By AMY PEIFFER
April 10, 2014
Kathleen Madigan packs her wit, maybe pants, for performance
She’s been named “Best Female Comedian” at the American Comedy Awards, but it’s apparent speaking with Kathleen Madigan she’s just plain funny.
At a time of day when I’m barely able to function without the boost of a steady stream of dark roast coffee, Madigan recently called me from California to talk about her upcoming show, her comedy, social media and the implosion of journalism, and a little bit of everything in between.
Inspiration: Madigan says the material she uses in her shows comes from observations – of her life, of social issues, or issues in the media – and are meant to be stories, rather than jokes. Her narrative style of stand-up feels natural to her, and she says she wants the audience to feel like they could sit down and just be listening to a story in a bar. Some of the material she develops while on tour, based on events occurring around her. Some of her material, she says, is from fan-favorites that she has done before – stories about her family, for instance. “I think everyone can relate to the stories about my parents – we all have that dad that you can see in the stories about mine,” she says.
Still, she says, her years growing up with her parents are different from the way children grow up now.
“It’s crazy,” Madigan says. “Everything revolves around the kids. Everything is about the kids. It’s not like how we grew up, and you were just kind of this pack of people who happened to live together.
Family: That pack of people in rural Missouri included seven children, and parents Jack and Vicki Madigan. She says her parents not only inspired her material, but her father was supportive of her decision to pursue a career in comedy. In addition to the support of her father, Madigan gained the support of the comedians she was opening for on tour – names like Lewis Black and Ron White – who, she says, would become good friends.
Storytelling: Before touring, Madigan worked in print journalism. She says her background as a journalist observing and writing about events has helped her in developing her natural comedy style. It has also made her sensitive to the way media is changing, and humorously critiquing it in her comedy.
“You have [anchors] literally throwing paper airplanes around a studio, trying to figure out what happened to [Flight 370],” she says emphatically over the phone. “If Ted Turner’s alive, he’s got to be losing it.”
Social media: Madigan says she credits the rise of social media networks – like Twitter, of which she is an active user – with her satire on the state of media. “They’re reading tweets on the air,” she says. “How is that newsgathering? I can just go to Twitter.”
Her account is a stream of her humorous observations and experiences while touring, such as forgetting to pack pants.
“[Can’t] believe after 25 years of packing every single week I can still forget pants. Seriously. I am an adult. Children pack better than this,” she tweeted. She says she’s recently turned her parents on to the power of social networks – but not without the problems that can arise in introducing an older generation to computers, something she talks about in her stand-up as well.
“My mom is getting it – she’s on Facebook, and she’s big into basketball so she enjoys following that,” she says. “But my dad, he got a Facebook and said, ‘I don’t want people knowing everything I’m doing.’ So I’m like, ‘Well, Dad, are you posting anything?’ and he said no. I said, it’s not like ‘The Matrix,’ they’re not downloading your thoughts.”
Giving back: Something else she credits her family with is a willingness to give back. That, or the “100 years” she spent in Catholic school. Madigan has toured both Iraq and Afghanistan, performing with the USO show, and frequently performs with friends and fellow comedians such as Ray Romano for benefit shows.
“Basically, if I’m not already doing something, I’m in,” Madigan says. “Why wouldn’t I?”