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Kathleen Madigan on Why She Admires Joan Rivers, Doesn’t Fight With Lewis Black, and Could’ve Predicted the Ferguson Tragedy

By: Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix New Times
September 17, 2014

Stand-up comic Kathleen Madigan has never been shy about skewering herself. In fact, she can be both candid and clever when joking about her drinking habits, gambling habits, lack of ambition in the gym, Irish-Catholic upbringing, or perpetual singlehood while onstage or in her most recent special, the hilarious Netflix special from last year, Madigan Again.

The comedienne also gets especially snarky when riffing on pop culture and topical issues, except when it comes to certain current events of a tragic nature. Despite comedy’s well-known formula of “tragedy plus time,” Madigan told us during a recent interview via telephone that she refrains from cracking wise about “things that are just are stupid tragic, like 9/11″ when performing.

“There’s some comics who say there’s never anything off limits, and I guess that’s true, but I try to shy away from stuff that I know was painful for a lot of people,” Madigan says. “Like they don’t need to be reminded of that at a comedy show. You can’t go a comedy show to escape.”

Our conservation wasn’t entirely of a ponderous nature over social issues, as we also discussed her friendship with fellow comic Lewis Black, her longtime admiration of Joan Rivers, and how she attended the late comedienne’s final performance in New York.

How much of an influence was Joan Rivers on you, either personally or in your comedy career?
I was always a big fan. Here’s why she appealed to me: I liked that Joan Rivers’ primary job was just being a comedian, just telling jokes. Yes, she had the fashion thing, the side thing later in life, but there were so many people who go, “How come you don’t have a sitcom? How come you’re not in movies?” Well, I didn’t start comedy to do a sitcom; I never even thought about that, I just liked being a comedian.

I reached my goal, I’m doing my goal. I don’t understand why I’m supposed to have another goal. I don’t know who started that crap. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a sitcom or any of that, I’m just a bigger fan of the people that go [onstage], just because I feel that I relate to that more. There’s nothing more fun than telling jokes in front of live people to me.

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You won’t read a success story like Madigan’s again

By Jackie Varriano
The Register Guard
September 12, 2014

Founded in 1983, Montreal’s “Just for Laughs” is the largest international comedy festival in the world.

Comedian Kathleen Madigan has appeared at the festival six times over her 25-year career. And it was at one of those appearances that she was asked by a journalist if performing at the festival was a “dream come true for her.”

Madigan replied that she didn’t want to sound rude, but that she had never had this dream — the dream of being a comedian who appears at the largest comedy festival in the world.

“I did go to the horse track with my dad every Friday night, and I wanted to be the first woman to win the Kentucky Derby. And had I done that I could say, ‘Oh, this is a dream come true,’ ” she said during a recent phone call.

“But I never thought about being a comedian. It never entered my mind.”

While there still hasn’t been a winning woman jockey at the Kentucky Derby (the closest is Rosie Napravnik, who finished fifth in 2014), Madigan is firmly ensconced in the world of a touring comedian. And I don’t think we’ll get her on a horse any time soon.

But just like Rosie Napravnik, Madigan holds her own in a male-dominated scene. She’s got a blue collar, Irish Catholic background. Her act is a collection of stories of her family, observations of the world and more, all told in her low, slightly raspy voice.

Her direct, no-nonsense style has turned heads on such shows as “Last Comic Standing” and E!’s “101 Best Celebrity Oops!” She’s been a guest on “The View,” “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and many more.

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At the Casinos: Comedian Kathleen Madigan brings ‘mental vacation’

By: Lawrence Specker
August 4, 2014

Comedian Kathleen Madigan has an appetite for Biloxi. And she’s not just looking forward to the stage at IP Resort, Casino & Spa, where she’ll perform on Saturday, Aug. 9.

“My biggest expectation is that I’m going to have time to go to Mary Mahoney’s, with the greatest crab claws in the history of America,” she said. “And I like the bar there. … I plan on watching the sunset and going to Mary Mahoney’s and after that — oh! — The [Half Shell] Oyster House, for the grilled Cajun oyster. I’m not even a foodie, that’s how good the food is in Biloxi.”

One gets the sense, talking to Madigan, that she has a way of making herself at home in just about any situation. Probably that’s because she’s at home with absurdity, and sees it wherever she looks.

Fans watching her Twitter feed this summer have seen her get fired up by both the World Cup and the British Open. In the latter event she was obviously thrilled with Rory McIlroy and amused by Tiger Woods’ efforts to explain his lackluster performance.

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Mega Stars of Comedy Review

Montreal Gazette
July 26, 2014

Friday night, the Just for Laughs late gala was host-less with a lineup crammed with strong comic personalities: Lewis Black, Tommy Tiernan, Ron White, Loni Love, Shaun Majumder, Kathleen Madigan, Mike Wilmot and Marc Maron. The critics are Bill Brownstein and me (Denise Duguay). Read our reviews below. Check over the weekend as we report back from Saturday galas hosted by Bill Burr and Seth Rogen and Sunday galas hosted by Jim Gaffigan and Russell Peters. (Note: We weren’t able to get a photographer to the gala Friday night, but you can view photos of the gala hosts and performers so far right here. We’ll have fresh photos from Saturday night.)


BB: This is what a gala should be. Mega-Stars as a title for this show is not a stretch here. Pretty much wall-to-wall hysterics. And without some disinterested sitcom-star doing a bogus job of hosting and flubbing lines from the teleprompter. Organizers would be hardpressed to put together a much stronger lineup. Okay, the addition of Louis C.K., Bill Burr, TJ Miller, Jim Gaffigan and Jerrod Carmichael would have been comedy heaven. But no complaints whatsoever with Lewis Black, Mike Wilmot, Tommy Tiernan, Marc Maron, Kathleen Madigan and Ron White. My guts were aching. Wish I could have bottled all their bits together and break it out during the bleakest days of February.

DD: What is the best treatment for a tooth ache? Comedy! The inevitably unsuccessful last-minute call to the dentist Friday afternoon and regular doses of ibuprofen are not doing the trick. But this all-star lineup had me laughing hard enough to forget the pain for nearly two hours.


BB: None. And thank-you comedy gods for small mercies.

DD: I like having a host and missed one Friday night. The evening was overall very strong, but it took a while for the momentum to build, which I’ll blame in part on the dead pauses between acts.


BB: Where to begin? Madigan on her mom’s wish to sit in the front of the plane, because she thinks it’s safer: “When was the last time you saw a plane back into a mountain?” The ever-raging Maron: “I live alone … I guess that should be clear.” Maron on empathy: “I didn’t know what it was and, coincidentally, I was incapable of it.” Black on current American espionage: “We’re spying on Germany now … too late!” Black on poll of Amercians’ love of Congress: “More people love lice and colonoscopies than Congress – and nobody loves lice and colonosopies.” Black on colonoscopies: “Things came out of me that I had long forgotten about … like the watch my grandfather gave me for my bar mitzvah.” The ever-ragjng Wilmot: “I just quit smoking and my wife is full-on menopausal … Wanna come over?” Wilmot on trying to will himself to death as a consequence of the latter: “She thinks I’m not listening. No, I’m just trying to stop my heart with my brain.” White on a killer whale at SeaWorld that killed people: “That’s why they’re called killer whales, not ocean ponies.” And the barking-mad Tiernan on everything from his three year-old child from hell to his Maori rugby war-dance to his view on Irish evolution: “We’re not Celts. We’re anemic Algerians.” Best gala yet. And one that could be awfully hard to top.

DD: Madigan on not being able to sleep over at her parents’ Florida apartment complex because she doesn’t make the 55+ age requirement and her suggestion for how to make Sarah McLachlan’s pet-rescue commercials more successful (a beagle puppy in one hand, a pistol in the other and a clock in the background: “If someone doesn’t make a donation in 45 minutes…); Maron on hipster coffee, his cat Monkey and, of course, his victory at, if not stemming the tide of his “river of rage,” then progress (“Closing the gap between outburst and apology, the best I can do. ‘Shut the f-ck up and I’m sorry!’ … Contempathy.”); Dr. Lewis Black’s visceral guide to colonoscopy prep; Love on Morgan Freeman (“Has Morgan Freeman ever been young? Like he was born 65!”); Wilmot on quitting smoking (instead of the measly nicotine patches, “I want a nicotine onesy that I can crawl into.”) and discovering that cooked (and sometimes uncooked) chicken is a survival strategy for living with his pre-menopausal wife; White on airport-security revenge (I take two Viagra and demand a pat down!) and every word that Tiernan barked.


BB: None. Zilch. Either that or someone slipped me some mighty fine meds.

DD: The evening got off to a slow start with Shaun Majumder, which seemed due to slow-building audience energy more than his performance.



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Working not just for laughs but for cash: Four comedians on their career choice

By Brad Wheeler
Globe and Mail
July 23, 2014

Everybody’s a comedian, right? Wrong. We all know funny people, but only a select few make a living at it. Some of those pros are giving performances at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal, happening through July 28. We asked four of them the same question: When did you first realize that you were a career comedian?

Don Rickles, the charismatic insulter: “I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was trying to be an actor. I studied really hard, but it was a tough road to go. I used to go to private parties and kid around, and I got good reactions. I developed a style, and caught on with people. They laughed. So I said, ‘Hey, this is the way I’m going to be going, because the acting part is tough.’ So I tried that out. I had a lot of rejection, but I kept going and they kept laughing and applauding. My style was very different. It still is. I have a great deal of charm. I’m not hateful – nothing mean- spirited. I’m not a joketeller. It was my personality and my attitude, and it’s always worked for me. That’s the secret of comedy, being different from the next guy. Someone like Bob Newhart, on the other hand, he’s not talented at all. He’s a stiff. He’s not going any place, and I’ve told him that.” (July 23 and 25)

Kathleen Madigan, the user-friendly observational Midwesterner: “I stumbled upon an open-mic night. I was bartending in St. Louis, and we couldn’t drink at the bar where I was working. So a couple of us went to another bar that happened to have an open-mic night. I was busy. I had just gotten out of college, and I was looking for a real job. But me and another bartender kept doing the open-mic for fun, until somebody offered me a gig at another place. It was for $50, and, not to be forgotten, a porterhouse steak. As soon as I got that pay, I realized I could probably get paid again. And I did. But I’m not sure a comedian is still what I want to be. Some comedians have this thing, that they always wanted to be one and it’s a dream come true. It wasn’t my dream, though. I get paid. It’s a fun job. But I’m actually thinking of opening a bar in Ireland.” (July 24 and 25)

Tommy Tiernan, the Irish storyteller: “It was in an ordinary run-of-the-mill pub in Ipswich, England. I had performed in Ireland, but there was no long-standing, historical comedy scene there. But there was in England. I got paid £100, and there was something about terra firma in the English comedic world. I realized that it would always be there for me, that irrespective of what happened, I always would be able to earn a living working the clubs of England. The thing is, I discovered something since then. That terra firma I felt then doesn’t exist for me now. I am unsure of my solidity in this business, and I always will be. It’s a creative wasteland sometimes you find yourself in. You think, ‘I’ve gone to the well so many times.’ You go back, and it’s not there any more. There’s a little man standing where your well used to be and he tells you that your well has moved and that he can’t tell you where and you’ll need to find it again. So, I think those concepts of solidity and assurance don’t last. Not for me, anyway.” (July 21 to 26)

Lewis Black, the acerbic American monologist: “I still can’t believe I am a comedian. I can’t believe people are allowing me to get away with this. There was no exact moment when I first realized that I’d be doing it for a living, really. I just found myself on the road, working. But it began in Houston. Up to that point I was a playwright, though I had begun to do more and more comedy. I was being screwed by the theatre there. They had told me I could stay on and work on my play, but they lied. So, I couldn’t stay on. One night I went across town to a comedy club, where I did a 15- minute audition. They said they’d have me back in a month, which would at least allow me to see my play. Also, they were going to pay me the same amount of money I was getting as a playwright for something I’d spent two years on. They were going to put me up in a nicer place, and they were going to give me a car to use. That’s the point where I said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ I was very lucky.”



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