Comedian Kathleen Madigan
Comedian Kathleen Madigan will have her first show of the year at the Grand Opera House on Friday, January 6th at 8 pm. The St. Louis native debuted her third special on Netflix called “Bothering Jesus” in November of 2016. She’s a 28-year veteran of stand-up comedy who was doing open mic nights when she stumbled into the career. She has a sharp wit and the tough-love approach, don’t miss this fun way to usher in the new year.
You grew up outside of St. Louis where beer, baseball, and hockey are huge… How was it growing up in the Midwest?
Well you know it’s certainly the middle. It’s a really good place if you’re a kid or to raise a family. But I do remember going to Florida when I was 10 and I saw the ocean and I’m like ‘why are we not living here? Can someone explain? Clearly other people are doing it. My dad goes “well our whole family is in Missouri.” I’m like “right, but maybe we can move. Just cause someone made a strange decision years ago, doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to do it forever. Let’s just all vote. Let’s have a vote. And see if Aunt Nan, Uncle Jim, and Uncle Neal will all move to Florida. Wouldn’t that be great? You don’t realize you’re landlocked until you get out. And you’re like “Oh wow, the Mississippi (River) is not that pretty.”
And you have six brothers and sisters?
Chaos. But I have friends who have one sibling and as much as the chaos can be annoying, it’s more fun, well it’s more active than non-chaos. I’ll take chaos. That’s why I don’t mind this job. This job is organized chaos. It’s traveling every night to a different city. Even when I was starting out, you don’t know if you’re going to make any money. It’s kind of risky. But that’s how I felt growing up. I’m not bothered by that. Safety means nothing.
How did you get your start in stand-up and what influenced you? I just went to a bar that was having open mic-nights and kept doing it. I didn’t really have any influences because I didn’t think of it as a job.
Bothering Jesus, your new Netflix special debuted in November, tell us a little bit about it and how the response has been. (The response) has been great. Netflix is really easy to work with. They’re very cool and new school instead of old school crabby people. I can’t be in every city every two years, so if you haven’t seen me in a couple of years, this is what I’ve been doing. It’s just like a ‘here you go, here’s the last two years worth of stuff and I’ll do another one two years from now. And another one after that until I’m tired of it or get a different job.
You’ve traveled nation wide, you’ve also traveled internationally and on USO Tours, what’s that like?
The USO (Tour) was great because you feel like you’re doing something and they’re so excited and so happy to see you. The shows get good groups of people. I performed with Robin Williams, Kid Rock, Lewis Black, and Kellie Pickler. It’s just a fun show and they’re so appreciate. There’s no way you couldn’t want to do it again. Lewis Black is a friend of mine and he always says, ‘they put us in Afghanistan in the flak jackets and the helmets.’ I looked at him and said, “you look beyond ridiculous. You look like you’ve already been attacked.” He goes, “And you just remember this visual, Kathleen, this is why we entertain the troops, so we don’t have to be the troops. This is why we’re going to keep them happy and they’re going to keep doing this because neither you or I are equipped to do this for a living.” I said, ‘I’m 5’1 and they don’t have an extra small. If we walked over the hill top and the enemy saw us, we might win because of laughter. They might start laughing so hard they go, ‘these two cannot be serious.’ We’ve had a lot of fun doing (the USO tours.)
You’ve credited Lewis Black, Maria Bamford, Ron White, and Rosanne, among others, as some of your favorite comedians. Do you think there is a difference between male and female standup?
No. Especially when people are just funny, they’re just funny. With the Academy Awards, the Grammy awards, if they’re going to keep saying the best female or best male artist, why? Just make it the best artist. It’s actually an advantage because there are fewer women doing comedy. If they’re going to have best female comedian of the year, who am I really up against? 50, maybe? As opposed to the guys, there would be 500. I just think funny is funny. Ratio wise, the same amount of women are as funny as the same amount of men. There are just fewer women doing it. People see one bad female comic and they’re like ‘Oh I hate female comics.’ Well if there are four of us and you saw one, it’s going to be hard for me to battle that. I just don’t even try. Hopefully people just find my stuff and like it. Funny is funny as far as I am concerned.
You are the only comedian in the history of NBC’s Last Comic Standing to go unchallenged by any other comedian. What did that mean to you?
On the show, it was flattering because it means no one will say they’re funnier than you. But unfortunately the result is you don’t get to perform because you need people to say, ‘I think I can beat Kathleen.’ So I never ended up performing which was kind of the reason for being on the show. It was as good as news as you can have and as bad as news as you can have all in one. I said, ‘Oh, okay, great. No one thinks they can beat me, but oh, wait, that means the general public who’s watching the show will just think I’m a crazy lady who happens to be living in this house, which is kind of the way it came off.
You’ve been on the Tonight Show 25 times, had multiple appearances on Letterman and Conan. You’ve also been on Comedians in Cars getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld. Tell me a little bit about those experiences. Seinfeld’s was really fun. When you first start comedy there are usually three of you working in a club and in the day, you live in this comedy condo. It’s like an apartment where they would put us up and we would hang out. Jerry wanted to recreate the first ten years of our (comedic) lives where we just hung out. You get to a city, here’s the comedy condo, here are your two new best friends. Time to get to know them! I felt like we had a day on the road and it was time to go to a show by the time we were done.
When fans recognize you, what’s the most frequently asked question? They don’t usually ask anything, they usually tell me that they have a friend or a sister or a cousin that looks just like me. Or they’ll go, ‘Oh my God, you’re so short cause on TV I’m a giant. They definitely seem to be shocked I’m only 5’1”.
You’ve been in standup for 28 years, you said you got into it by accident, what would you say to your younger self when you were just starting out?Nothing. It’ll all work out fine.
You have a pretty large following on Twitter, how do you interact with fans and on social media. I love Twitter. Facebook can get overwhelming. I check mine because I have to for the fan page. Twitter is fast and even if I wasn’t a comedian, Twitter allows you to create your own news feed. It’s the stuff I want to read about. I’ll have the St. Louis News, and ESPN or CNN or whomever, it’s your own news feed. I’m kind of a news junkie, well information junkie, not news. I was following on the sports on Sunday and it’s so much faster. Lewis (Black) always says, ‘but how do you know that stuff is true?’ I’m like ‘I don’t. Some of it is not true. Somebody tweeted at one point that Bon Jovi died and I for a whole day I thought Bon Jovi died.’ You do run into fake stuff, but most of it is true. I just really enjoy the speed. It’s so much faster.
Speaking of the St. Louis Blues, were you watching the Winter Classic on Monday?
Absolutely. I wish I could have gone. It was the best ad for my city I’ve ever seen. They were talking about it a ton beforehand and afterwards and I said to my brother, ‘Being from St. Louis I didn’t really realize it was this awesome. Now it makes me want to move back. And the Blues won, which was great.
Not to give everything away from your show Bothering Jesus on Netflix, what is your perspective on Missouri? Is it a southern state or a northern state or none of the above?
Well, southerners definitely think it’s northern. I had someone in Birmingham tell me, ‘I can tell by the way you talk that you’re a Yankee.’ I’m like, ‘Sir, let me tell you this little piece of history, I don’t even know if we were in the war. I think we were half and half and just beat the crap out of one another and never got involved in the bigger picture. That is the truth. We’re both, half confederate, half union. It depends on where you were in Missouri… what day it was. We just couldn’t get it together to pick a team. We still can’t pick a team in anything. We’re always undecided. CNN had a thing about Syrian refugees and here are the states that will take them and here are the states that won’t. The ones who will are marked blue and the ones who won’t are marked red. Missouri, for no reason at all explained until the very end, was the color lavender. We were the only state. I’m like ‘What does lavender mean?’ (CNN) put up, “they’re undecided in the matter. They’ll wait to see how it works out for everybody else. I’m like ‘Of course we can’t get it together.’”
What else is coming up for you in 2017?
Well I’m still working to promote “Bothering Jesus” on Netflix, but I’ve got a little secret project and a bucket list thing. Me and Lewis Black are going to tour Canada coast to coast in the fall. I’ve waited my whole life to do that so I’m really excited.