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Madigan again: Comedian lives for the road

By BJ Lisko
The Repository
May 7, 2014

Comedian Kathleen Madigan sits at her computer in her Los Angeles home recalling some of her fondest memories of performing in Cleveland. Having worked at The Improv, Hilarities and Playhouse Square Center, there’s plenty to choose from, but one experience sticks out above the rest.

“There used to be a bar in the Flats,” she said. “I think it was called Harbor Inn, and they had like 1,000 beers. It’s the kind of place you could’ve lived for the rest of your life. I’m gonna Google it. Yep, there it is. 1219 Main Ave., Cleveland. It’s like and old-time fisherman bar. I’m making that up, but it feels like someone is gonna come in and tell you a boat went down and all our husbands are dead.”

Madigan has spent 25 successful years in the stand-up game and has performed on every network late night show in addition to guesting on countless others. She’s garnered numerous accolades along the way and performed on two USO shows. She will make a Cleveland tour stop May 16 at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Right now, however, the beer enthusiast in Madigan is pondering how to fit Harbor Inn into her schedule, just as long as no one serves her suds with fruit in it.

“I love Fat Tire right now,” she said. “But I’m a St. Louis Budweiser girl at the end of the day. Really just don’t give me anything you throw fruit in. Why is there fruit in my beer? Yeah, you know what I need with my beer? Some fruit.”

Madigan has toured practically non-stop, 300 nights a year. She took a brief respite to reflect back on her start, success, and to explain why she’s perfectly content with life on the road.

Q. When did you realize that stand-up was something you really wanted to do for a career?

A. “I just kept going to open mic nights, and I realized that you could make some money doing this. Then it became a question of, ‘how long can I keep this going?’ ”

Q. Did you envision that nearly three decades later you’d still successfully be touring the world with your act?

A. “I never thought past maybe a year. I would think in the next year I need to get on these certain TV shows, then try to get a raise. I didn’t think, ‘What’s the end of all of this?’ or “What’s the greatest case scenario?’ All I ever saw were the headline guys, and I knew what they were making in clubs. It was a fine living doing what you want to do.”

Q. A lot of comics talk about how difficult life on the road can be, but obviously you enjoy what you’re doing or you wouldn’t tour so much. What’s your take?

A. “I love the road. But I think you just gotta be one of those people that want to keep going. Some people prefer predictability and stability, and I just get bored with all that. I’m one of those people who chose a more chaotic life, but it’s an organized chaos.”

Q. Who were some of your mentors?

A. “Lewis Black and Ron White especially. Lewis taught me I’m old enough and far enough along to realize none of this really matters. Any problem is a good problem, and it’s fine. He just needs to remind me sometimes. Ron White was big on the power of ‘no.’ I always said yes to everything, and sometimes see the results and wonder, ‘Why didn’t I just say no?’ ”

Q. Has your comedy evolved over the years? Do you approach it the same way as when you began?

A. “It’s eerily the way it was when I started. Nothing has really changed other than I don’t get nervous anymore. What’s the worst that can happen? I hope I get a good crowd, but I can’t control that. The delivery is the same. The jokes are different, but I have the same interests, and my show usually is gonna come from those areas. People like Jim Gaffigan and Louis are the same, too. If you’re not really doing an act and just being you, not that much will change.”

Q. What do you enjoy most about your career?

A. “The freedom is the best. There’s no question about that. There’s no way I could have a real job anymore. Since I’ve been 23, I’ve been my own boss. I’ll make the decisions where I go and when I go.”

Q. Any advice for up-and-comers in the stand-up world?

A. “Not every set is gonna be as good as every other set. I tell comics, you can’t change the world in five minutes. Even if you suck, at least it’s quick. There’s always another chance.



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What makes Kathleen Madigan happy? Beagles and Fred Willard

By Julie Hinds
Detroit Free Press
May 4, 2014

When the American Comedy Awards air Thursday night on NBC, Kathleen Madigan is scheduled to be at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. Take our advice. DVR the special and see the best-concert-comic nominee in person instead. You’ll discover why Madigan is one of the funniest people in the business . She’ll be at Ridley’s Thursday through Sunday (for show times and tickets, go to

Recently, we asked Madigan these five quirky questions. As usual, she didn’t disappoint.

QUESTION: If you could put any ridiculous demand in your touring contract, like only red M&Ms or something, what would yours be?

ANSWER: I’d like a beagle backstage at all shows.

Q: If you had to be stranded on a desert island with two other comedians, who would you choose and why?

A: Lewis Black because his outrage would at least entertain me and Carrot Top because I believe he could build a raft.

Q: You’re nominated for best concert comic at the American Comedy Awards. Who would you thank first in your acceptance speech?

A: Uh, I never plan on winning things. I’d just hope I’d not had too much wine if it came down to that.

Q: If you could have dinner with one funny person throughout the history of mankind, who would it be?

A: I love Fred Willard. Fred.

Q: Who would you rather have in your audience: Pope Francis, President Obama or George Clooney. And why?

A: The pope would make me really nervous, but as a good lapsed Catholic, I’d feel guilty even in this answer if I didn’t pick him. So the pope it is.



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5 Questions with comedian Kathleen Madigan

By Robert DiGiacomo
Press of Atlantic City
April 23, 2014

If you’re looking for comedian Kathleen Madigan this weekend in Atlantic City, you have a good shot at finding her in one of two places.

“If I’m not playing video poker, I probably will be on the boardwalk eating at Flames (now called Bungalow Lounge & Restaurant),” says Madigan, who appears 8 p.m. Saturday, Ppril 26, at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City.

For the veteran stand-up, A.C. is as much a sure thing as her favorite local haunts. “I always have a great time, I always seem to sell a bunch of tickets,” she says. “There’s always a bunch of Irish Catholics who find me there — that always helps.”

The American Comedy Award winner is touring behind her latest hour-long special Madigan Again,” which debuted in September on Netflix and is now available on CD, DVD and audio or video download. Madigan has previously aired specials on Showtime, HBO and Comedy Central, and made the top three in NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” during Season 2 and served as a judge during Season 5.

Ahead of her latest A.C. appearance, Madigan talks about the benefits of going straight to Netflix and why she never wants to star in her own sitcom.

Q: As the middle child in a family with seven kids, did you have to be funny to stand out?

A: I think everyone in my family is pretty funny. When you’re from a big family, everyone is pretty mouthy. I didn’t know about passive-aggressive until I was 35 — I’m only familiar with aggressive-aggressive. I also went to Catholic school. Nobody was a class clown — you would have been thrown out.

Q: Unlike many of your comic peers, you never ventured into acting. What made you stick to stand-up?

A: All of a sudden, in the late ’80s and ’90s, comedians had to have sitcoms. I started in ’89 — we were comedians just to be comedians. That was the end game. Lewis Black, Greg Proops, Jim Gaffigan — there are probably 10 of us, where this is our job. I didn’t really want to be an actor or I would have done dramatic stuff.

Q: Why did you decide to go straight to Netflix for your latest special?

A: When I had a special on HBO, Comedy Central or another network, they would tell you the premiere date and not another thing. With Netflix, it’s on — it’s always on. You don’t have to do all this media build up for one night. You can say a month later, I have a new special. It’s on Netflix.

I think just as many people have seen it on Netflix as on Showtime, and Comedy Central isn’t really my demographic. (Netfix) just gives you a pile of money and you say, “Thanks.”

Q: With the special in release, will you be doing all new material in A.C.?

A: I’m amazed at comedians who say they’re retiring that hour. My act does what it does — it’s its own little thing. I take stuff out and new stuff fills the void. I have my special on Netflix, maybe 10 minutes of my act will be the same, and the rest will be new. If I do 10 minutes worth of old stuff, people will be happy, but I don’t want to do 50 minutes out of 70 that are the same. It’s a fine line to walk between getting criticized that you did too much old stuff and how come you didn’t do that stuff you did before.

Q: What gets the biggest response from audiences?

A: Anything about my dad and my family — that’s their favorite, and anything Catholic will be second. I work really hard on some big, giant thoughts, if we’re having an election. They attach to the stuff about my family, because its a reflection of their family. I always say, dance with the one that brought you. If talking about my dad is what they want me to do, I’m going to do it.



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Marvelous Ms. Madigan

By Lori Hoffman
Atlantic City Weekly
April 21, 2014

Kathleen Madigan is an earthy, hilarious stand-up comedian who loves her job making people laugh, usually for 300 dates a year, an insanely busy schedule. Luckily for her fans in our area, Atlantic City has been a regular stop the last few years, including this Saturday at the Trump Taj Mahal.

In a conversation with Atlantic City Weekly, Madigan revealed a treasured Lewis Black story, her favorite current news event and that she misses Jay Leno.

You had a new streaming special on Netflix added in September, Kathleen Madigan Again. Is streaming the next big market for comedy?

It’s a million times better for us. When I did a special for HBO or Showtime, they would tell me the premiere date, then [couldn’t tell me when else it would be on or how many times]. My mom would call and tell me it was on but I don’t think my mom should be in charge of that. With Netflix, I can say it’s always on, whenever you want it to be on. It’s so much better and they don’t edit anything.

Promotion for everybody these days involves social media. How much are you into that
side of the business?

I love Twitter because it limits everybody to 140 characters and you don’t have to decide if you’re my “friend.’ I have a friend who helps with Facebook and the Web site. With Twitter I’m really involved. I love it and people are funny. I’m good friends with Lewis Black and he argues with me, ‘But it’s not verified.’ ‘So, I don’t care Lew. So what if I thought Jon Bon Jovi was dead for a day. He’s not dead. So now it is good news.’

You’ve made Atlantic City a regular stop. How are the audiences here?

They’re great. There seems to be a lot of my people and by people I mean the Catholics and then break it down to the Irish and I’ll take all the Italians too, There seem to be a lot of people that grew up the same way I did and can relate to a lot of what I’m saying.

Do you have a favorite Lewis Black story?

We were in Afghanistan and they issue you all your stuff. You have to wear the flack jacket all the time and the helmet. It is so heavy. He puts it on and his glasses are always dirty. He always looks semi-homeless. I tell him, ‘You look like an adult with special needs.’ He goes, ‘this is why I come here to encourage people and keep the troops happy. They fight for people like me who are completely incapable of doing this.’ ‘Lewis, if we had a whole army of you and me, we would win every war. If we came over a mountaintop they would just start laughing and then we could kill them.’

You’ve done The Tonight Show 25 times. Do you miss Jay Leno?

I do. I got real sad the last time I did [the show with him] and I went to the final taping. I worked with Jay a million times just in clubs. He’s a great guy, like an older brother who never gets emotionally involved with things. It’s just business. He got so emotional during that last taping and I was very sad. It was like watching a cat cry. That’s impossible. I do miss him. It felt like home appearing with him.

You know he’s playing in Atlantic City the night before you do?

Yes. I knew he was there the night before. He’ll fly out right after the show. He doesn’t stay for beers. I’m the stay-for-beers person.

Has there been anything in the news lately that caught your attention as good comedy material?

I’ve really talked a lot about the Malaysian airplane. I’ve been obsessed with it. My entire life I assumed that when all of us got on a plane that was doing over water that somebody smarter than us on land knew where we were at all times. And guess what? They don’t. They [warn you] about fires, water landings, mountain crashes, but they never say, ‘In the event that we go missing . . .’



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