Jen Kirkman talks about her new Netflix special and her Matthew McConaughey-inspired tattoo

Comedian Jen Kirkman attends Hilarity for Charity's 5th Annual Los Angeles Variety Show: Seth Rogen's Halloween at Hollywood Palladium on October 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Comedian Jen Kirkman attends Hilarity for Charity's 5th Annual Los Angeles Variety Show: Seth Rogen's Halloween at Hollywood Palladium on October 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

Needham’s own Jen Kirkman released a new comedy special, “Just Keep Livin’?,” on Netflix this week.

The special — her second on the streaming service — includes a range of personal stories, including Kirkman’s attempt at meditation, which led to road rage, and a trip to Venice that ended in the comedian dissecting her love life.

The stand-up artist and author of the recent memoir “I Know What I’m Doing — and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches From a Life Under Construction” chatted with the Globe about her new material and tour, which will bring her home to Massachusetts this fall.


Q. You’re doing a show at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston in September. Tell us about it.

A. I wish I could! It’s not a secret, but it’s my tour called the “All New Material, Girl” tour, meaning it’s all new material. So I had better get to thinking, and living, and complaining so that I can have lots of good stuff by my show at the Wilbur on September 20.

Q. Releasing a new Netflix special must be exciting for you.

A. It was really exciting taping it. I’ve already been paid, which is also exciting. Now here come the reviews and finding out what people think about it. Every comic goes through this. Once it comes out we start thinking, “Who do I think I am putting out a stand-up special?” But I am proud of it. It’s exactly what I’m like right now.

Q. I know that you travel a lot by yourself. Is there an item that you need to have with you?

A. I need my Neosporin to shove up my nose on the flight, a surefire way to avoid the germs of the person coughing next to you from flying up your nose. I have to travel with a mini speaker so that I can listen to music or podcasts in my hotel room. I have to have my laptop; I’m always answering e-mails and writing.


Q. The tattoo on your ankle reads “JKL,” which people have said has something to do with Matthew McConaughey. What’s that connection?

A. Matthew McConaughey’s personal motto is “Just Keep Living,’” which I am not making fun of because it’s actually the name of a children’s foundation/charity he started, which he sometimes calls “JK Livin.’” My initials are JK and I like to think of the way I go about life — doing what I want as “JK LIVIN” — it’s my little good luck charm. But the point of the joke in my act is that so many people get tattoos based on their religion or their spiritual beliefs, something that means something to them or the name of a family member that inspired them. I guess my life has been so empty that I have to read People magazine and tattoo something Matthew McConaughey said on my ankle.

Q. Your publicist asked me to discuss how you’ve tried to demystify women’s periods. Can you explain?

A. I do a bit about getting my period in this special. There’s a stereotype that women who are comedians only talk about their periods, which isn’t true. And there’s a stereotype that men don’t want to hear about it. I don’t know if that’s true. Who wouldn’t want to hear about how someone bleeds for days but doesn’t die? We are machines! But the joke is about how at my age, which is 42, one day I didn’t know what my period was, I thought it was my kidneys failing. And my doctor thought I was insane and told me to go home and rest my brain. Periods are funny because little girls aren’t taught about them either. We usually have to figure it out on our own. And then one day it just stops and the second half of our life we basically become men. Why wouldn’t people want to hear jokes about this? It’s insane and a never-ending supply of comedy.


Q. You seem to want to get men to be able to laugh at themselves.

A. We should all laugh at ourselves. My entire act is making fun of myself for how I handle my life. I just think that sometimes men don’t want to be made fun of by women. There’s that expression that women are afraid that men will kill them and men are afraid that women will laugh at them. I don’t do crowd work and make fun of actual men in the audience, I make fun of the alpha-male stereotype who yells out of his car at women and insists it’s “free speech.” . . . One area I want to keep poking at is men being able to laugh when women tell them what it’s like to live in the world with them. It’s how we all heal. That’s what comedians always say when they want to sound important: Laughter heals! Although . . . I’ve never seen a doctor for a prescription of laughter.


Interview was edited and condensed. Tommaso S. Auerbach can be reached at tommaso.auerbach@globe.com.