By Paula Ann Mitchell
Kathleen Madigan will flat out tell you she has “good taste in men.”
“They’ve been supportive, nice and fun,” she said earlier this week by phone from her home in Los Angeles.
“Honestly, I’ve never had any issue with male attitudes in this business. Every single guy has been nothing but wonderful. I have four brothers, so maybe I just get it.”
Madigan, hailed in recent years as one of the most brilliant female comedians, took a moment in anticipation of her Sunday appearance at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston to dissect the perceived anti-woman sentiment in the industry, particularly the most recently expressed by veteran entertainer Jerry Lewis last spring. “My experiences with guy comics and even club owners have been positive, and I’ve been very happy with the money I’ve made. I think it’s like a sort of a minor problem that magnifies and keeps building,” said the 49-year-old Missouri native.
Fact of the matter is some of the best-known and most beloved comedians in the world have sung Madigan’s praises.
Jay Leno calls her “one of America’s funniest female comics,” while Ron White describes her as “easily, one of the best comics alive.”
The 25-year veteran who was nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for “Best Concert Comic” will be bringing down the UPAC house on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.
Though she’s been in the Northeast countless times, Madigan has never done a show in the MidHudson Valley, and a lot of it is just a blur for the well-traveled Madigan.
“I could be in New Hampshire and think I’m in Vermont,” she confessed when pressed about her regional appearances.
Even so, Madigan, who has performed on almost every standup TV show, including 15 times on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” promises to beguile her Hudson Valley fans with her signature sarcastic humor that includes a lot of barbs about her Irish-Catholic upbringing. Just don’t go expecting her to be heavily scripted or to tailor her act for this region of the country.
“My theme is I don’t have a theme,” Madigan said. “Sometimes, I like to poke fun at the South because they have some serious idiosyncrisies, but people are people. That’s the first thing you learn about going on the road. Really, they’re all just the same.
“If I have to describe my act, it’s like the movie ‘Arthur.’ It’s an escape, a mental vacation, which is what I think entertainment is supposed to be.”
Though a deeply embedded notion in Madigan, she didn’t go about planning a career in comedy. In fact, it was one of those things she discovered she was good at while pursuing a career as a writer.
Madigan earned a journalism degree from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 1988 and picked up work as a reporter for St. Louis-based newspapers. She also held a position in the publications department at the Missouri Athletic Club.
At about that time, Madigan began frequenting comedy clubs, where she performed during open mic sessions and discovered she had a bent for making people laugh.
Over the years, Madigan has credited her father, Jack, for encouraging her to go for it, and she hasn’t looked back. Her career began with the national chain of comedy clubs called The Funny Bone, and from there, it skyrocketed, according to her website, kathleenmadigan.com.
Not only has she won the American Comedy Award for “Best Female Comedian” and the Phyllis Diller award for “Best Female Comedian,” but she has written and produced for Lewis Black’s “Root of all Evil” on Comedy Central and for Gary Shandling’s Emmy monologues, her website notes.
She’s also done two USO tours to Iraq and Afganistan with comedic peers and friends like Lewis Black, John Bowman and the late Robin Williams. Moreover, Madigan has performed during concerts for Kid Rock, The Zac Brown Band, Kix Brooks and Kellie Pickler.
On top of all that, she remains the only comedian in the history of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” to go unchallenged by any other comedian and was a top-three finalist during season two and a judge during season five, the website says.
Madigan also can be heard on nationally syndicated radio shows like “The Bob and Tom Show” and “The Stephanie Miller Show” and has been repeatedly voted the No. 1 audience favorite on SIRIUS-XM Radio.
While all this sounds monumental, there are a few things Madigan has never done before that she’s aiming for before she calls it quits.
Playing golf in Bend, Oregon, and visiting Maine are priorities. Another is to live in Ireland at least four months of the year. Probably her biggest dream is to tour Canada by bus, visiting comedy clubs and performing arts venues along the way.
“I’m on TV in Canada and I always get people asking, ‘Why don’t you ever come to Canada? Why do you hate us?’
“It’s complicated. It’s hard if you’re not Canadian. They’re very loyal. They drive down here to see me. I should get my ass up there, even if I break even and don’t make a dime. I’d be really mad if I retired and didn’t get to do the Canada thing.”
For now, Madigan, who has gone on record saying she enjoys playing clubs and theaters over television, said she’s looking forward to visiting the Kingston venue on Broadway, and she’s hoping to make that personal connection with her fans, whom she hopes will sit back, relax and escape.
Just don’t expect her to get too confrontational. Madigan claims that’s simply not her style, prefering instead to toss out “silly, innocuous” and relatable jokes.
“I would never do something that I thought would hurt someone’s feelings,” she said. “I don’t feel the need to get too serious because that’s going against the point. I don’t want to wake up to a Twitter feed of people screaming at me.”