Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Comedian Madigan coming to Indiana

by BILL ZIMMERMAN, billz@indianagazette.net on March 13, 2010 12:00 AM

Comedian Kathleen Madigan recently spent some time between gigs traveling with her family near Fort Myers, Fla.

It was time to relax, but she most likely was keeping an ear out for material, too.

Madigan, who performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at Fisher Auditorium, often gives her family a good-natured ribbing on stage, recalling stories that she claims are “a hundred percent true.”

Take, for example, her comment about a recent show at a casino in her hometown of St. Louis that attracted “like 5 million cousins”: “It's not a tough sell to get my family to come to a casino and drink and gamble. I'm surprised they even come in to see my show.”

Madigan graduated with a journalism degree from Southern Illinois University and spent a few years as a newspaper reporter before making comedy her career. With appearances on HBO and Comedy Central already on her r©sum©, Madigan gained prime-time exposure on NBC's “Last Comic Standing.” She would go on to be a regular guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” and a writer, producer and performer on the Comedy Central series “Lewis Black's Root of All Evil.” On each episode, comedians would argue for what pop culture topic was the most evil. (From the Disney versus Scientology episode, Madigan stated her case for Disney: “One day you're a toddler watching `The Mickey Mouse Club,' the next thing you know you're holding a gun to your dad's head demanding that he takes you to Disneyland.”)

Madigan hopes to release a new CD/DVD - her first since “In Other Words” in 2006 - “sooner than later” this year and expects to continue the humorous on-the-street interviews she contributes to “Dr. Phil.”

Taking a call during her Florida trip, Madigan recently discussed her old job, political humor and digitally connecting to fans.

Question: How happy are you that you got out of the newspaper business years ago?

Answer: Just in time, right? Yeah, some of the people I've graduated with, they're trying to figure out what to do; where to go. But everybody seems to be finding a place. I mean, you can move from the newspaper to thedailybeast.com. You know what I mean? It seems to be moving, but just slow and sucky.

Question: Did you conduct any interviews with entertainers?

Answer: No, mine was more like freaky people with weird hobbies or weird whatever.

Question: Did you always gravitate toward that instead of hard news?

Answer: Oh, yeah, I hated hard news. … There was a course in college where we had to go sit at the local community courthouse and listen to fights about cable TV and, oh, God. It was called Community News and Reporting, and I was like, “I'm out.” It's too hard. I didn't even understand it, and then they were fighting about like toxic waste dumping, it got real scientific, and I was like this is not what I signed up for.

Question: Being a person who gets interviewed fairly often, have you re-evaluated any ways that you approached interviewing when you were a reporter?

Answer: No, but I'm proud of myself, and I'm proud of you because obviously you've done some research before you spoke to me. A lot of the people who do no research didn't even realize like I used to do sort of what they're doing. I am shocked when they literally have not read one thing. Like they'll call and go “So, tell me, how old are you?” … Usually younger people have immediately Facebooked, MySpaced, Wikipediaed something. Like we don't hand out press kits anymore.

Question: What can you tell me about your current act and what you'll be bringing here on the 14th?

Answer: It's more of what I always do. It's usually like my family, politics, current events, sports, almost like the whole world with my family mixed in between.

Question: What does your family think about being the brunt of so many jokes?

Answer: Oh, my dad loves it. If I could do two hours on my dad he would be so excited. They're really good sports about it. They don't care, and I would never say anything that might push buttons.

Question: On the politics front, when Obama got elected there were questions about whether he would provide enough fodder for comedians and whether comics would attack him. How do you gauge the comedic reaction to him since his inauguration?

Answer: Well, I think everybody's doing stuff. I mean, there's enough to play with just with government, you know those people. It's always easy to make fun of somebody who's an actual caricature of themselves almost. Like Clinton almost became that, George Bush definitely. It was harder to make fun of George Bush Sr. - like forget Democrat or Republican, just as people - because he's not really - what are your going to do? He's a WASP. He's a well-spoken, smart WASP. There's not much to go off of. … It's easier to make fun of somebody who's a clearly defined character. Like my dad is clearly defined. I could answer questions in my dad's voice if asked. I know exactly what my dad would say, because he's defined, and Obama, I mean he's defined himself, but it's kind of boring. It's like an intellectual, even-keeled, no temper, no weird habits, nice family. Even Jimmy Carter had Billy Carter. Clinton had the cuckoo brother. It was always something, and Obama's just pretty down-the-middle, almost nerdy.

Question: How big of an asset is “Last Comic Standing” to comedians?

Answer: Well, it was good because you reached this mainstream, prime-time crowd. Like when I did it, I had already done “The Tonight Show,” I don't know, six or seven times. I had my own Comedy Central special. Everybody in my group had been on national TV numerous times, and there's just a group of people, I think, that just go to bed early and they don't stay up and watch Leno or Letterman or Comedy Central. … I was surprised at the people who came up to me and said “I didn't know who you were until that show.” And I was like, “Oh my God, so all those `Tonight Shows' where I got so nervous, it didn't even matter? Nobody was watching?”

Question: “Root of All Evil” ended in 2008 - any new roots of evil emerge since then?

Answer: I haven't thought about any matchups, but I am kind of sad that show went away because we had a lot of fun doing it.

Question: It seemed like everybody had a blast.

Answer: We did, and we had probably more fun off-camera, off work hours. We wanted it to be a little less scripted. … If it's me against Greg Giraldo, just let us go. Obviously, I would have to do some research about what I'm talking about, but once that's done I would have just rather argued with Greg, for real. I think it came off as kind of improv but not. But that's what made Comedy Central comfortable, so that's what we did.

Question: You frequently appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” What are your thoughts on all the reshuffling at NBC?

Answer: I thought the whole time, I don't know how anybody could blame Leno. I mean it's (NBC Universal President and CEO) Jeff Zucker's fault. I'm like, What, is he part of the Illuminati? How do you make these horrible decisions and not lose your job? Anybody else in real life, you would be fired. I mean, Leno's sitting in his desk and they come in and go, “Hey, guess what? You're too old, you're out of here, we want to keep Conan.” Then he says “Well, I'm gonna go look for a job somewhere else” and then they go “Oh, no, no, no, don't do that.” And he's like “What am I supposed to do? I'm not 100. I still want a job.” I foresaw - I said, “I don't think people are going to be ready for this 10 o'clock (show).” I didn't foresee the whole news taking such a hit as the local news affiliates took a huge hit and it was just a disaster, and I don't blame Leno for wanting his show back.

Question: Leno's a big supporter of yours, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. How important has he been to helping your career?

Answer: He's been so nice, and I have done Conan, I have done Letterman. I've done 'em all. Leno, for whatever anybody wants to say, he comes back to the green room, he says hello to my parents. He doesn't have to do that. What does he gain by that? Absolutely nothing. … When it comes to work, if he thinks you're funny, and he thinks you're good at what you do, he really, truly tries to help. I did not get the same vibe from the other people. Not that they needed to or that they had any responsibility to do that, I'm just saying Jay went over the top.

Question: You have a big presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Do they excite you or is it just a necessity for entertainers to utilize those mediums?

Answer: (Sigh) No, it's just a necessity. No, I tried to get on board, but like by the time I understood MySpace, my nephews were like, “Kathleen, nobody's doing that anymore,” and I'm like “What?” “Nobody goes to MySpace, it's all about Facebook now.” … Now it's another human being I have to hire because it's too much to monitor. Like there's Wikipedia, the Web site, there's a Facebook, there's a MySpace. It's endless, and if I sat around and just answered MySpace and Facebooks all day, I would never leave the house. It would go on and on and on. … It's just overwhelming, and Wikipedia, that's the most ridiculous thing in the history of ever. Who decided that we could have an encyclopedia that any random jackass can just throw a fact in. For a while on there it said I had a long-term relationship with Carrot Top, which I did not. I said, “Leave it up there, it's so stupid it's funny.” I don't even care. Anybody that believes Wikipedia, you get what you believe.

Question: Have you at least noticed an impact from being on those things?Answer: I think people are just more aware when you're in their town. … Yeah, people know what's up. “Oh, you're on this show, or I saw on Facebook, you're doing this.” There's more knowledge for the people that know and like you, but I don't know that it's new people.

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