ALIVE Interview: Kathleen Madigan on Inspiration, Competition and Her Favorite Part of the Show

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

Kathleen Madigan—a Florissant-born comedian who has graced the shows of Conan O’Brien, Jay Leno, David Letterman and the stages of arenas around the country (as well in Iraq and Afghanistan during her USO tours)—stops off at the Peabody on Oct. 17 on her “Madigan Again” tour. ALIVE caught up with her over the phone to talk about comedy, its culture and competition.

Kathleen Madigan | Photo by Natalie Brasington

Kathleen Madigan | Photo by Natalie Brasington

On inspiration:
Stupid stuff that happens every day. I don’t sit down to write jokes. I don’t have a desk or business card—people ask me on planes if I had a business card. It would be weird if I had a business card. I run around and goof off and some stuff happens … It’s sort of not really controllable. I could have an assistant do stuff for me, but that’s where you’d be missing normal life. I am going to go to the Sprint store—I want to see what’s going on there. We travel so much, you do miss normal life, going to the grocery …

On comedy and social commentary:
It’s how far you want to go or how much controversy you want to put up with. George Carlin made a point to express his discontent with the rules of authority. Sometimes I think I don’t care enough about a lot of things. I don’t like confrontations—I’ll make the point, but my point will be more inane. George Carlin and those guys are going for the big points, but I’m in it for the ground game.

On competition in comedy:
I don’t think you can think of it as competitive, or that’s what will drive you crazy. It’s a game of golf—you’re playing your own game, not playing against anyone. You can’t pay attention to the leaderboard. Do you really want what they got? The answer is usually no.

On her favorite part of the performance:
When I’m done in the greenroom having a beer. No, I like it if I have a new joke, and I know where it is in my head and it works really well, that’s always fun. I always like watching the opening act because I hire comedians I think are really funny. I’m so not nervous about going on stage. I can actually be like a customer when the opening act is on—I sit sidestage, and I’m not thinking about “Oh, I have to go up there next.” I’m completely present, laughing at them. It’s 25 minutes when I get to be the patron.

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