Childfree Comedian Myq Kaplan Does {not} Want Children…to Exist At All

Here at w{n}hab! we’ve liked comedian Myq Kaplan ever since we caught him on the 2010 season of Last Comic Standing. Recently our like of Myq went up a few levels after we watched a clip of him on the Letterman Show. Go ahead and watch:

Good stuff, right?

After seeing this we had to contact Myq for an interview. So, we emailed him. He responded. Almost immediately. His answer was yes. This was good because otherwise we were going to do a pretend interview. What follows are his actual thoughts and words.

Seriously.

Q & A

w{n}hab! – So, in our emails leading up to this interview, we asked if you were childfree. Your answer was “I am currently child-free by choice. I don’t claim I know everything about how I’ll feel in the future, but for the foreseeable portion of it, no children for sure”. A number of our readers would call that undecided rather than childfree. So, in the interest of full disclosure, on a scale of 0 to 1000% – we understand that you are 1000% vegan – how ‘childfree’ are you?

M.K. – Thanks for asking!

I’m not a huge fan of labels in general (I label myself a “non-labeler”). I know that they can certainly be useful sometimes, but I think that sometimes they can get in the way of greater understanding, compared with laying out a more specific set of facts and information than a label itself could possibly provide.

To be honest, this might be the first time that I’ve heard the phrase “childfree,” so I used it initially as what it looked like it means, “being free of children,” which I currently am, and plan to be for the foreseeable future. About a year ago, I had been dating a woman very seriously for about a year, with us both knowing that she ultimately wanted children and that I wasn’t sure, but that I was leaning towards no. We broke up because she knew that in the next ten years, her ideal was to have three children, and that definitely wasn’t what I wanted.

Growing up, I assumed that I would get married and have children, as was presented by my parents, society, pop culture, etc., and I did get married at one point, to a woman who shared my ambivalence towards having children, or lack of current desire to have them. We were both working on careers in the arts/entertainment, and so the climate of our lives and careers at the times were not necessarily practically conducive to having children, so we talked about a vague future where if things were more secure, maybe we would adopt, what with how many children there are that already exist, before thinking about creating more ourselves.

But it was always a future consideration, and still remains that way for me. I’m 35 now, and I’ve always felt “maybe later I’ll want them,” but haven’t ever felt a specific desire to make that “later” happen anytime soon. So if things continue the way they have, I feel pretty confident that I won’t be creating any children of my own on purpose, for sure. But my only hesitation in using definitive language or numbers here is that things DON’T always continue the way they have. I’m a different person than I was five years ago, ten years ago. Even as an adult my life and thought processes continue to evolve, so I personally don’t feel comfortable decreeing anything 100% about the future, in the interest of accuracy. But right now, no kids, thanks! So, 99%?

(I would also add that I wouldn’t call myself 1000% vegan, or even 100%. If animals are treated humanely, I have no problem with people eating them. Or if they came up with meat that tasted good and was made from animal stem cells that didn’t cause any pain in the collection, I would be fine with that. The label “vegan” isn’t the most important part of why I’m vegan; it’s about behaving in a way that I think has the most positive utilitarian effects for me, other beings, and the world in general.)

So, if that makes me “not childfree,” I’m okay with that. I don’t need to dilute the label.

w{n}hab! – We appreciate what you said about the label childfree. We certainly agree that it encompasses a range of people who self-identify as childfree, from those that militantly never want children to fence-sitters with a tilt towards not having children. We personally identify as childfree in the sense that we know we will never have children of our own. However, if some calamity occurred to one of our siblings, we would care for our nephews/nieces in a heartbeat.
So there…in your face, labelers.
We do think the label is important when it comes to research questions. Historically, social science research has lumped the childless (people who wish they could have children) with the childfree (people who don’t want children). Kind of like lumping smokers and second-hand smokers together. If you lump childless and childfree together it is unlikely that you’ll get good answers to questions about relationships, happiness, life course, etc.
Moving on, how did you come to the conclusion that you most likely won’t have kids?

M.K. – I might have covered this above some, but it’s a lot of things. One, I don’t really feel the specific desire that I know a lot of people have. (I know that many people don’t feel it until they HAVE the kids, but I’m fine currently not having it, and staying that way.) Two, I know how difficult it is, and while I don’t think that difficult jobs should be avoided at all costs, I enjoy my life the way it is, with its specific difficulties and eases as I’ve chosen them thus far.  Three, I know that I enjoy life, and if it could be guaranteed that a child would experience life positively as well, I might consider it more, but the future is unknown, and risking the creation of a whole new consciousness is pretty daunting, philosophically. Which is why adoption seems potentially more ideal for my purposes, if I ever were to acquire a child. (That’s who gets to adopt children, right? People who call it “child acquisition”?)

And again, it’s not a conclusion (because my life is not yet concluded), but more a working theory (or hypothesis) that thus far is bearing out these results, that I will not be bearing a child (or being with someone else who will). Of course, like any theoretical endeavor, I’m open to receiving more data and altering my theory. But so far, no kids! (Nor the desire.)

w{n}hab! – Clearly you’ve invested a lot of thought in this, something we think more people should do. Your thinking sounds very similar to where we were about 15 years ago. The idea that people are supposed to have kids and that they’re supposed to want to have kids was percolating around our minds but we never had the desire. We finally decided that we’d be just fine without.
What can you imagine that might incline you towards having kids? Maybe the need for new standup material? Generous government subsidies? A booming market for baby veal? Mmmm, vegan baby veal…

M.K. – I’m pretty sure my life and the world will be all set for material indefinitely, or definitely, as it may be… (finitely) … I’ve had a fine time incorporating material from visits with friends who have children, so if I ever run dry and want to talk about kids, I’ll just plan some more of those visits.

Sincerely, financial security is certainly one aspect of my life that, were it completely guaranteed forever, would be one step towards inclining me to have kids. I live my life pretty much the way I want right now, knowing that no one is ever completely secure, in my line of work or any, really. Since we don’t know the future, whether there might be an apocalypse after which stand-up comedy isn’t so valuable any more, I’m erring on the side of not risking a whole new being’s future. My own is plenty.

So, I guess here’s the only thing that would completely guarantee that I would have children: knowledge of what happens in my future, both with and without children, with the children side ending up with me happier and/or the world better off, by some measure of quality and quantity made as objectively as possible.

w{n}hab! – So, time travel and/or a few sessions with Zoltar might cement the decision either way. Fair enough.
During your recent appearance on Letterman you mention that some people get offended when you say you don’t want kids, an experience our readers know well. Tell us about your most memorable experience(s).

M.K. – Honestly, more people than not respond positively. In a full headlining set, I certainly say more about where I am, compared to where people who choose to have children are, including something like this… if I have this attitude, why would you WANT me to have kids? The idea that people “should” have them isn’t something that most reasonable people get behind, I think, in this day and age. Maybe it made/makes sense in times/places where in order to keep the society in order, the people machine had to keep churning, but I don’t feel like I owe the future human race anything, and/or if I do, I’m doing my part by NOT adding to overpopulation and potential resource depletion. This is getting slightly far afield, but I guess my point is that a lot of people come up to me after shows who ARE parents and tell me they appreciate what I’m saying, and don’t have any problem with it. I guess the reason I say that sometimes people are offended is just based on my sense of how audiences react when I first start addressing the topic from the stage, and not specific people confronting me after shows like “I’M BUSY WITH CHILDREN AND YOU’RE LAZY AND I WANT YOU TO BE LIKE ME BECAUSE I’M SAD!”

w{n}hab! – You would think that (otherwise) reasonable people in this day and age would be on board with the idea that not having children is a valid choice. However, we never fail to be amazed at how many people really do take offense at the choice. The reasons for offense vary, from parents ‘robbed’ of their expected grandchildren to those who want everyone to ‘share the pain’ of parenting to friends that think you’ll never truly be happy unless you have children to those that literally think you’re letting your country down.
The only thing we can compare this kind of irrationality to in our lives is how we feel about people that don’t like sushi. How can anyone NOT LIKE SUSHI? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE! (We kid, we kid… more sushi for us.)
Anyway, how do you respond when people are offended? Do you have any canned/favorite responses? Come on, funny guy!

M.K. – This question offends me! How do YOU deal with it? Do you disregard what I just said because I’m joking? You should!

I don’t have any “canned” responses. All my responses are fresh! Here comes one now…

I’ve had people write to me, either through email or Facebook messages, or sometimes coming up to me after shows, but mostly online, about jokes that touched on topics they thought I shouldn’t be joking about. If they seem like a non-crazy person, I will often write back briefly and aim to address their concern, explaining why whatever negative reaction they had wasn’t intended, that I don’t wish death or suffering on anyone, that I don’t hate autistic people, whatever it is. Sometimes I’ll have a reasonable back and forth with people, and most of the time we’ll either come to an understanding, or at least agree to disagree.

We’re people! We’re all allowed to say pretty much whatever we want (thanks America!), and other people are allowed to have whatever feelings they have. In some situations, I believe that getting offended, or at least LINGERING in that offended feeling, is a choice. If someone I don’t know says something I don’t like, I don’t usually yell at them. I’ll just keep living my life, saying my own things, and hoping that people agree more with me about important things than other people.

So I guess you could say my response to people who are offended is “Why are you offended? Let’s try to discuss it as humans and come to a mutual understanding.” Boom! Roasted.

w{n}hab! – We can’t imagine how that response – “Let’s try to discuss it as humans and come to a mutual understanding.” – would ever fail, especially on the internet, the ultimate bastion of civil discourse.
w{n}hab! (Lance) – I’ve been told sarcasm doesn’t always play well when written…someone really needs to invent Internet Mark II, aka “Sarcasmanet”.
w{n}hab! – Why do you think people care about your decision to be childfree(-ish)?

M.K. – Well, I guess people like you care because I’m someone who’s speaking publicly about it in a way that resonates/resonated with you, and there are probably lots of people out there who feel like this as well, some with kids, some without. So, some people might react positively to it, and others might react negatively, if they’re not in their ideal situation with respect to this issue, and my talking about my decision rubs them the wrong way. Maybe?

In general, I would say probably most people DON’T care about my decision. But inasfar as some people DO, it’s probably because I’m talking about it and they’re listening. And people don’t like to think of themselves as wasting a lot of time, so maybe they justify after the fact that they MUST care about what I’m talking about, because they spent time listening to me. And I support that idea: listening to me is not a waste of time! Do it, anyone who wants to!

(Also, I like the phrase “childfree-ish.” I’m a big “-ish” fan in general. Props to Dan Savage for “monogamish.” And has anyone coined “atheish”? If not, here it is!)

w{n}hab! – How long have you been incorporating childfree humor into your standup?

M.K. – My last girlfriend and I broke up in February of 2012. She was the woman who wanted children more and in greater quantities and sooner than I, but I loved her a lot, so that conflict was something that I really did think and care about a lot, and when something substantial like that is going on in my thought process, material on that subject will start, well, materializing. (Material, I zing!)

So that’s probably when I started writing and working that material into my sets. In April of 2013, I recorded an hour of my standup in Boston (which will be released as a special on Netflix as well as an audio album, in May of 2014, called “Small Dork and Handsome”), which laid down what I had been working on up until that point, not including any of the childfree-ish business, so from that point on, I’ve been building my next hour, which isn’t EXCLUSIVELY about this topic, but will have a lot about it within.

w{n}hab! – We want to start this question with an observation…at about 1:29 in the Letterman clipyou tell a joke about meeting your girlfriend. Both of you are childfree, love at first sight, birds sing, fireworks explode, etc. The punchline is that you’ll be able to tell this beautiful story of how you got together in 50 years…to someone else’s grandchildren. Prior to this, the audience seems a little reticent to laugh at your childfree material, but then you get big laughs and applause at what is really a self-deprecating joke.
Are we reading in to this too much or is that what it feels like from the stage?

M.K. – honestly don’t know if I agree with any of your assessments, but that’s what’s great about art and the world; everyone can have their opinions!

In that set, the first planned joke starts out “I don’t want children…” and ends with the punchline “to exist at all”… So, I don’t think people are reticent about the concept of not wanting children, but more they are reticent about the idea of me wanting there to be no children in existence (a thing that I actually do not want, which I think people understand). Have children if you want them and can take care of them, anyone who does and can!

Also, I feel like that joke and the subsequent ones typically get fine reactions from crowds in general, and actually the one about my girlfriend that you mention isn’t usually the biggest laugh among them. Sometimes standup on TV gets reactions that are different from the same way these jokes do in front of live, non-TV audiences. (For example, the first “I don’t want children” joke, as well as the one about people getting offended, usually do consistently better than the girlfriend one.)

Finally, I honestly don’t see the “grandchildren” line as self-deprecating. It’s interesting to me that you do… I mean, I certainly understand that having grandchildren can be a pleasurable experience, often a better one than having children (though more difficult to get to without that intermediate step), but I see not having grandchildren as more of an extension of not having children, which I view as positive. If I’m with my girlfriend in 50 years, not having had children, it will be because that’s what we wanted and planned and brought to fruition (we were fruitful and didn’t multiply, having done the math on multiplying), with nothing self-deprecating about it.

w{n}hab! – Interesting. Just goes to show you that not everything really is how we see it, or choose to see it! Deep lesson, sensei.
Putting aside how it affected your previous relationships, I think that you genuinely aren’t all that personally affected by your (current) choice to not have children. There is a real male vs. female divide when it comes to this decision though. Speaking from personal experience, based on what we hear on our blog, and based on Amy’s research, males don’t get nearly the kind of harassment that women do. Of course, this varies geographically. Being a childfree woman in the bible belt is different than being one in Manhattan or LA. With that in mind, have you ever discussed with your girlfriend what response she gets to being childfree?

M.K. – I asked her about it, and she says that in general, her friends are nice people whether they have kids or not, and no one makes her feel bad about living her life the way she wants to. She loves kids and they love that she’s a good available baby-sitter. The only person who might sometimes push back is her mother, just in the way that mothers stereotypically do. But most people in her life (mother included) understand that her most important life goals aren’t child-oriented.

w{n}hab! – That’s great! Can we be friends with your friends? 🙂 Moving on…how do audiences generally respond to your childfree material relative to your other stuff?

M.K. – I’ve talked in my act about a lot of topics from sides other than mainstream conventional cultural consensus (non-monogamy, non-ominvoraciousness, nonotheism, etc.), so I wouldn’t say that this topic is any more off-putting than any of those, and in fact, because this is something that DOES affect a lot of people’s thought process whether they have children or not, I would say this is something that people might be responding to even more, emotionally, connectively. For example, there are plenty of people with kids who come up to me after shows and tell me they understand exactly where I’m coming from.

That said, topics aren’t what audiences respond to, one way or the other. The quality of the comedy isn’t dependent on the topic. I’ve written jokes that people love about topics they might have thought they’d hate, and I’ve written jokes that people haven’t loved about the most innocuous of topics.

w{n}hab! – Any additional advice, wisdom, or commiseration to share with this captive audience of like-minded folks?
Myq Kaplan & His Words

Myq Kaplan & His Words
Courtesy Mindy Tucker

M.K. – Like-minded or not, thanks for reading and checking out my comedy, or doing whatever you’re doing. Enjoy your lives doing whatever makes you happy without infringing on the capacity for others to do so, ideally! Be honest with yourself and the people in your life, and live as happily and productively as you want and can. And the way to be most happy and productive is to visit my website (myqkaplan.com), listening to my podcast (katg.com/hang), and buying everything I ever make. Or whatever you were already doing.

Thanks sincerely!

w{n}hab! – Thank you Myq!

Bonus! Want more Q & A childfree funniness? Check out our interview with Jen Kirkman, stand-up comedian, writer (Chelsea Lately), and author (I Can Barely Take Care of Myself).

One Response to Childfree Comedian Myq Kaplan Does {not} Want Children…to Exist At All

  1. Grackle February 5, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

    Love Myq!!

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