By: Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix New Times
September 17, 2014
Stand-up comic Kathleen Madigan has never been shy about skewering herself. In fact, she can be both candid and clever when joking about her drinking habits, gambling habits, lack of ambition in the gym, Irish-Catholic upbringing, or perpetual singlehood while onstage or in her most recent special, the hilarious Netflix special from last year, Madigan Again.
The comedienne also gets especially snarky when riffing on pop culture and topical issues, except when it comes to certain current events of a tragic nature. Despite comedy’s well-known formula of “tragedy plus time,” Madigan told us during a recent interview via telephone that she refrains from cracking wise about “things that are just are stupid tragic, like 9/11″ when performing.
“There’s some comics who say there’s never anything off limits, and I guess that’s true, but I try to shy away from stuff that I know was painful for a lot of people,” Madigan says. “Like they don’t need to be reminded of that at a comedy show. You can’t go a comedy show to escape.”
Our conservation wasn’t entirely of a ponderous nature over social issues, as we also discussed her friendship with fellow comic Lewis Black, her longtime admiration of Joan Rivers, and how she attended the late comedienne’s final performance in New York.
How much of an influence was Joan Rivers on you, either personally or in your comedy career?
I was always a big fan. Here’s why she appealed to me: I liked that Joan Rivers’ primary job was just being a comedian, just telling jokes. Yes, she had the fashion thing, the side thing later in life, but there were so many people who go, “How come you don’t have a sitcom? How come you’re not in movies?” Well, I didn’t start comedy to do a sitcom; I never even thought about that, I just liked being a comedian.
I reached my goal, I’m doing my goal. I don’t understand why I’m supposed to have another goal. I don’t know who started that crap. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a sitcom or any of that, I’m just a bigger fan of the people that go [onstage], just because I feel that I relate to that more. There’s nothing more fun than telling jokes in front of live people to me.