by Elise Czajkowski
September 20, 2013
A 25-year veteran of standup, Kathleen Madigan may be one of the most consistently great storytellers in comedy. Her third standup special, Madigan Again, premièred earlier this month on Netflix and will be available for download later this the year. She can also be seen on The Late Show with David Letterman next Friday, Sept. 27. I got the chance to talk to her over the phone recently about getting invited over to people’s houses, not knowing real jokes, and why she and Lewis Black have never been in the cool kids’ club.
How do you approach putting together a new special? Do you set out with a focus for the new hour, or is it just where your material is when you decide to record?
It’s where I am, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t feel like it was a really solid new hour. Like, I could have a new hour, but is it worth a special? It usually takes me about two years to write a new hour. And then people are like, “Oh, it takes too long.” Well, maybe it’s because I care. [Laughs] How ’bout that? I mean, I could pay writers to write me jokes, and I could stand there and just babble on if all that was required. But I’d rather it actually mean something to me. I just do it my way and it takes a little bit longer than if I paid people to write for me. But I’m fine with that.
I’m always so impressed by how seamlessly your shows flow – it really feels like just one long story. Do you develop it in that style, or do you just develop individual stories that you weave together?
The transitions just sort of appear. It really sort of does it on its own. I mean, I have to go on stage every night and do it, but the transitions become apparent. I’m not writing stuff on purpose to fit a transition, but things happen and then the transitions just make themselves clear. My act seems to go in chunks, and it’s always like the same four, maybe five chunks, which would be travelling, my family, politics, current events, and sport if any sports are really jumping out, like Olympic years. But it’s usually the same types, because that’s really what I’m interested in in life.