Mad for Madigan
She moved west to LA 22 years ago to pursue her dream, but Kathleen Madigan still considers STL more than just the butt of one of her jokes.
PRAISED FOR HER DOWN-TO-EARTH demeanor and approachable style, Kathleen Madigan is making waves among comedy fans across the country. She recently released her first Showtime special, “Gone Madigan,” she’s appeared on late-night shows with Jay Leno and Craig Ferguson and performed on two USO Holiday Tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Madigan loves performing so much that she routinely turns down writing jobs—preferring to remain squarely center-stage. The St. Louis native headlines at Peabody Opera House Oct. 13, so we caught up with her to chat about her St. Louis roots, her journey into comedy and her undeniable draw to stand-up.
ALIVE: What’s the first thing you think of when you book a show in St. Louis? KATHLEEN MADIGAN: I think, where are we going to have the party? Also, how many free tickets do I get—because there are going to be a lot of people who want them. I have to decide which family members have been the nicest, and they get to be on the freebie list. There’s usually a lot of us after the show, so we try to just get a bar if possible, and we rent it out. I think when I did The Pageant, we all went to Duff ‘s. We actually drank quite a lot of Budweiser and were very proud.
ALIVE: Do you think your Midwest background has shaped your comedic style at all?
KM: I’d say that Midwest comics are probably more accessible to more people because there’s just more of us in “the middle.” You cast a bigger net. There are some New York comics that I think are really funny, but I don’t know that they would do as well in, say, Omaha. There’s an actress named Maria Bamford, and I really think she’s brilliant— but Maria’s out there. I wish for five minutes of my day that I could do something that left-field, but I’m right in center field, right in the middle.
ALIVE: Why do you enjoy doing stand-up comedy?
KM: The greatest part about stand-up is that it’s immediate, and it only takes an hour and a half. My show is at 8pm, I show up at 7:30, and I’m done at quarter to ten. Perfect! I like the immediacy of it. I write a joke in my head, and I say it. Then you laugh or you don’t, and I know right away whether it worked.
ALIVE: The Detroit Free Press named you one of the nine funniest women on the planet, alongside names like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. What do you think when you hear that?
KM: Well, first of all, that made me laugh. I love Detroit—it’s my home away from home. But, when they put “the planet” on it, I thought, “Come on, guys. There’s a half-billion Chinese ladies that we’ve never even met. You can’t say planet.”
ALIVE: What tips would you offer beginner or amateur comedians—particularly those from places like St. Louis?
KM: Go watch open-mic nights before you decide what you’re going to do—scout the field before you join the team. Then, especially for younger comedians, don’t quit. You just have to keep going if you’re serious. There are probably 10 of us with names you might recognize who are doing stand-up and that’s all we want to do. People ask, “What are your goals?” and I think, “Well, I don’t have any”—I wanted to be a stand-up comedian, and I’ve gotten there. I couldn’t be happier.
Photo credit: Luzena Adams