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Kathleen Madigan’s plainspoken comedy cuts through the noise

For a comedian with dozens of TV and radio show spots, national tours and industry honors under her belt, Kathleen Madigan has remained surprisingly candid about her motivations.

Of course that’s part of 48-year-old Missouri native’s charm: unlike some of her peers, who put their stand-up on hold for acting careers, or whose material grows fussier and more self-satisfied over time, Madigan is an old-school touring performer with an unpretentious take on her craft.

“I do it for the sake of doing it,” Madigan said over the phone from Los Angeles this week. “I don’t write a joke for any other reason than to see if I can convey a funny thought in a way that you get why it’s funny. It’s like hitting a golf ball correctly: I just want to see if I can do it again.”

We caught up with Madigan in advance of her shows at Durango’s Community Concert Hall at Ft. Lewis on April 3, the Paramount Theatre on April 4 (which is sold out) and Fort Collins’ Lincoln Center on April 5.

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Madigan passed the bar to start her comedy career

Back before Kathleen Madigan was packing clubs and theaters as a stand-up comedian, she was making people laugh behind a bar in St. Louis. There were a lot of locals at the bar, and one in particular, a guy named Bill, used to come in every Monday when the horse track was closed. He wrote the racing picks for the local paper and was considered a “hard gambler,” according to Madigan. He wore a horseshoe ring and had a tough demeanor. No one thought Bill could laugh.

But Madigan made Bill laugh “all the time,” she says. “He was the nicest guy in the world. He just looked serious.”

Confident that her regulars found her funny, Madigan decided one night to go next door and see if she could make a whole crowd laugh at a stand-up comedy open mike. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, I can make money doing this?’” she says. “At work I’m doing that part for free. I’m making money because I’m pouring drinks. But I could just stop pouring drinks? That’d be great!”

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With Kathleen Madigan, what you see is what you get

Interviewing comedians on the phone can be a pretty dicey proposition. Sometimes you get one who tries to do his act for you. Other times you get some surly guy who’d rather be at the dentist than talking with you. With Kathleen Madigan, you pretty much get Kathleen Madigan, that same lady you see on late-night talk shows and comedy specials. Her act really isn’t an act; that’s just who she is.

That surprises people sometimes when they run into her in the airport or the grocery store. They expect her to be funny all the time and, for the most part, she is. Continue reading

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No frills, just funny: Kathleen Madigan talks Madigan Again, her 2013 stand-up special

Kathleen Madigan opens her latest stand-up comedy special, Madigan Again in Detroit first with Lewis Black by her side on a street in front of the Monument to Joe Louis, then a minute later onstage being introduced by Black. To which she responded, in kind: “How about one big hand for a guy working for $500 tonight!”

Madigan’s friendship with Black comes up again at the tail end of the hour, in which she recounts her first (and potentially last) trip aboard a cruise ship to perform with him. She pays the kindness forward to other comedians, as she told The Comic’s Comic in an interview this month to coincide with the release of Madigan Again in physical and digital audio/video formats (it premiered earlier this year via Netflix). Continue reading

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Kathleen Madigan talks Netflix, friend Lewis Black, Sally Lunchbox, more

Over the past decade, Kathleen Madigan has quietly become one of the country’s most successful comedians. Although she’s been on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 15 times, Late Show with David Letterman six times, Conan twice, the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (and more), it’s not like she’s she has own talk show. And yet, she’s in the midst of criss-crossing the country performing at our nation’s finer theaters– all on the strength of her stand-up skills. It comes on the heels of her newest hour special Madigan Again, taped at the Royal Oak Theater in Detroit this past May. It’s currently available exclusively on Netflix and will be released on iTunes, CD and DVD on Oct. 8. I recently chatted with Kathleen about the new special, about her close friend Lewis Black (who opened for Kathleen for her special), about her early life in a Missouri suburb and much more. Check it out below! And be sure to catch Kathleen when she returns to Late Show with David Letterman this Friday, Sept. 27. Continue reading

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