Q&A: Colin Kane
With his easy-going personality, it’s hard to believe Colin Kane is an insult comic extraordinaire. But New York native Kane, who devoted himself to full-time stand-up 17 years ago, has a loyal following throughout the country, and he’s currently in the middle of a successful Hard Rock Hotel residency, Colin Kane: The Wolf. And just like canis lupus, Kane is evolving. Las Vegas Magazine’s Jason Harris recently caught up with Kane, who returns on Sept. 28, to discuss the evolution of this residency (which he eventually wants to shoot as his first comedy special), if living in another city affects his Las Vegas show, and even his opinion on Louis CK’s surprise set at The Comedy Cellar in New York City.
What's your favorite place comedy has taken you?
I've been to a lot of cool places as a result of stand-up. Some crowds or states are a little more receptive to stand-up, but ultimately it's the magician, not the wand. It's up to me to make something happen. Some people are like, “that crowd is wack.” But sometimes you gotta point the finger at yourself and say, “What can I do to get everything going?” Germany was the hardest. Germans sometimes have a tough sense of humor.
You get a nice cross section of people in Vegas.
Instead of going to all those states, all those people come to this one state. We're building our show. It’s evolving. It takes time to get its legs. Ultimately, I have an idea in my head of what I want it to be and I'm just gonna stay and keep working towards it.
How did you feel it went the first night of the residency in July?
The crowd was a little tighter than normal, but I think it was a mix of people who didn't know what they are in for. Tonight (Aug 31), I have a lot of fans coming out. When you know what you're getting into, it tends to work well. It might have been a mix of casino people and not stand-up people. No show is ever the same. You just go and do your thing.
How are you going to get the show to where you want it to be?
Realistically it's going to take a couple of shows. I'm there monthly. To really get it where you're firing on all cylinders—this goes there, that goes there—it's just an evolving show. It's fun now, but the more you do it and the more you understand the room and the dynamics—the stuff I did last show, I might not do the next show because it didn't work. But then you keep adding to the things that do work and you have a tight ship.
So you’re really building a one-man show through your stand-up?
Every show is different. If you come one month, the next month is going to be different. So I’m not stressing about constantly coming up with new stuff because that’s just the way I work. It's the method to my madness.
I gotta ask you about the Louis CK comeback set this year.
To be honest, I don't comment too much about other comedians. I'll say this: sometimes comics talk poorly about other comics when really, they should just focus on their fans and their craft. As far as Louis CK, he's a funny man. He made mistakes. You can't hold him forever. People get back to their lives. Time will tell. I hope he can get back to where he once was but at the same time, I hope he's changed his ways.
Tell me about your relationship with your fans.
It's about them. I'm grateful that people dig what I do. I want to build a show in Vegas. I want to make it a great show. I hope we sit together in a year from now, things will be a little different, a little bigger because I'm going to bust my butt and make it happen.
Why is Hard Rock the right fit for you?
The brand of the Hard Rock and my humor both have an edge to it. The room is intimate. It's great for what I do. I could be at a big casino but if the room is huge and not conducive towards stand-up, it kind of falls flat. The style that I do, that intimate feel works for it.
Does it affect your residency that you live in Malibu?
Pros and cons like anything. I know once the show gets to where we would all like it to be, I think the next move would be me being here and really committing more dates to it and doing it. It's going to take time to build a little. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew and do lots of shows every single week when you have to establish it first.
Do you think there are too many comedy specials out there?
There's more comedy today than ever before. Obviously with the Internet today and Netflix and everything, it's great that people can get their talents out there in the world and connect to their audiences. For my style, it's tough to reign in an hour because I do a lot of crowd work. Trust me, I have the material. It's just that I operate at a different capacity. I'm looking forward to working on mine and getting it done because fans ask every time I do a show.
What was your taking-off point from headlining a club to having your name sell a show?
It wasn't one defining moment. It was 17 years of hard work. I've always hustled. Try to get new people through the doors, try to introduce them to my brand of comedy. I'm like a drug dealer. I give you a little cocaine and then you know where to find me.
Who are the performers that you felt like had that connection with the crowd that you are looking to get?
Katt Williams said something like, “When you book me that night, you get that show that night.” When you work in the world of crowd work, it's never going to be the same. That moment when you went to here, you created energy. Some comedians don’'t have jokes. Some comedians know every word they are going to say from beginning to end. For me, it’s more about creating energy.
Does crowd work go too far sometimes?
As a comedian, you gotta know when to cut it off. Some comedians don't have it. They just keep engaging. But sometimes you get people in the room that shouldn't be in the room that night. You get an audience member who’s maybe got an alcohol problem, a drug problem, a mental condition or they were raised in a way that they don't know proper etiquette. It happens. When you have the type of person who doesn’t respect the performer and alcohol is involved, they can ruin the show for everyone else. Ultimately, it’s about having good communication with the club staff and security, making sure they're on par with what's acceptable. If I paid for a show, I don’t want anyone else to tear it down.
When you’re doing a lot off the top of your head, sometimes it doesn’t come together right way. What if you're off a step or don't connect with the audience?
You gotta understand that it's okay that they’re not laughing all the time. You gotta be calm and know that—before I go on stage, everyone has their own mantra, I say to myself, “This is what I do.” And I go on stage and create a great show and give it the best I can. As a seasoned performer, you can get out of certain pockets and create. Some of the best shows I’ve ever had weren't huge big, big shows. They're the ones—maybe there weren’t that many people, maybe it wasn’t a huge notoriety show, but then you wind up having moments in that show where you're like, “Damn. My synapses were really hitting. I was really witty. I did a callback. I was on fire.” But you can't be on all the time.
Any advice for newer comedians?
If you want to have an edge and take care of your mind, don’t do drugs or drink. Have your mind and your sense of clarity. If you want to be prolific, not everyone is going to like you. You weren’t designed to have everyone like you. For me to sit in front of you and tell you, “I don't care what people think,” that would be a lie. On some level I do care. But the percentage ratio of how much I do care to not care is different. I might care 20 percent of what people think about me but the 80 percent doesn’t give a f*ck. I want people to think I’m funny but I’ve been doing this long enough to think that comedy is subjective and it’s okay you don't like me and I wish you find a comedian that works for you.
Why should people see you now?
You’re going to have a good time if you can take a joke. That’s something I can guarantee. If you enjoy some dirty jokes and some insult comedy, you’re going to have a great time. I can back it up. It’s always cool to see something before it gets really big, too. I know that with the right people around me, especially the Hard Rock behind me and the team around me, and if I stay focused, it’s gonna be even better. Regardless of when you come, it’s going to be a great show and The Wolf is gonna get you.