April 9, 2014
Comedian Kathleen Madigan, who is coming to the area for shows at the Santander Performing Arts Center in Reading Friday and the Strand-Capitol in York on Saturday, comes from a big family. She was smack in the middle of seven kids.
So that’s why she became a comedian, right? A neurotic need to get noticed? Nope. Madigan liked being lost in her big Irish Catholic tribe growing up.
“It was so awesome to be one of seven. Nobody was paying attention to anything, and that lack of focus is good,” Madigan says with a laugh.
A lot of her material comes from her family’s dynamic. “And a lot of my jokes are just reporting on things that are completely absurd,” she says. (Right now, CNN’s obsession with Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has given her plenty of material for her upcoming shows.)
Madigan is not of the neurotic school of comedians, where being on stage is a sort of obsession.
“I don’t feel the need to be on stage at all. I’d prefer to throw on pajamas and watch ‘House Hunters,’” she says.
Besides, being neurotic in a house filled with seven kids gets you nowhere.
“I remember one Christmas (when we were kids) my brother was down in the dumps and said, ‘No one cares about my feelings. I said, haven’t you looked in the Irish Catholic manual? The bottom line is, everybody loves you but nobody really cares. There’s too much going on to be neurotic.
“I am very comfortable with that,” she adds. “It made us all a thousand percent independent. Our worlds are never going to fall apart. We have known since we were 10 how to make our world not fall apart.”
Clearly, Madigan is close to her family. She mentions her siblings and her mom several times during the interview and admits to spending “inordinate amounts of time” with them.
“I didn’t even know people had small families until I was in high school,” Madigan says. “What I am doing on stage is no different than what I am doing all day.”
Indeed, one of her sisters got up on stage and did one of Madigan’s old routines and “did quite well.”
It’s the Irish way, Madigan insists.
“Everyone in my family is irreverent, funny in their own way,” she says. “I am just as mouthy as the rest of them.”
How did her parents feel when she told them she was quitting her job to pursue a career
“I don’t think they noticed,” she says. “Part of it was my old-school dad didn’t take the girls as seriously. If my brother had done it, there would have been more discussion.” She is a rather clean comedian, though a few profane words do come out.
“In my mind, I can do better,” she says. “Besides, if you use them sparingly, they carry more weight.” Madigan isn’t sentimental or a softie. Her family isn’t either.
“I was saying to a friend of mine who comes from a really small family where everyone says ‘I love you’ all the time, that that makes me uncomfortable. He said, ‘You don’t say I love you?’ No, it’s a sign of weakness.”
Madigan laughs as she says this. It’s the Irish way, after all.
About 25 years ago, Madigan, who had studied to be a journalist and worked for a time in the newspaper business, was working as a bartender when she and one of her colleagues
tried out an open mic night.
“It was fun,” she recalls. “It came very easy and I thought it was easier than bartending, waiting tables or being a journalist.”
She appears regularly on the Tonight Show, David Letterman and all the other late night shows, tours about 300 nights a year, has done a number of TV specials for HBO and Comedy Central and has recorded four CDs and two DVDs. And she’s done two USO tours to Iraq and Afghanistan with comedy friends Lewis Black, Robin Williams and John Bowman.
Unlike many comics, Madigan does not get nervous before a show.
“Why put yourself through it? Why is it so complicated?” she asks. “(Fellow comedians) say what if this is the night they hate you? I won’t get on the neurotic train. They have to
hate you a lot more than once for it to matter.”