Kyle Kinane is a comedian’s comedian. The Illinois-born comic’s gravel-voiced musings manage to appeal to all brow levels while being delivered in a way that is both inimitable and universal. Since leaving Chicago for Los Angeles, Kinane has put out three specials, became “the voice of Comedy Central,” and toured relentlessly. Little over a year removed from his killer performance at Shank Hall, the rising star returned to Milwaukee to trot out some new material before a near-sellout crowd at Turner Hall. As a comedian whose material is rooted in his various shortcomings, Kinane had the tall task of convincing a ballroom full of people who came out to see him on a Tuesday night after a holiday weekend that he, at the height of his popularity and admittedly happy, can still topple an audience with self-deprecating jokes delivered by a sloppy prophet. After an hour of off-kilter insights regarding cults, procreation, vegetarianism, politics, and a distinctly Midwestern suspicion of his happiness, Kinane not only showed he can still pull humor from familiar places, he can do it better than ever.
After Milwaukee’s own Ryan Holman set the stage with an always enjoyable menagerie of pun-based misdirections, and Madison ex-pat Nate Craig relived past fights in a funny semi-homecoming set, a baby-faced Kinane came out and quickly acknowledged his shaven face. Removing his ever-present ball cap, the comic bellowed “This is what I look like now! I look like if Charlie Brown was real and he got into pills…which was kind of his inevitable future.” Self-effacing tone set, he discussed how he recognized his own orgasm noise out in the world (the old fisherman from a State Farm commercial, by the way), his bad tattoos, and recently being shaken awake by his girlfriend, who frantically asked him if it was blood or hot sauce that was all over him.
While much of his set was directed inward, Kinane also talked about why he doesn’t vote, why he doesn’t want to have kids, and why he’s “pretty okay” with cults. “You only hear about them when they’re bad,” he deadpanned. A bit of an outlier of the presumed lifestyle of an L.A. entertainer, Kinane admitted he was one Netflix documentary away from being a vegetarian, which somehow transitioned to a 20-minute payoff about chicken wings, the similarities shellfish and spiders share, how he’d prefer processed grocery store food to “stackable manta rays” at fresh fish markets, and fish’s debatable status as a type of animal. “Fish aren’t animals. That’s just a wet vegetable. I’ll cut your butt off and eat your face,” Kinane said in his trademark blend of affable gruffness. “That’s the name of my new cook book. I’ll cut your butt off and eat your face.”
No matter what he calls his next project (cook book, comedy special, or otherwise), it’s going to be his best work he’s managed to date. Though he’s acutely conscious of his growing popularity, the lovable everyman was quick to note that he’s just waiting for people to realize he doesn’t deserve any of it. “This isn’t a skill,” he started. “I just said ‘dog with a boner’ at least four times. This is a sham.” Even if he doesn’t believe as much, the hundreds of people who paid to see Kyle Kinane talk about Chipotle shits, vividly describe seeing a woman drop a puppy, and yell things at a fictional woman named Trish on a Tuesday night surely left feeling like they got their money’s worth.