By: Kara Pound
January 21, 2015
Comedian Kathleen Madigan doesn’t like to overthink things. In fact, the 49-year-old Missouri native is content just being on the road 300 nights a year, performing standup everywhere from Detroit to Dallas, Charleston to Escondido.
“I run into so many comedians who get nervous and they overthink everything,” Madigan told Folio Weekly during a recent phone interview. “And I’m, like, ‘Look. Are you doing what you want to do? Are you making enough money to pay your bills? Then shut up, because most people aren’t. Be happy. Why can’t you be happy?'”
She’s been at it for 25 years, even earning the distinction of being “the funniest comic in America, bar none,” from good friend and fellow comedian Lewis Black. She’s also won the American Comedy Award for “Best Female Comedian” and the Phyllis Diller Award for “Best Female Comedian.”
Raised in a large Irish Catholic family, most of Madigan’s standup act is based on situational humor — specifically, making fun of her relatives, from her mom mistakenly dosing her with blood pressure medication instead of Advil, to her brother homeschooling his four kids.
“I think there are some unnecessary things that are said just to cause shock. I don’t really do that and it’s because I don’t like confrontation,” Madigan says. “So, for me, I wouldn’t say anything that would hurt my family’s feelings. I make fun of my family a lot, but it’s all within a context that’s all facts.”
Madigan’s comedy career began in the 1990s, and it was entirely by accident: While she was working at a St. Louis bar that she also frequented as a patron, the bar’s owner declared employees could no longer drink there after their shifts.
“So I went to the bar across the street, which happened to be a comedy club,” Madigan remembers. “They would have open mic nights and we would just do it for fun. Eventually, somebody paid me $50 and I was, like, ‘Wow! That was easy for $50.’ It was really about the money, honestly. And I don’t mean that in a greedy way. I mean that in a ‘how am I going to make a living?’ way.”