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Kathleen Madigan: no red carpet needed

By Aaron Epple
Dayton Daily News
May 14, 2014

She’s on the road 300 days out of the year, she’s done every late show and late-late show countless times. She counts Lewis Black as a friend and Joy Behar and Jon Stewart as acquaintances, but she has never sought (or received) the red-carpet treatment.

“I’m more like the woman you see at the bar,” she said. “My parents live in the Ozarks and I have a condo about two coves down from them. I’d rather be there, where I recently saw two women get into a fistfight, which I hadn’t seen in awhile. I don’t know whether that’s something to be proud of.”

Madigan’s topics typically involve her long-settled family, her Irish Catholic upbringing, her relentless singlehood and the “slow demise of CNN.”

“That’s just what I like, what I’m interested in,” she said. “The jokes change, though sometimes I’ll rotate something in from my last special. Once, I was doing a benefit with Lewis Black, and I wanted to do some jokes I’d done about him. But I couldn’t remember them, so I had to buy my own CD on iTunes.”

Although some media outlets have deemed Madigan ripe for sitcoms (a wise-cracking, martini-swilling mother-in-law was one suggestion), and she spent a brief stint writing for Garry Shandling, she has never aspired to any gig that involves being constricted to a cubicle or studio set. “For me, normal was about running out and joining the circus,” she said. “I’ve never felt weird about (being on the road a lot) or about being single, because most of my comedian friends are, too. You have to find your own ‘normal’ if you find yourself in an ‘odd normal.’ “

Nevertheless, she does feel sympathy for her comedian friends who do aspire to such heights.

“There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to any of it,” she said. “(Lewis) should’ve gotten a show a long time ago. It seems to be for people who play the game. I don’t play it, and (Lewis) doesn’t play it, which is good, because we’d suck at it even if we tried.”



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A Friend of Tim’s: Kathleen Madigan Talks TV, Tim and Getting Heckled

By Justin Stokes
Murfreesboro Pulse
May 14, 2014

Few comics enjoy the level of decoration Kathleen Madigan has achieved. Four CDs, three DVDs, and a 25 year career that has manifested both being named one of iTunes Best Comedy Albums of 2013 and a nomination for 2014 American Comedy Award nomination (Best Concert Critic). She’s performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. On top of that, Madigan’s produced three Comedy Central specials, two HBO specials, and three CMT Salute to the Troops. Ron White has said she’s “Easily one of the best comics alive.”

Now a part of the Wild West Comedy Festival, Nashville’s first city-spanning event helmed by Vince Vaughn, Madigan’s May 14 show at TPAC may be one of the most emotional shows to date: a benefit honoring a late friend.

Murfreesboro Pulse: Now, you’re coming to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for an event listed in the Wild West’s Comedy Fest; the Friends of Tim Wilson Benefit. Let’s ask first “Who was Tim Wilson?”

Madigan: He was just one of the good guys. Nice. Super smart. Super well read. I liked that I could have conversations with Tim about anything and I would learn something from him. I mean, he’s funny and all that, but all my friends are pretty funny. He just took it to another level. I felt like I was with a really safe, older, fun, smart brother when I was with him. Just one of the good guys. And it’s just awful. Not that you want the bad guys to die, but let’s just say that there are some comedians that if I heard they died I would go “Oh.” (Laughs) Not to be mean, but I would just not be nearly as upset. There are some that will remain nameless, but all you have to do is Google “hack mean comic” and all their names will come up I’m sure. You just hate to lose the good ones.

How did you come to meet Tim?

The first time I worked with him, he was headlining and I was the opening act. It was at the Davenport, Iowa, Funny Bone. And he was talkin’ so fast. And he said “Man I jutdon’tthinkthepeoplikemeItalktalktalk” (Madigan goes into sound-barrier breaking “hillbilly speak”) and I go “Tim, it’s not that they don’t like you. You gotta slow down dude. I spend six months of my year in the South, and I can’t understand you. You’re talking too fast.” And then he just killed all week long. Not that I am the one who is “The Bearer of All Wisdom,” but he was just on a big Southern run and was just used to being able to talk like that. But we had a great week. It was when riverboat gambling first came out. We went riverboat gambling. Like just silly, stupid fun stuff. That was the first week that I worked with him.

Did your experiences with Tim segue into your involvement with SiriusXM’s “Blue Collar Radio”?

Uh no. That just came through . . . I mean, I know some of the people at Sirius, but I think they were just lookin’ for women, or any comics really, who could kind of fit into blue collar, because they’ve got the mainstays: Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Foxworthy. But you can’t just play Larry and Jeff all day. And I think that they think my stuff is “borderline, that it could fit” so they play it a lot. That’s all. Which is great. I’m very happy they do.

Not to pigeon-hole you, but would say that your Irish Catholic, working class background bridges the gap in standards for “blue collar” comedy in a way?

Well, it qualifies enough for that station. Blue collar is blue collar, whether you’re Southern, or Midwestern, or whatever. So I think they said “Yeah, that works for us.” I think because they play so much of Jeff that people think “blue collar” and they mean “redneck”, and that’s not what they meant. Know what I mean?

The term simply refers to “working class” folks.


In previous interviews, you’ve talked about the comedians that have influenced you. But what comedians have you influenced?

Oh, I have no idea. I mean, there’s comics that come up and say “I really think you’re funny,” or “I really like your work.” But I have no idea who I have influenced. I’m sure that when I’m dead, somebody will tell . . . well, they’ll tell somebody at my wake. But I have no idea.

It’ll be one of the hack comedians. They’ll do it to get back at you.


Speaking of “getting back”, you shared on Twitter that you were heckled by senior citizens?

It was like two years ago in Florida, in some theater. No it was probably three years ago. I did a joke about Sarah Palin that was completely innocuous. There was nothing even . . . it was a silly joke, and it doesn’t even matter what the joke is, because I hadn’t even started the joke. And this, like, I don’t know she had to be 75 or 80, but I think she was half in the bag, but yeah she [the woman] just went crazy and said “Don’t talk bad about Sarah Palin! I love you and I love Sarah Palin!.” I let her talk. It was more of a plea for me to not ruin her idea of who I was I guess cause she’s like, so how could I possible say something bad about this other person she admires. And I’m like “Ma’am, you’re putting me and Sarah Palin in the same bucket? I’m completely perplexed by that. I feel like I have nothing in common with Sarah Palin, but clearly you like us both.” And she said “I do!” She was just this old lady who was just kinda hammered, and she was harmless. It was inappropriate though. And there’s a thousand people there, and nine hundred and ninety-nine other people paid, and they didn’t pay to listen to this lady. So at some point you gotta go “Okay, ma’am, I am gonna do this joke about Sarah Palin. Or we could skip it.” Then the audience is like “No, we wanna hear it!.” It was fine. I don’t ever have a heckler I can’t handle, but it was weird to get heckled by someone who was my mom’s age. Like I wanted to call her “Missus Something” instead of “Hey Lady” because I just thought that was kind of disrespectful.’Cause she was so much older. But I didn’t get that far.

Looking at some of the other comments on this Twitter thread, many fans have shared that they can’t really see you getting heckled all that much. Other than that seemingly isolated incident, have you had a generally positive, heckler free experience?

No, it’s really, really super rare. That’s why when it happens, I’m more perplexed. It’s fine, I can handle it. But my act doesn’t really call for it. I don’t really say anything controversial . . . I guess, except for my joke about Sarah Palin being a game warden, I guess that was the one that drove that lady crazy. (Laughs) Yeah, it doesn’t really happen at my shows. Usually everyone is having a really nice time.

You’re always on the road, and much of your material comes from personal relationships with family and friends. Having such a large following, do you feel that as a stand-up comic that you have a reasonable expectation of having a normal, private life? Or do you sacrifice that for stardom?

Oh yeah. Most people who say that “Well, I don’t have any privacy,” they’re full of crap. They’re the ones calling the press and saying “Oh, I’m gonna be at this bar tonight. Come take my picture.” If you want to live a normal life, it’s really not a problem. Jay Leno leads a normal life. He goes to Burger King. He even has his “Whopper Card” in his wallet. I mean, there’s a million-Jay Leno drives around in weird cars and pays cash for gas. Know what I mean? Seinfeld has three kids. Yes, you can still go to a baseball game. Go do whatever you want. I don’t know about rock stars and I don’t know about movie actors and stuff, but there’s a lot of really-Lewis Black is pretty famous. He’s on The Daily Show. Lew and I walk around 24 hours a day like normal people. So somebody may stop you and say “Hey I like your work,” and it’s like “Well, that’s nice. Thank you” and you maybe take a picture and keep walkin’. I think a lot of people complain about the wrong things. If somebody’s gonna stop you and ask you to get a picture, absolutely you can get a picture. Not a problem.

So you’d say, at least in terms of the comedy side of entertainment, it would be an embellishment if people make the claims that they don’t have privacy?

Yeah. I think especially of stand-up comedians. I don’t even know what they mean by that. “I don’t have privacy.” I’m with some of the most famous comedians alive, and we do totally normal things. I just don’t know what they’re talking about. Now, I’m sure my life does not apply to somebody on a Madonna-level. That can get out of hand. Rock people, I don’t know what those people do. But stand-ups, we’re all just running around a normal life.

Have your jokes about your personal life affected or changed any of your personal relationships with your friends or family?

No, everybody is completely supportive and knows we’re all just having a good time. It’s all good.

You travel extensively. What do you do to maintain a healthy outlook? Any favorite authors, musicians? What about podcasters?

No, I’ve never listened to a podcast in my life. That wouldn’t be on the table. Most of the time I have friends in these cities that I go to now, so I’m usually hanging out doing something. But, I have music I work out to. It’s not like a passion. It’s just there so I’m not bored. I’m usually runnin’ around doing stuff. I’m usually out.

You’ve expressed in the past what you feel to be the “splintered nature” of media. With Jay Leno, David Letterman, and now Craig Ferguson all soon to be gone from the late night show scene, do you feel that the “Golden Age of Discovery” for comedy is passing? Or do you think that that’s a tradition that will continue?

I think late night, I mean I think these guys will do the shows. I think being “discovered” on late night, that that went away years ago. Really after Carson. And it has nothing to do with Letterman or Leno, it had to do with cable. When Johnny Carson was on there were three channels. Period. Available in the nation. And two-thirds of America watched Johnny Carson. So if you went on “Johnny Carson,” two-thirds of the country saw you. You couldn’t get that kind of focus anymore unless maybe you were a mass murderer. And I’m not even joking. And even then, it would only be for about half a day and a news cycle anymore. It’s not because of the men involved. It’s because of the amount of entertainment options. And now, I meet people . . . anyone who checks me out in the store under the age of 30 I ask “Do you have cable?” And they’re like (doing a Jeff Spicoli impression) “No.” People don’t even have cable. They watch everything on their phone. They watch Hulu, they watch Netflix. They can still watch those shows, but when they feel like it. And they don’t have to pay a cable bill of a hundred and sixty-eight dollars, or whatever nonsense I pay. Now I’ve switched to DirecTV. It’s like a hundred and fifty bucks, which that’s a lot if you’re a young person. It’s just becoming so splintered that it’s good, but it’s also difficult to get national focus.

Let’s take a moment and appreciate what may have just been one of the most epic plugs for DirecTV.

I did switch really because I wanted football. But then I got so mad at cable for having that big fight with Showtime. And I was watching Dexter! And I couldn’t even watch it on my iPad. I was like “What? They blocked me on the iPad?! Oh my God, this is ridiculous!” I really liked that show, so I said “Forget this crap. Just because you and Showtime are fighting, I’m the child that is now penalized because Mom and Dad can’t get along? This is bullshit.” So I went and got DirecTV. And then they got in a fight with The Weather Channel, which really upset me ’cause I love The Weather Channel, but now they’ve made up again and now I have The Weather Channel back. So now, all is well in “TVland”.

Did you get to finish Dexter?

Yeah, I finished all of it.

Were you upset with the ending? Were you pleased with the ending?

I liked it. I know a lot of people got upset. I’m fine with it. Except my Libra, logical side.. . I was like “Wait a minute, that storm looks really bad. How did he survive that storm?” But I don’t know, I know a lot of people did not like it. I mean, I don’t like The Sopranos where you give me no ending. I don’t care what the ending is, just give me a ending. And they ended it. They said he got away, and he’s still alive. And he’s doing it again. Okay. That’s an ending. I’ll accept it.

What other shows are you watching currently?

I like a lot of the stuff on HBO. I love Game of Thrones. I love these things where I can binge-watch. I love The Tudors. I’m watching one too that nobody’s watching, which is actually very good called Turn on AMC. It’s America’s “first CIA.” So it’s us against the British, and who turned on the British and became spies. It’s actually really well done. I got so suckered into The Following with Kevin Bacon and it’s gotten beyond, it has jumped so many sharks. But now I gotta watch it until the end because I’m already in this far. It’s like a bad mechanic. I do love Kevin Bacon and I’m sure even he’s like “Really guys? You really expect people to believe this?” Well, I’m suckered in so I’m going along with that.

A good question to always ask guests of Music City: Any impressions of Nashville you’d like to share?

I love Nashville. I’ve been coming there forever. I really do. I was a little disappointed in the moving of the Hatch [Show] Print. I liked the old store better, I gotta say. I know they had to move all that stuff and so there’s a big, giant tourist place. I thought “Oh poo.” I loved going in there and hanging out and looking at all the posters. I like the people. I’m a big fan of Tennessee, big fan of Kentucky. I’m all in. Missouri girl could live there in a minute. I really, really have a good time.

Last question: You have a section of Madigan Again titled “Real Scares.” You addressed teenagers paying to be scared as a concept that was somewhat foreign to you. Do you feel that that’s limited to just teenagers? Or that other people just don’t have an appreciation for their own safety?

No, I was really just talking about the movie genre thing, ’cause it was really fascinating to me. One of my friends, he works for a big distributing company for movies. I don’t know how many times you’ll see just a fast ad for some bizarre possession movie, or a haunted, crazy place movie. And they’re not even major ad campaigns. It’s not like it’s somebody from Disney or Miramax, or they’re billboards. But those are the movies that make the most money. And my distributor guy said “Kathleen, you can’t believe that horror is the No. 1 genre.” And I haven’t seen a horror movie literally since The Exorcist I guess. And that was enough. I don’t need to see another horror movie. I don’t enjoy feeling more anxious. That’s not up my alley. But teenagers, if you think about it . . . who goes to movies on Friday nights? Them! They’re in charge. Them and then little kids for the Disney stuff. Frozen and that kinda stuff. I just think it’s funny that they get excited about getting scared. I really just think that’s interesting. We could go make a horror movie that wasn’t even that good and would still make money. Wow! Who knew? I should have gone into that. Who are those actors? They’re probably making a good living, I should have done that.



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Kathleen Madigan doesn’t just want to buy a beer in Cleveland, she wants to buy a bar

By Michael McIntyre
May 14, 2014

Kathleen Madigan is so excited to come back to Cleveland, especially with the new chandelier in Playhouse Square, right outside the Ohio Theatre where she’ll perform Friday.

“Aww, look what they’ve done because they knew I was coming!” she said. Thing is, she’s not a chandelier kind of girl. She’s more to flickering neon bar lights. “I used to work at the Improv. One of my favorite bars in America is the Harbor Inn. I love that place. It’s got like a million beers, and there’s shuffleboard, and you used to be able to smoke,” she said.

Laugh Track told her it is up for sale.

“Maybe that’s the rainbow from the baby Jesus I’ve been looking for. I’m supposed to buy it. But the Flats, it goes up and down. People being murdered, and two years later people are dancing. It never seems to make up its mind,” she said. “I hope somebody that truly loves a good beer bar will buy it. If I lived in Cleveland, I’d buy it.”

But she’s only visiting. And she’s bringing jokes about family, religion and the like.

“Same topics, different jokes,” she said.

“I do like the new pope. He’s doing a good job. He just looks friendly. He looks like a puppy,” she said, turning her direct attention to Pope Francis. “Don’t tell me you don’t look in the mirror and say you have Basset Hound eyes, because you do, and they’re adorable.”



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Comedian Kathleen Madigan Works Hard, Plays Nice

By P.F. Wilson
Cincinnati City Beat
May 14, 2014

“Everyone in my family is pretty funny,” says comedian Kathleen Madigan, “but I don’t think we think of it as funny; it’s just the way we are. My sister married this guy whose family is German, and that’s when I realized we’re funny — because they are not funny. He would start telling a story, then halfway through we would ask him: ‘Do you even know what this story is about anymore? Start over, or don’t tell it.’ ”

Madigan first gained national exposure in 2004 on NBC’s second season of Last Comic Standing but was already a headlining comic making the move out of clubs and into theaters. One of the people she inspired was fellow Last Comic contestant and Cleveland native Tammy Pescatelli. “Tammy is going to arrive at my house in a few hours, speak of the devil,” Madigan says. “I just had my bathroom painted and I chose red and gray, which I just realized look a lot like Ohio State’s colors. So I look like the most hospitable host ever. If you show up at my house I’ll repaint the bathroom in your college colors.”

Madigan returned to the show as a judge for the fifth season in 2007 but is not involved in the new season that starts May 22. Looking back, she says she’s surprised at the way some people behaved on the show.

“There are so few actual working comedians, there’s no way you’re not going to run into these people later,” she says. “That’s why I kept trying to tell people, ‘Be nice.’ We don’t go away. This is forever. Think hard about what you’re saying behind people’s backs.” It was that common-sense philosophy, along with the influence of her family, particularly her father, that helped her become one the country’s top stand-ups.

“We’ve all been very fortunate,” she says of her family.

“I think it’s because my dad made us get jobs when we were, like, 10. We always had jobs, and we always had money, and he’d make us pay for hings. So at the end of the day, you’re figuring out how to get some cash.”

Madigan’s siblings went on to work in education, engineering and finance. She went to college and studied journalism, largely because it didn’t involve math or science. After graduation she discovered she had no passion for the fourth estate, reporting in particular. “I hated it, oh my God,” she says. “I just wanted to write feature stories.”

Her experience as a journalist did produce one practical benefit for her comedy career, though. “I knew how to put together a killer press kit,” she says, laughing.

Madigan didn’t approach the career move lightly. “When I first went on the road I was touring for free,” she explains. “And I said to myself, ‘If I don’t see progress every year, and by that I mean financially, then I’m going to go and do something else,’ because that’s an indication to me of whether or not you’re moving in the right direction. I have comedian friends that are 45 years old, and if I was them I would be like, ‘Clearly this is not working.’ But who am I to tell them? For me, I’ve got to keep changing and changing for the better.”

In addition to her frequent TV appearances, Madigan occasionally gets to work with old friend Lewis Black. Last year the two were part of an American version of BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz.

“I forgot I did that,” she says, laughing. “It was great, but maybe too heady for North Americans.” Her friendship with Black may seem a little odd, seeing as she’s observational and a little silly, while he’s all about anger, society and politics.

“Lewis is from the ’60s, and he still has hope,” she explains. “He follows politics very closely, but I look at it like a reality show. I think it’s a bunch of crap, but he still believes in all of it.”

Her pessimism about the political process stems from an early age. “My first memory of politics is Watergate. We had Nixon quitting, and the hearings that were interrupting my cartoons. As a 6-year-old I was thinking, ‘Why don’t they just open up the gate and let the water out?’ ”



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Kathleen Madigan to make with the laughs at PlayhouseSquare

By John Benson
The News- Herald
May 12, 2014

Comedian Kathleen Madigan isn’t known for being macabre, but that’s how she ends a recent phone call from Detroit.

Madigan, who is scheduled to perform May 16 at PlayhouseSquare’s Ohio Theatre, offers this piece of information about her return to Northeast Ohio. “If I’m not there, check a morgue in Detroit,” Madigan laughed. “It means I went and did something crazy.”

Talk about crazy, Madigan loves the Rock Hall City. No, that’s not crazy (or is it?). It’s more about the fact that she just heard The Harbor Inn Café, her famously favorite bar in The Flats, may be for sale.

“I talked to someone earlier who said it might be for sale,” Madigan said. “I thought, ‘Maybe this is a baby Jesus leading me to my retirement, that I should buy The Harbor Inn Café. I don’t know how much it’ll cost, but I’m sure I can get a loan. I love that bar.”

Perhaps Madigan won’t need a loan considering her career appears to be in high gear with her second hourlong special, “Madigan Again,” premiering last year on Netflix. Not bad for the funny St. Louis native, who started out more than 20 years ago working the comedy club circuit.

Her career received a jump-start of sorts when she was a finalist on the second season of reality show “Last Comic Standing.” Now, a decade later, Madigan is revered as one of the hardest-working comedians on the road.

That explains why she was just nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for Best Concert Comic.

“If I won that I award, I think it would look like I was cheating,” Madigan said. “I think (Jim) Gaffigan does more shows. I don’t know. Like it’s very nice and you just want people to know that, ‘Yes, Kathleen is working just as hard as these other people.’

“I honestly didn’t really know what the prize was. I bet it’s not a lifetime supply of nicotine patches, which is what I would want.” When it’s pointed out the prize was more than likely a trophy, Madigan then discloses the only hardware she proudly has on display.

“I have all kinds of trophies, but the only trophy I keep out, because I think it’s hilarious, is I was the mid-Missouri hoop shoot champion girls age 12 to 13,” Madigan said. “I don’t want to brag, but four times in a row I hit 15 in a row underhanded free throws. No shame, not embarrassed. What did I do after I won that trophy? I retired like a smart person should. I never played basketball again.”

If this is how Madigan deals with receiving trophies, perhaps it’s a good thing she didn’t take home the American Comedy Award, which the comedienne said she was nominated for covering jokes about the news, her family, her religion, sometimes sports and her travel schedule.

“It’s funny, I told my brother I should just call my next DVD ‘Same Topics, Different Jokes’ because no matter how hard I think about it, I really go back to the same five topics,” Madigan said. “I’m never going to do celebrity gossip or serious politics. It’s really just the same.

“Like Gaffigan is usually talking about his family, kind of the same ilk. I’m never going to be Kathy Griffin and start talking about The Kardashians, because I don’t really know what they do and why I should know them, and nor do I care to find out. I don’t even care enough to Google it.”

So basically it sounds like Madigan’s topics are what one would expect to hear from barflies at The Harbor Inn Café.

She laughed, “Exactly.”



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