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Laurie Kilmartin: Dead People Suck

 When comedian and CONAN late-night staff writer Laurie Kilmartin’s father died she was inspired to write her stand up special 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad. This hit show is now followed by her hilarious and instructive book Dead People Suck, detailing how Laurie and her family dealt with her father’s terminal cancer and tips on how to prepare for your demise (hint, clean up your search history), who knew death could be so funny? Our editor Kate Stone caught up with Laurie to talk about her book, grief and the future of comedy…

Kate Stone: You’ve written a book addressing what is probably most people’s worst fear head-on, the death of a parent. Tell us what readers can expect from Dead People Suck.

Laurie Kilmartin: Some good jokes, some bad jokes. Two or three tears. A few ideas on what to take care of before a parent dies, so you’re free to grieve uninterrupted when they do die.

KS: After the death of your father, did you take much solace in comedy?

LK: Comedy saved me from going under. I was overwhelmed with intense feelings of loss and despair, and the goal of turning those feelings into jokes gave me something to do and gave my grief a purpose.

KS: Comedy is supposed to address taboos and tear them down but you rarely hear comics talking about death. Why do you think so many stand-ups shy away from the subject?

LK: A few reasons- the first, many comics are in their 20s and 30s, and their parents are still alive. But it’s also a tricky path to lead an audience down, on a Friday night, between dick jokes. I do think comedy audiences now are more open to it, as opposed to the classic 1990s club crowd, which only wanted you to shit on the town next door to theirs.

KS: You wrote in the New York Times about comedy still being a male-dominated industry, what steps do you think need to be taken to help even out the gender balance?

LK: Hire more women. More female bookers, more female comics, more female club managers. They won’t all be miracle workers, but just the presence of more women forces men who are shitty to act better. In addition to making for a better comedy experience for the crowd.

KS: As a late-night staff writer on CONAN have you any tips for women trying to get ahead in a male-dominated industry?

LK: It might take you longer because of sexism but… it might not. If you love comedy, find a way to do it. You have future fans out there who don’t know you exist yet, so get onstage, women.

KS: What does the future look like for women in comedy?

LK: The amount of women onstage is changing the composition of the audience, they’re smarter and less hammered. The future looks full of women and equal pay!

KS: Who are your favourite funny women?

LK: I always draw a blank when I’m asked a question like this, there are so many. I’ll skip the famous ones and suggest my podcast pal Jackie Kashian, plus every female comic we’ve named Comic of the Week on our podcast The Jackie and Laurie Show (they’re always women). NYC and LA are teeming with funny women. I’m pretty sure my friend Marcella Arguello is going to run the world. I wish we knew more UK and Aussie comics. When Canadians like Deb DiGiovanni move to the States, they come here as fully formed headliners and they’re impossible to follow.

Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin is out on 13th March on Amazon and all good bookstores in the UK