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Jackie Kashian on Early Podcasting, Online Dating, Geeking Out

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With the runaway success of Serial, the spin-off of the popular radio show This American Life, some might get the impression that podcasting is this new thing that just started. However, those familiar with podcasts accurately point out that folks like Jesse Thorn, Marc Maron, and Jimmy Pardo have been doing popular podcasts for ages. Often forgotten in that list of pioneers is Jackie Kashian.

"I started four months after Pardo," notes Kashian. That was in 2006, a year after Keith and the Girl, but three years ahead of Maron.

[jump] Her show, The Dork Forest, began on a service called Blog Talk Radio, which allowed users to construct a podcast via telephone. The audio quality wasn't that great.

"It sounded like you were holding a telephone up to an AM radio," Kashian says. But the show caught on. It's a "safe space," as she often describes it, for people -- famous and not famous -- to discuss the things they geek out over. "I've been doing it for such a long time, and I do it because it's fun. I enjoy talking to people about what they're into."  

In 2010, her good friend and fellow comic Maria Bamford decided she was going to dip her toe into the podcasting sea. She almost immediately pulled back and offered the equipment she had purchased to Kashian, who gladly took it off her hands. Now The Dork Forest is part of the All Things Comedy Network, which was founded by comedians Al Madrigal and Bill Burr.

The title of her latest DVD, This Will Make an Excellent Horcrux, is really the only dork-related thing in her set. It was recorded here in Minneapolis last January. In the DVD and onstage these days she's more likely to make jokes about her family. Occasionally it's her siblings that provide the material, but more often it's her father. For example, she describes the time her father met her for coffee and he showed up wearing a sleeveless denim shirt and homemade Daisy Dukes. "Dad!" she exclaimed. "Where have you been in this outfit? And he says, 'fishing.' For men? It looked like he had just come from a gay rave."

"When I talked to him after the new DVD came out, he asked for a copy. It has a lot of personal stuff on it, more than my first two albums," she says. "I thought he might want to talk about that stuff, but all he wanted to talk about were the two bits about him."

Her husband has also become a source of material. Having hardly ever dated, she met him through an online service. "Online dating is great," she says. "Because you both go in knowing the other person is looking for someone who is willing to kiss you. 'Is this something you'd be willing to make out with?' And you see each other and sometimes it's, 'Nope!' Or maybe you go on three or four dates and by the end you're like, 'Yeah, probably.'"

For Kashian the biggest challenge about dating was trying to unlearn everything she knew about relationships from hanging out with male comics. "Standup is all I did," she states. "And occasionally I would meet a fella, nature would take its course, and I'd feel pretty."

However, her male comedian colleagues were of little or no help. "There are basically three jokes male comics tell about their wives. One: Once you get married, women stop having sex. Two: They spend all your money. Three: They're all bitches, man."

So for the past five years, Kashian has stuck to a carefully crafted plan to make sure none of those are true of her. "I'm making sure everyone is happy in the sack, I don't hemorrhage his money, and if I have a negative emotion, I stuff it. Because that will never backfire."

As for her comedic approach to the subject, she has always tried to take a different path than other female comedians. "If you listen to all the comedy about marriage, none of it seems to be about how to be good at it," she notes. Where the guys talk about how awful their wives and girlfriends are, using the same premises, woman seem to limit their set-ups to certain subjects.

"There's the one about how the sexiest thing a man can do is his chores, that's been covered. And then there's the whole thing about how they like to go through their husband's or boyfriend's cell phone or web history. This is great information on how not to be a crazy person. I don't have time to go through my own emails, I'm certainly not going to go through my husband's email. There's no standup comedy about how to trust your significant other, but there's comedy gold there if I can figure it out."

IF YOU GO:

Jackie Kashian

Acme Comedy Co.

708 N. First St., Minneapolis

8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

$18

For tickets, call 612-338-6393 or visit www.acmecomedycompany.com