In it to win it | News, Sports, Jobs – Warren Tribune Chronicle
Nov 3, 2022
Kathleen Madigan is a standup comedy lifer and lover.
She’s not using it as a steppingstone to acting roles or even scaling back from the road now that the rooms are bigger and the money is better.
An American Comedy Award winner for best female comedian, Madigan has recorded standup specials for Netflix, HBO and Comedy Central, and her next special is ready for release in early 2023. She also started a podcast, “Madigan’s Pubcast,” during the pandemic and plans to keep doing it, because it’s bringing a new audience to the live shows, which is where she thrives.
Madigan used the phrase “in it to win it” more than once during an interview to preview her upcoming show at Packard Music Hall on Nov. 11. She enjoyed the forced time off due to COVID-19, but as long as she’s still performing — something she’s been doing for 30 years — she’s going to give it her complete focus.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
TICKET: Did your past experience as a reporter help you at all as a standup comedian?
MADIGAN: It didn’t really help for comedy per se at all, but I did have a really good press package, way better than most comedians back when you had to send stuff to actually get hired. Mine looked like I’d been doing comedy for 100 years, and it looked smokin’ great.
I tried to help the other comics. Look, I will help you for free. I won’t even change you 20 bucks, because the stuff they would send out was such a (mess). No, you have to organize it so someone actually wants to watch your stupid tape, guys.
TICKET: The audience for live comedy seems to be growing. Comedians who could fill theaters like you do were a rarity. Now some acts are playing arenas. What do you attribute that growth to?
MADIGAN: I think it’s because of the widespread amount of ways to get your comedy out there. If you roll back to even the ’70s, “The Tonight Show” was kind of it. Then in the ’80s, Comedy Central comes along and HBO says, “Well, we’ll do specials.’ But if you go back to Roseanne (Barr), her whole gig was you had to get on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, period. It’s still shocking to me that Johnny Carson maintained two-thirds of the country every night. Those are like Super Bowl numbers. There’s nothing else that does that anymore.
The negative side of that is it’s all fractioned, and it’s hard to get anybody to focus. The people who are doing the bigger venues are like my age and a little bit older. When we would have an HBO special, it was really special because there aren’t a million. And then it was the Comedy Central Half Hour. Timing and luck have a lot to do with everything, I lucked out a lot with timing. Sirius Radio comes along and there’s five comedy channels. You never heard comedy on any radio before. It just wasn’t done.
I do feel sorry for the younger people, because I don’t even know where you would start. I guess you put your stuff up on YouTube. I guess you just have to do all of it. That’s what me and Lew (comedian Lewis Black) talk about all the time. You have to do all of it. It makes for more work, which isn’t great, but it does pay off if you’re doing it right.
TICKET: You’ve said many times you have no interest in parlaying a standup career into acting the way many of your peers have. Why do you have such loyalty to standup?
MADIGAN: I think the biggest reason is patience. I went once with Lewis Black, he was on that show “Big Bang Theory.” He had a small part at the end where he plays like a nutty-professor-type guy. We were there for seven hours. You couldn’t pay me to sit here and do nothing. And this is a sitcom in front of a live audience.
What does it take to make “Braveheart”? How long were those people gone and just sitting around? It’s so slow moving. Live performance is fast and more exciting. You don’t get tired, because you’re in it to win it and then right back to the bar.
I really don’t want to do that. You can’t make me go. For me the worst thing would be to get the sitcom. No, can’t do it. No patience.
TICKET: Why are you the exception?
MADIGAN: I still like traveling. I still like the road. If the road was wearing on you, acting might be closer to home, but I’m very content with doing this.
I like seeing what’s going on. I tried to be a flight attendant, but I was too short. I just always wanted to go. I remember asking my dad, “Why do we live in St. Louis?” He goes ’cause our family lives here. I get that but why are we all here? You see Miami on the TV and you’re a Midwest person — “Look at those people They get to live there. Why don’t we get Aunt Nana and Uncle Dave and Jim and Peggy and everyone on the phone and have a meeting and say, ‘We’re all moving to Miami?’” I was like 10 when I’m saying this. But I was very curious to see the whole country and I don’t ever tire of it.
TICKET: Your podcast is called “Madigan’s Pubcast,” and you talk about drinking in your act. Are you one of those people who has your standard order, or are you someone who wants to try the local craft beers and explore the cities you’re playing?
MADIGAN: I want to do all that. When I stayed in Buffalo, we did a wing crawl, had weird beers. I want to do the weird stuff. If you see me sitting in an Applebee’s, it’s because there was nowhere else.
TICKET: What can you tell me about the upcoming special?
MADIGAN: It’s new jokes, but I usually end up talking about the same subjects — my family, the Midwest, traveling. It’s like (comedian Jim) Gaffigan. We’re always on the same subjects, just new, different material.
TICKET: Will the show in Warren primarily feature material from the new special or have you already started writing new bits?
MADIGAN: I’m always working on new stuff. I always add new stuff and drop stuff I get tired of or drop stuff that I think has gone on too long and then find other things to add. And I’m very conscious when I’m in a town to do new stuff, do old stuff and do greatest hits, all in the same show, because if I was in the audience that’s what I’d want to see. I don’t ever want to see the same (stuff) word for word, but I do have some favorites.
TICKET: Has doing the podcast had any influence on the live show?
MADIGAN: It’s a totally different animal. The good news is the young people seem to like podcasts a lot and there’s all kinds of new young people at the shows, which is great, because I said if I don’t see a difference on the road, I can’t keep doing this. It’s too tiring.
It’s kind of like old-timey radio. I think they feel more connected to you than they do through standup. There’s a connection there. They feel attached. I can tell the podcast people (in the audience) because they’re more fired up.
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