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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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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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