ED2022 Interviews ED2022 Theatre

Kim Kalish: The Funny Thing About Death

By | Published on Tuesday 23 August 2022

I think I may have said this (many times?) before, but there are so many interesting stories to hear at edfringe and so many interesting people telling them. When I heard about Kim Kalish and the show she’s brought to the Festival this year, I knew she was someone I had to connect with. 

Kim is a writer and performer, originally from New York, who has been working on stage since her teenage years, and whose storytelling, improv and sketch skills have led to her winning story slams and appearing on ‘Conan’.

Her Edinburgh show ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ is about her own experience of loss and grief, and it sounds amazing. 

I spoke to her to find out more about the show, about Kim, and how she’s getting on in Edinburgh. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ is all about? Do you tell a story? 
KK: ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ is about all the wacky things I did while grieving the love of my life who died suddenly at just 23 years old. For example, I bought $1000 worth of Billy Joel songs in about 30 mins – that’s how I had to grieve at that moment. It’s about falling in love and figuring out what to do with all that love once someone has died. 

CM: Is there a key message in the show? 
KK: I hope people take away that grief is a universal experience – we will all experience it at some point in our lives and that it’s okay to talk about it truthfully. Grief is bonkers. Your brain is trying to make sense of something that shouldn’t happen – in a perfect world, we would never lose anyone. And yet, we have to heal and sometimes that healing takes the form of singing karaoke the day he died. That’s OK. That’s grief so let’s talk about it. 

CM: What made you want to do a show tackling these themes?
KK: I think once you lose someone close to you, in one way or another, grief will always define you. And I don’t mean that in a solemn way. I’ve known grief and its quirks since I was 23 years old. It has helped shape who I am and what I believe. It took me almost ten years to figure out what I wanted to say about grief – that it’s okay to not be okay – and share it with people. 

CM: Is it difficult to deal with this topic? Or cathartic? Both?
KK: Definitely both. Writing this was both the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done. Leading up to actually putting pen to paper, I made a promise to myself that everything I shared on stage would be true – from the silly details to the more painful ones. And that’s what I’ve done.

Every detail in ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ is true. It was tough remembering all the small details – the ones that don’t always paint me in a flattering light – but I wanted to be honest because I want people to know that it’s okay to be honest about the all too human condition of grieving. 

CM: What made you decide to bring the show to Edinburgh this year?  
KK: I’ve been telling bits of this story on stage for years but when I thought about putting it all together into an hour and sharing it, I knew I wanted to do it in person. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe felt like the right place – one filled with performers and those who love theatre, where people want to connect on real emotions and art. It just felt right so I took a leap. 

CM: How is the show going so far? 
KK: So wonderfully! The audience response has been so warm and welcoming. I’m proud to say that we’ve gotten a standing ovation every night! More importantly, people have stuck around afterwards and shared their experiences with me and with others. People come for the laughs and stay for the connection. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. 

CM: Have you been to the Fringe before? How are you finding it? 
KK: I have not! This is my first time and I am just loving it so far. The people I have met – from other performers to Edinburgh locals – have been so kind and supportive. It really is a magical place. My biggest goal for Edinburgh has been to connect with people. I’m excited to see where the life of the show goes from here. 

CM: What have you been doing in town while you are not performing? What do you like about Edinburgh? 
KK: When not seeing other shows and supporting all these incredible artists, I’ve played tourist a bunch. I just hiked up to Arthur’s Seat this morning before the heat settled in and what a view! Ended up staying up there for quite some time just taking in the atmosphere.

I love just being here in the city – sitting at a cafe, people watching. Everyone is so friendly, so lovely! You can strike up a conversation with a stranger and learn about their story – it’s an amazing place. 

CM: Can we talk about the past a bit, now? How did you end up working in the entertainment industry, did you always want to be a performer?
KK: I started in musical theatre in New York when I was a teenager. In my 20s, I started performing improv and sketch with Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles that I started writing and producing.

I couldn’t ignore the entertainment business. I’ve tried. I pretended I was going to apply to law school – I didn’t – that I was going to get a ‘real job’ – I didn’t – it’s never stuck. I think it’s a calling. And if it’s in your bones, best to embrace it and just love what you’re doing and creating.

Plus it’s a blast – doing improv til the early morning in New York, getting up for a 5am call time for set – it’s such an incredible experience that I’m blessed to get to do. 

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far? 
KK: I’m so grateful that people have viewed my stories over 30 million times online. I’ve also gotten to do sketches on ‘Conan’ a dozen times and work with amazing comedy websites like College Humor and storytelling powerhouses like Soul Pancake.

My work has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Cheek, Indiewire and other online publications. Each time I get so excited that I get to make people laugh. It’s such a glorious way to make a living. 

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? 
KK: My plan is to keep writing and keep sharing stories in whatever medium will have me.  I’m inspired by people like Mike Birbiglia who gets to share his brilliant shows with the masses. I want to keep making people giggle and maybe talk about life in between those giggles. I’d love to see ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ be developed and have a wonderful post-Edinburgh life. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
KK: When I get back to the States, I’m working on a couple of writing projects that are in development. I’m also set to produce a short film. Plus we’re going to figure out what’s next for ‘The Funny Thing About Death’. Come find me on socials and follow along! I love sharing this journey with everyone. 

Kim Kalish performed ‘The Funny Thing About Death’ at Greenside @ Infirmary Street at Edinburgh Festival 2022.

LINKS: kimkalish.com | twitter.com/kimkalish