Comedian Kathleen Madigan, known for her appearances on TV shows and specials such as “Last Comic Standing,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Late Show with David Letterman,” will be performing at the State Theater of Ithaca on Sept. 27.
Madigan began her career as a journalist working for the St. Louis-area Suburban Journals newspapers as well as the publications department of the Missouri Athletic Club, but her father, Jack Madigan, gave her the encouragement to give a career in comedy a go. Madigan gave up her jobs in Missouri as her success in comedy began to soar. In 1996, she won “Funniest Female Stand-Up Comic” at the American Comedy Awards. Recently, she has been nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for “Best Concert Comic.”
Contributing Writer Alana Herlands spoke with Madigan about her comedy, the truth about a comic’s mind and her career.
Alana Herlands: How do you handle the situation of no laughs while doing stand-up?
Kathleen Madigan: Well, hopefully that is never going to happen. I mean, for more than four seconds. I don’t know what I’d do because I’d tried to do everything I can to make sure that will never happen.
AH: Do you have a particular comedic style and any specific influences?
KM: I would say very conversational, like a lady at the end of the bar that you would talk to. And no, I mean, there are comedians that I like a lot, but I wouldn’t say that they influence the way I do comedy.
AH: In your experience, do you like stand-up or appearing on shows like “The Tonight Show” more, andwhy?
KM: I prefer the actual stand-up because I think as soon as you start filming things it makes it weirder. I think a live event where everybody is just paying attention to the event that’s happening is less strange than once you add cameras. No one on Earth behaves the same when they’re being filmed. Not crowd members, not me, not the host, nobody, and I think it’s kind of creepy.
AH: Is it hard to shut your comedic writer mind up because you’re constantly thinking of material?
KM: No, it’s just divided in my brain almost probably like that of a criminal. I have compartments. I could be in the middle of something horrible that I thought was funny and put it in that box to get it out later. I was in a fight with Blue Cross the other day, the insurance company, on the phone the other day literally to the point where my head almost exploded. The guy said three different things that I thought, “OK, that was funny,” but I’m so angry. It’s just a separation.
AH: Do you have any advice for someone who wishes to become a comedian?
KM: Oh, I have no idea what to tell you. Just go and keep telling jokes, and as long as someone keeps handing you cash after you tell jokes, then everything is fine. That’s the only thing I know for sure.
AH: Do you have any goals for yourself within the next year?
KM: A reporter asked me that and I said, “No, I don’t really have any goals,” and she says, “Stop saying that to people. You sound like a lazy jackass!” I said, “Y’know what? No! I accomplish my goals. I’m doing my goal. Why can’t you enjoy your goal?” I mean, I am going to [tape a] special in 2015 this time next year in Wisconsin. I’m very excited about it. It’s more kind of like a day to day. I didn’t think I’d have this job ever, certainly not this long, so I think planning things would jinx it.
AH: What’s your number one piece of advice for college students in general?
KM: Don’t take it so seriously. Ninety percent of the people I know that went to college are not doing what they went to college for. I mean, my dad told me college was not so that I could get a job, it was so that “I could have a conversation at a bar.” Now, I don’t know if that’s good advice or bad advice. Make sure you’re not walking around with no information. Everyone just puts all this pressure on college kids, like, just have fun! Everything will work itself out.