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Kevin Camia Interview

Kevin Camia is a staple of the San Francisco comedy scene. A storyteller by trade, Kevin doesn’t resort to the cheap laugh to draw an audience in, he uses tales of his life and experiences. Its worked out well for him, as Kevin is a regular up and down the California coast, playing at all the clubs it has to offer.

Rooftop was so impressed by Kevin, we decided to release his first CD, Kindness, on our label.

To promote it, we had interviewer Nathan Timmel chat with Kevin about the CD, its recording, and the musical instrument they share a fondness for.

NT: Tell me about the title of your new CD, Kindness. It has a very positive connotation to it, which is not something I think of when I think of stand-up comedy. Was that done on purpose?

KC: Well, I pretty much came up with the title because of one of the early bits I do on the CD. I say, “I know when somebody is trying to take advantage of my kindness.” It’s sort of a throwaway line, not even a punchline, or anything like that. It’s just, I realized a lot of my bits are kind of, not totally mean spirited, but it’s not nice. There’s a chance somebody could get offended, that’s kind of the idea. It’s not lilywhite, one-size-fits-all comedy. Basically, it’s supposed to be a little ironic.

NT: That’s funny, because as I said, I didn’t think “kind” and “comedy” went together.

KC: Yeah, and the cover of the CD is me riding on my cat, and smiling, which is not so super sweet.

NT: I’ve seen that; did you draw it yourself? And how did you come up with it?

KC: My friend Aiyana Udesen drew it. She used to work at The Punchline in San Francisco, and she went to an art school, so I figured if I ever made a CD, I’d have her do the cover. As far as riding a cat, that was an idea… [pauses] I dunno, [laughs] I guess there’s not really much to it; I just really like cats. I almost made it me riding a panda, because I have a couple panda jokes, but I just really like cats.

NT: Nothing wrong with that; I have two of them.

KC: Me too. [laughs]

NT: You mentioned a friend that was an artist; do you get inspired by other art forms outside of comedy, and does that help you with your comedy?

KC: Oh absolutely. My girlfriend is a playwright; she has masters in play writing, so we go to the theater a lot. And I used to play in several bands, so I see a lot of live music, and I still play a little bit. At The Punchline, there always seems to be a group of people who are in art school, or they’ve been to art school, so they just seem to “get it,” the creative lifestyle, which is nice.

NT: What instrument or instruments do you play?

KC: I play a Filipino instrument, called a bandurria, which is a fourteen-string instrument…

NT: Take that Tony Levin.

KC: [laughs] Yeah, the bandurria is kind of like a mandolin, but there are some strings that are in sets of three. It’s a traditional Filipino instrument, and in the band I would dress up as this sort of ‘fake rock star’ persona, and we would play traditional Filipino music, but rock it out [laughs]. One guy I used to play bass for, Sean Hayes, ended up getting pretty big. He’s a singer-songwriter kinda guy, and now he has all these albums out and plays all around the world, and I stopped playing with him just before he hit it big.

NT: It’s good to hear you play the bass. A damn fine instrument; I went to The Berklee College of Music for a couple years and studied and played jazz bass.

KC: That’s really cool. I’ve been getting into Mastodon lately; their bass player was really good and played intricate, melodic lines.

NT: You’ve mentioned The Punchline a couple times. Is that where you recorded Kindness?

KC: Yeah, I did it in one show, where I performed for about an hour and ten minutes, and then we cut it down to about fifty minutes. There are probably a couple little things I would have done differently, but now I can take notes for the next one. I was just looking forward to recording it so I could sort of ‘retire’ some of the bits, and look forward to writing new material. I was definitely nervous recording it, because I get really weird when I listen to myself perform, which made editing a trick, but I like how it turned out.

NT: I know what you meant about ‘retiring’ certain bits, but I think it was Doug Stanhope who said that once you put out a CD, that’s what the audience wants to hear. Like, you perform, and you sell them a CD of that show, those bits. So, not to challenge what you just said, but what are your thoughts on that?

KC: I get that. I mean, depending on where I am, I’ll do different parts of the CD. Like, if I’m where nobody knows me, I’ll do more of it, but back home at The Punchline, I’ll do less, because they’ve heard it already, and I always like writing and creating new material. I guess I’m looking at someone like Bill Burr, who every year has a new special, and new all new material. He’s one of my favorites, so I look at that and it’s something to shoot for. I want to challenge myself to come up with another forty-five or fifty minutes as soon as I can.

NT: Is San Francisco still your home? Are you considering a move?

KC: I’m still in San Francisco, but I plan to move at some point. All my friends, the people that started at the same time as me, have either moved to LA or New York, but I figure that when you move to LA you better have everything ready, you have to have your screenplay, your monologue jokes and all that. It’s so hard to do comedy in LA that you have to be more rounded. If I just wanted stage time, I can get that here.

NT: And New York?

KC: Yeah, a lot of my favorite headliners come from New York, but even they eventually move to LA. I dunno, I just like San Francisco… it gets a little crowded in LA and New York, and I like seeing things like trees, and nature.

Pick up Kevin Camia’s “Kindness” on iTunes.

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