Kathleen Madigan’s sensible journey to stardom
Judging by how much time Kathleen Madigan spends traveling, one might think she’s drawn to life on the road. Although it may seem sometimes like she’s on the comedy counterpart of Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour,” Madigan’s less addicted to traveling than she is dedicated to stand up, as evidenced by a stay at comedian Ron White’s Atlanta home. “He has this really awesome house on a golf course, and I really did think I could become a ... housewife,” she recalls. “Like, ‘I could do this every day. I have no desire to leave the bio-dome that Ron White has found in Atlanta.’”
Alas, it was a fleeting, albeit comfortable, thought. “I guess I just figured this is my life,” says Madigan. “I don’t know another life, so this is it.” Her life on the long and winding laugh road has been rich with experience, however. Madigan traveled to places she never would have visited if it weren’t for work, and takes a keen interest in off-the-beaten-path locales. “Like Deadwood, S.D. I watched the whole Deadwood series before I went, which was historically accurate. And then to go and see it all is just awesome. You can’t believe that’s your job, and you get to get paid.”
Madigan also became close friends with fellow road warriors such as White and Lewis Black. She and Black, in particular, are like a comedy yin and yang. “Yeah, it was weird because we formed a friendship before cell phone and all that stuff. You had to call people on landlines,” she says. “I don’t know. I think it’s because we basically like the same stuff. We like the news, we like sports. ... We don’t care about celebrity stuff. What are we going to talk about, Meet the Press or Entertainment Tonight? Just a lot of the same interests.”
Or perhaps the boys recognize her for what she is: a comedians’ comedian. During her guest turn on Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars with Coffee, Seinfeld compared her to a BMW: “Small and practical and fun. She makes a lot of sense, but not too much sense, just enough to be hilarious.” And Madigan’s barely changed, or needed to change, her approach since her Missouri native father persuaded her to get onstage at an open-mic night in 1989. She quickly became a featured comedian at the Funny Bone in St. Louis.
By the early ’90s Madigan was on the road and on The Tonight Show. Life has been fairly consistent ever since, as has her straightforward comedy approach. “I’m not alternative,” she says. “I couldn’t be further away from that. I’m more like a normal American. There’s nothing complicated. My brother is a financial advisor, and when he has a normal couple he calls them ‘Joe and Sally Lunchbox.’ I am Joe and Sally Lunchbox.”
Madigan’s uncomplicated approach mines subjects such as family, politics, pop culture and religion in a way that’s unflinching but more matter-of-fact than provocation. Public figures like Sarah Palin and Oprah Winfrey have been particularly inspiring in the past, but lately Donald Trump has been a gift that keeps on giving. Her current set was captured recently in March at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater.“It’s already edited and it’s out there for sale,” says Madigan, whose 2013 special Madigan Again is still streaming on Netflix. “We’re waiting to hear, but if nobody buys it we’re putting it on Craiglist. If the Wu-Tang Clan can do it, so can I.”
The Mirage, 10 p.m. Aug. 5, starting at $29.99 plus tax and fee, 16+ with adult. 702.792.7777