Jamie Kilstein is looking forward to playing Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy this week at High Street in North Phoenix.
However, it isn’t the typical energy he usually feels before a set of shows.
“There’s something so exciting right now, even if the crowds are smaller,” Kilstein says. “It’s really cathartic for everyone who has been trapped inside watching the terrible news and everyone is fighting politically.”
He says the crowd is happy to have a diversion—especially in New York where he used to perform often. New York audiences could be jaded; even Kilstein felt that way.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 17,” Kilstein says. “I dropped out of high school to do this. You become jaded and, when you have a year like this with loss and struggles, you just forget how important comedy is. People forget about laughter and just chilling out and getting out of your head. We need to enjoy ourselves in a roomful of friends.”
Kilstein has another reason to perform—and celebrate. His album, “25% Capacity,” is due out December 4. He says the album—his first in more than a decade—was recorded illegally in a “super shady warehouse in Colorado” while clubs were on lockdown.
“I walked in and it looked like the shop at the beginning of ‘Gremlins,’” Kilstein says.
“There was a cat wandering around and some beer-making distillery thing. The owner asked if we were cops and immediately told us to close the doors and not to let the cat out. It wasn’t exactly the Sydney Opera House. There were probably 30 people there.”
His first two albums were recorded in Chicago’s Lakeshore Theater, which closed in 2010.
“I wanted an album that represented 2020 and what a better way to represent 2020 than recording in an underground speakeasy of 30 people wearing masks,” he says with a laugh.
“We didn’t know if the mic was going to work. It was very purposely set up that way. The name of it is ‘25% Capacity’ and even the artwork was not fancy. It looks like a mixtape from when I was a kid. It’s above COVID and it’s about loneliness and this is the first year that I was ever single, which is quite the bold year to get over co-dependence.”
Two younger fans of his learned how shady the warehouse was.
“They flew in from Portland and it was literally in this warehouse district of Denver,” he says. “It was so shady the Uber driver didn’t want to drop them off. He didn’t feel comfortable.
“The album is an honest representation of what I was going through; what the world’s going through and what a show sounds like now. It’s a cool time capsule.”
Kilstein says he used to be a “little self-righteous yelling political comedian.” There’s no agenda and he no longer has to persuade people of his political stance.
A New York native, Kilstein is now a resident of the Grand Canyon State. He moved to Tucson recently to try to save a dying relationship. This is the first time he hasn’t lived in a coastal city.
“The pace, the nature—I love it,” he says. “Everyone’s very nice. I don’t see myself ever going back to LA.
“I love it so much. I can’t go back to cities anymore. I live kind of above Tucson, in the mountains. Even when I go to Denver or whatever, I said, ‘This is too crowded.’ I love the space out here. I don’t see how I would move back to LA, without having a mental breakdown.”
Various times Wednesday, November 25, and Friday, November 27, to Sunday, November 29
Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, 5350 E. High Street, Phoenix