For 16 years, Andy Kindler’s annual State of the Industry lambast has been the must-see credentialed event, the one time suits jockey for sitting room up front, as opposed to elbow room at a venue’s back bar. “Let’s meet up at State of the Industry,” is akin to the theater crowd’s “Let’s do lunch at Sardi’s”; stating as apparently Elon Gold did, “This is the only hour in my life that I laugh,” cements one’s status as one of the Cool Kids (assuming there even are cool kids in comedy).
The hour and a half address was self-aware and kvetching as usual, preceded this year by an excellent introduction courtesy of Marc Maron. “Like Andy, I have absolutely nothing left to lose,” he offered, then described how touring with with Kindler is like “traveling with the history of the Jewish people.”
Yet something felt off, and it wasn’t merely Kindler’s running gag about odd microphone placement. The television screens, the branded banners, the lights and the red carpet clearly indicate that SOTI is a fully-sanctioned, downright embraced ribbing, leaving zero illusion of true nose-thumbing. Feeling like you’re doing something wrong by being in the room is half the fun, and a fake brick wall sporting fake graffiti isn’t going to change that.
“It has to be industry-related, or something I saw on TV…I’m going to ridicule things I’m not that familiar with,” Kindler noted up front of his range of topics. With no Last Comic Standing to kick around, the laundry list included the ShamWow pitchman, TMZ, how “Montreal found a way to do less than they least they could do” with two non-adjacent economy seats, Carlos Mencia, Tyler Perry, Howie Mandel, various agencies, Kevin James, Dane Cook, Carrot Top, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, Jay Leno, and, as ever, himself. However, his running commentary seemed harder hitting than his material, which often came across as just that…themed material. “Now this is just anger,” he admitted,” shaking his head at his notes. Yet it wasn’t the angry, Roast-oriented side of Kindler that most shone through. The best part of his humor has undoubtedly always been his self-effacing and hand-wringing. But with an ending like, “This could be my last year doing this speech. There’s a lot of things I could say right now…in lieu of crying. I get the feeling a lot of people come in here thinking something else is going to happen. Maybe I could get paid to stay home next year. Too real?”, the answer is a surprising “yes.”