By: Nick A. Zaino III
March 27, 2014
Back before Kathleen Madigan was packing clubs and theaters as a stand-up comedian, she was making people laugh behind a bar in St. Louis. There were a lot of locals at the bar, and one in particular, a guy named Bill, used to come in every Monday when the horse track was closed. He wrote the racing picks for the local paper and was considered a “hard gambler,” according to Madigan. He wore a horseshoe ring and had a tough demeanor. No one thought Bill could laugh.
But Madigan made Bill laugh “all the time,” she says. “He was the nicest guy in the world. He just looked serious.”
Confident that her regulars found her funny, Madigan decided one night to go next door and see if she could make a whole crowd laugh at a stand-up comedy open mike. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I can make money doing this?’” she says. “At work I’m doing that part for free. I’m making money because I’m pouring drinks. But I could just stop pouring drinks? That’d be great!”
She hasn’t had to pour a drink in a long time. These days, her tour schedule is packed with theaters and opera houses. She sold enough tickets at the 1,200-seat Wilbur Theatre to add a second show Saturday.
Her success has been gradual, but that’s fine by Madigan. “The only thing I wouldn’t be able to tolerate is no change or a backward slide,” she says. “I wouldn’t do that. I would go open a bar.”