Kathleen Madigan on Being Herself to Be Funny

Comedian Kathleen MadiganEXPAND
Comedian Kathleen Madigan
Photo by Luzena Adams

When Kathleen Madigan strolls out on a stage, she's not playing a character, sticking to a certain kind of comedy or even enhancing her personality to make an audience laugh. 

She's an anomaly in comedy. She's (gasp) genuine. She portrays herself honestly in her material. She can do topical humor, observational material or even personal comedy. The only uniting thread is that all of it is pretty damn funny. 

"I would say I'm pretty middle of the road," Madigan says. "I'm never very controversial and I don't want to be. I've compared it often to the movie Arthur with Dudley Moore. It's really fun. There's a couple of points made but it's mostly just nonsense in a fun way." 

Madigan seems most comfortable being a comedian on a stage. She's not pitching a sitcom or her own Comedy Central show unless it's a stand-up special. She doesn't do her own podcast or web show, even though she makes unscheduled appearances on her Periscope and has been a guest on some of the most popular ones, including a recent episode of Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. She just does her comedy her way and that's what brings fans to clubs and theaters like the show she'll be doing on Saturday at The Majestic

In fact, Madigan says that when comedians ask her for advice on how to build up their names in this day and age, when media has become more digitized and anyone with a smartphone can broadcast themselves, she admits, "I have zero idea." 

"The landscape has changed so much," Madigan says. "I think it would be pompous on my part to give advice when I wouldn't know how to go about it. All I can say is go write jokes and keep writing new jokes. It's all so fractured. There's a million channels and there's Amazon Fire and Hulu and who's watching what? I have no idea."

"I'm doing it exactly the way I've always done it," she adds. 

Madigan started her college studies in journalism but decided to take a chance on comedy instead and see which career path panned out for her. 

"There's a lot of luck involved," Madigan says. "As soon as I got some road work that was paying decent money, I thought I'll just try this for awhile and if it doesn't seem to be advancing, I'll go back and try to get a job job. But it just kept advancing." 

She never sits down to write material for her shows since she's spent so much time honing her stage presence and knows the jokes she wants to do in her head. She says the most she'll have written down is a set list. 

"I just go about my day and stuff happens pretty much," she says. "You just throw it out there and see if it works." 

Of course, she can't resist taking on certain targets but she says she always tries to cover topics that are fresh in people's minds, like a certain presidential primary candidate who's name I really don't want to write. If you're not sure who I'm talking about, turn on any cable news network and chances are they are taking about him right now. Go ahead. Seriously. 

Madigan laughs at my hesitance to even bring up the name of he who shall not be mentioned. 

"You and everybody else, we all say that," she says. "Well, I hate to bring up [Donald] Trump but we have to. He's a big deal. Thousands of people are showing up to see him every night. I do a joke about him. I talk about Hillary [Clinton] and Bernie [Sanders] but I don't want to invest too much time until I know who's really staying in the race. Is Jeb Bush going to be here two months from now? I have no idea. I thought Trump would have dropped out by now." 

Madigan says she's not sure how she would do an entire hunk of her act about he who shall not be named because he's "almost already satire." 

"Can you write a joke about a joke?" Madigan asks. "It's sort of a catch-22. He himself writes the punchlines. So what's left for me to do?" 

Thankfully, she's not just a topical or political comedian.

"I just let it do what it does," she says. "I try to focus on what everybody will have some knowledge of anyway so we all have a common starting place."

Kathleen Madigan will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, at The Majestic Theatre, 1925 Elm St. Tickets are $32.50 at Ticketmaster.com. 

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