The Comedy Proprietors: Kara Klenk

Welcome to a new G.L.O.C. feature highlighting the women hosting and producing shows around the city and across the country.  Let’s hear from G.L.O.C. KARA KLENK, host of IF YOU BUILD IT at KARMA LOUNGE, about her history of making people laugh and what it takes to run a successful show.

Kara Klenk (Photo by Anya Garrett)

Where did you grow up? Was comedy in your blood at a young age?

I grew up on the mean streets of New Canaan, Connecticut, but you probably knew that already from the way I handle a knife. I’m the oldest of 6 kids and I’d say we’re all pretty funny, but not really sure how since our parents aren’t (intentionally). But I definitely grew up watching mostly comedy: movies, stand-up, Saturday Night Live, MAD Magazine at the orthodontist’s office. And Twin Peaks. Hilarious.

How long have you considered yourself a performer?

Is there a way to answer this question with, “all my life” without sounding like a pretentious nerdbag? Probably not, but I do feel like I’ve been trying to make people laugh forever. My parents have my nursery school progress reports to prove it. I brought matches there once, my master plan remains unclear.

What was your first performance like? Where was it?

Well my first stage experience was kindergarten ballet (my one and only year of formal training) and involved a beach ball and leotard I treasured and wore far beyond the age of appropriateness. But I was in my first real play in 5th grade. We were reading a really depressing probably Newbury Award-winning book which my teacher adapted into a musical and I was cast as the only funny character. I remember feeling really psyched to make everyone laugh but the audience was probably dying for a laugh after sitting through interpretive dance and Oscar Wilde references. That same year I also graced the stage as the Cheshire Cat and Veruca Salt in other productions.

How long have you been running your show and how often do you do it?

The show I produce and host, If You Build It, was started by Barry Rothbart and Rob O’Reilly (they can be credited with the name), probably over 2 years ago. I started co-producing/hosting with Rob in November of 2009 when Barry moved to LA. As was expected, those two could not live without each other and Rob moved to LA in August 2010 so I’ve been producing it on my own since then, co-hosting with Nick Turner. The show is the 2nd and 4th Saturday of every month.

What prompted you to want to produce and host a show?

I had been thinking of starting something, an open mic or a booked show when honestly, it sort of just fell in my lap. Rob was looking for a co-producer/host and he asked me.

What are the most difficult aspects of running your own show?

Well for me the most stressful piece is just making sure there is a good audience there. The indie comedy scene, especially in and around the east village, is extensive. There are several shows a night but the majority of New Yorkers don’t seem to know that they don’t need to spend their unemployment check at comedy clubs, they can see amazing comedians for free in bars and lounges. So I am always biting my nails up to the last minute just hoping that enough people show up! We always get a crowd, I’ve never had to call a show, but I definitely stress about it.

The most rewarding?

Meeting so many talented comics and getting to see them perform. I love it when people come up to me after and say “Great show, everyone was so funny!”

Have you been in the same space the whole time? What should people look for/be wary of when finding a space for their show?

Yes the show has always been at Karma Lounge (51 1st Avenue). Right now I keep hearing so many producers saying “We’re looking for a new venue.” It’s hard to find good spaces that haven’t already been snagged. People are always saying “Oh god, stand-up comedy sounds like one of the hardest things to do.” Now imagine having to do it while competing with loud music, football games on flat screen TVs, squealing drunk chicks, and Big Buck Hunter tournaments. For this reason I think it’s pretty important to have a semi-private or private space or at least a bar small enough where the whole place is the stage and audience. And there has to be booze. That’s a personal preference but I wouldn’t try to run a show without it.

What other tips would you give to anyone wanting to put up his or her own show?

If possible, try to have a good relationship with the management at the venue. I have heard so many stories of places double booking, making producers pay if they don’t bring a big enough audience, and other broken promises. If you are going to be meticulous about organizing and promoting a show, then be sure the manager knows that and is on the same page so you don’t get screwed.

Do you work a day job? Can you talk about running a show, performing, working and how you balance all that?

Who has just one day job anymore? I have a few day jobs, it’s easy to keep it all balanced if you just stay organized and manage your time well. I try to religiously maintain my calendar so I don’t double book myself and not spread myself too thin. I find the hardest thing is actually scheduling in time to write new material. A lot of times I sign up for open mics so that I am forced to go and work on new stuff.

What are some of your other favorite places to perform in the city?

I like performing anywhere there is an audience of people who are ready and willing to laugh. I’m not saying I like easy crowds, but I sure do hate the people who sit there arms crossed with this “I dare you to make me laugh” look on their faces. I really liked performing at Ochi’s (R.I.P.), Comedy as a Second Language at Kabin, UCB is a great place to perform, I’ve done some fun shows at Arlene’s Grocery, Luca Lounge is starting to run a bunch of new shows, all of the big clubs are nice as well, Gotham, Comix, the Comic Strip. At this point I feel like I’ve performed at every dive bar in NYC so my only requirements are no rats and nothing dripping on my head, but to be fair I think I’ve let both of those slide before.

What else are you working on right now?

Right now one of my day jobs is freelance on a comedy web project so that’s taking up a lot of my time. Besides that I’m just auditioning for stuff, working on stand-up, brainstorming on few side projects with comedy pals, and trying to find time to write. I’d love to write a one or two or even five person show, just need to dig in and do it.

What ladies are you watching right now? Who do you think has a strong comedic voice?

I’m watching all y’all! There are tons of funny ladies killing it out there right now, and they all have their own very specific point of view. I think the best ladies, and best comedians in general, are the ones who have an unmistakable identity on stage, a unique voice, almost as if you could read one of their jokes on paper and know it was theirs. I’ve been sort of obsessed with Maria Bamford for a while, she’s amazing and no one is like her. I’m super impressed by great character work.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I want women to be funny without exclusively making fat/lesbian/slut/aren’t men the pits jokes. If that’s something you want to say, then make those jokes, please, but just don’t let them be the whole package, I’m getting sleepy.

You can catch KARA (along with co-host NICK TURNER) hosting IF YOU BUILD IT tomorrow, Saturday, December 11th, at 8pm with guests Nick Vatterott, Matt McCarthy, Seth Herzog, Lisa Delarios, Brent Sullivan & Matt Richards.

[Reservations: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=181437828539952]

Do you host/produce a show? We want to hear from you! contactgloc[at]gmail.com

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About Admin

Founder/Executive Editor at G.L.O.C., co-creator of Dance Dance Party Party, performer, lover, den mother, certain to bust a mean move in your direct vicinity.
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