s damn delightful. The stories served as a canvas for her obvious talent as a stand-up. Drawing thematic connections through perfectly executed callbacks, these disparate memories interlaced to create a larger narrative of a life spent avoiding lessons. Hell, if she writes half as well as she speaks, I Know What I’m Doing is gonna be tough to put down.

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