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Kathleen Madigan, Irish Catholic comedian talks career, Paramount show

November 5, 2014

Comedian Kathleen Madigan could be your wisecracking sister-in-law or the entertaining lady at the end of the bar who’s full of sass. Her Midwestern charm takes the audience right in, allowing them to unleash those genuine belly laughs comedians fight so hard for.

Thursday night, Madigan, 49, will test Long Islanders’ sense of humor when she comes to The Paramount in Huntington. Being the middle child in an Irish Catholic family of seven from Missouri, she is determined to be heard.

You are friends with fellow comedian Lewis Black. How do you two mesh?

Lew is a more hopeful person than I am, which offsets my cynicism. My cynicism keeps his hopefulness in check. I tell him, “You grew up in an era where there was hope. My first political memory is Nixon quitting. We’re not coming from the same place.” He has so much hope for Obama and he when feels like Obama isn’t living up to it, I say, “Lew, he’s not a wizard. You think there’s a wizard but, there is no wizard. Bring it all down a level and you’ll be a happier man.”

You guys did a bunch of USO shows together. What did you get out of those experiences?

Those were the greatest shows on Earth. I should always film my specials in Kabul. The troops are just so happy you came and remembered they were there. But my God, Afghanistan makes Tijuana look like Manhattan. It was like going to a whole other world. There are wild camels there! I told Lew, “I think we’ve flown to the Bible.”

You came from a big Irish Catholic family. Was there a lot of comedy in your household?

Yeah, there was, but we didn’t realize that until my sister dated a German guy. He didn’t have our sense of humor and he thought we were being mean. My dad was like, “He needs to get on board!” It took for the antithesis of funny to enter the house for me to realize we had a sense of humor.

You are the middle child of seven kids. Was that a tough spot to be in?

When there are seven kids, nobody is truly paying attention to anything. You are on your own, but I prefer that. There was no hyper focus on me. Ninety percent of the time my parents didn’t know what I was doing and I liked it that way.

Did going to Catholic school help keep you in check?

It made me not cross certain lines. Even if nobody was watching, God was watching. The fear of God helped me not do bad things. Every single day in Catholic school, a nun would write on the board: 1.) God, 2.) Others, 3.) Yourself — then say, “Remember that order. That’s how you live.” When you see that every single day for eight years, it becomes a moral code that’s installed inside of you.

You worked as a journalist as you came up the comedy ranks. How did that affect your stage performance?

It didn’t, but it really enhanced my press kit. If you would have gotten my press kit, you would have thought I was the most accomplished comedian on the planet, and I had only been doing it for a year and a half. I’d even help other comics who couldn’t put a full sentence together.

You did two seasons on “Last Comic Standing.” What kind of impact did that have on your career?

It was torturous. The whole reality thing is crazy because whatever you give them, they can twist any way they want. You have to be conscious of every single word that comes out of your mouth. Coming from a big family and mouthing off the way I do, it wasn’t easy to do. But it brought my comedy to a new audience. People who are not staying up to watch “The Tonight Show” because they are busy with kids could catch you in prime time. It’s a different group.

Your last special, “Madigan Again,” went directly to Netflix. What spurred you to make that move?

The networks promote the premiere date, but then you never know when it’s going to air again. Netflix is a library that’s always there. When I speak to the networks I feel like I’m talking to my grandparents. When I speak to Netflix I feel like I’m talking to that weird, cool 25-year-old boy neighbor who knows a lot and is always in a hoodie drinking coffee. I want to be with him. The networks don’t get it. They need to be more flexible.

This year, we lost a lot of comedians. Did that shake you?

Yeah, all of them were shocking. John Pinette was sober, losing weight and on a good track. Joan Rivers was 81, but she wasn’t sick and had done a show the night before. Robin Williams had a lot of demons, but he had put himself in rehab earlier this year. I didn’t see any of it coming. It makes you go, “Nothing sucks too bad because I’m still here.”

Do you see yourself going into movies or TV?

I don’t particularly like any of it because I don’t have the patience for it. I went with Lew when he did a guest spot on “Big Bang Theory.” We got there at 4 p.m. and didn’t leave until 11 p.m. for him to do a less-than-five-minute scene. You must have to want to be an actor to do that, and clearly I do not. It’s a tedious process. My job takes 90 minutes. Next year you turn 50. Do you have any big plans? I’m taking all of next September off. We are going to have a giant blowout in Missouri. I’m making all my friends get on a plane, rent a car and drive three hours into the Ozark Mountains. But I’ve always felt 50. I’ve been working since I was 13.

Do you want kids?

Noooo! I really enjoy being an aunt. To me, if you are going to have kids, you need to create this environment where that’s the whole deal. I don’t understand people who have kids, get nannies and run around the world. I just enjoy my nieces and nephews.

You seem to stay away from any raunchy material. True?

I would be uncomfortable saying the things I hear people say. It would make me squirm. To me, it’s too public and in front of strangers. Some things are just private. I’d rather talk about Chris Christie losing it.

How has headlining theaters affected you?

It’s less combative. When you are starting out in the clubs, nobody knows who you are. People go to a comedy club to see comedy. Nobody paid a lot to see a specific person. If you saw me in a theater, you paid a certain amount of dollars, you probably already like me and you are excited about the evening. At a comedy club during the second show on Friday, the crowds typically have been up since 6 a.m., they’ve been drinking, they are tired and ally super hammered. Nowadays, I’m not at war anymore. I found the troops that like me, we are going to hang out and have a talk.

Who is in a Madigan crowd?

Middle-class, Catholic, worn out, functioning alcoholics that are a bit old school.



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Comedian Kathleen Madigan returns to Easton with consistent, hilarious set

By Dustin Schoof
The Express-Times
October 19, 2015

Kathleen Madigan did not have to dig deep for material on Friday night at the State Theatre. She instead poked fun at her family and herself.

The comedian on Friday returned to Easton for a performance that did not skimp on laughs, frequently using her family as fodder throughout the night.

Madigan poked fun at a brother-in-law, growing up with several siblings and her love of “House Hunters,” among other topics.

Madigan joked that when other comedians ask if if she parties, she responds, “If a party is sitting on my couch in my yoga pants with a glass of wine and watching ‘House Hunters,’ then, yeah, I party.”

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Kathleen Madigan: Owner of a ceramic fox named Easton and 14 other things we learned from interviewing the comedian

By: Dustin Schoof
The Express-Times
October 9, 2014

Comedian Kathleen Madigan is a late-night talk show staple and, according to The Detroit Free Press and, one of the “9 Funniest Women on the Planet.”

Her latest standup special, “Madigan Again,” was released in September on Netflix.

On Oct. 17, she returns to the State Theatre in Easton. Madigan last performed at the theater in 2012.

But did you know Madigan enjoys collecting ceramic animals and other curiosities from the cities she visits, including a ceramic Big Foot? Or that she is a fan of Bud Light?

Here are 15 things we learned about Madigan during a recent phone interview:

1.) She keeps a purple ceramic fox named “Easton” in her backyard.

The comedian says she purchased the ceramic critter from Easton-based boutique shop Mercantile Home during her last visit to the city. She named it Easton and keeps it in her backyard to remind her of the city from which it came. Madigan also purchased a ceramic squirrel, and unbeknownst to him, sent it to comedian Lewis Black to freak him out.

“I can find really weird stuff in Montana, but not if I’m Cleveland or St. Louis,” Madigan says. “I’ve got to go to little towns like Easton to find it.”

2.) Theater performances tend to attract looser audiences.

“(In) Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, there are certain states that have these old-timey, cool theaters. Even though I do (shows) at them, performing arts centers sometimes are staid and a little bit uptight,” she says.

3.) Madigan compares seeing her stand-up to watching the original “Arthur.”

“It’s an hour and a half of an escape,” Madigan says. “It’s like watching a movie, you’ve had a lot of fun, there’s no underlying message. I compare it to the movie ‘Arthur.’ I don’t remember why I like it but Dudley Moore is funny.”

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Comedian Kathleen Madigan says she’s looking forward to visiting UPAC in Kingston

By Paula Ann Mitchell
Daily Freeman

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,

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.”



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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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