Stand-up comedian talks funny business

Photo courtesy of Brian Freidman /

Jesse Hoopes, Staff Writer

Comedian Kathleen Madigan subscribes to the theory that one should work to live, not live to work. At this point in her career, Madigan feels she can do just that. Before Jay Leno performed his final show, Madigan, a close friend of his, asked what he was going to do with his spare time, to which Leno replied, “I’ve got shows booked.” Madigan, who is no stranger to hard work, found his enthusiasm admirable but a bit unnecessary. “He just keeps going. I tell him ‘You can stop now. You’ve won.’”

Perhaps it is Madigan’s close ties to family and her Midwestern roots that keep her grounded and able to laugh about the absurdity of it all. She began her comedic career while working as a journalist in the suburban St. Louis area by frequenting a restaurant and bar that hosted open mic nights. It wasn’t long before she, with a bit of trepidation, made the transition to Los Angeles to pursue stand-up comedy full-time.

Madigan is hard-pressed to actually admit she lives in L.A. “I haven’t really moved to L.A.,” she said, even though she has maintained a residence there since 1996. She has yet to understand the microcosm that is Los Angeles. “Yes, L.A. is nice, the weather is awesome, but what else?” Madigan asked. “Essentially,” she added, “It’s 10 million narcissists stuck in traffic.”

All kidding aside, Madigan is doing what she loves. She credited her family for providing ample material from which she can draw. Madigan is one of seven in a very tight-knit Irish-American family. “[My] family is fine with being in the act. They know there are perks,” Madigan said. Most of the time, those perks include traveling everywhere from Las Vegas to Ireland and getting to order room service from swanky hotel rooms, but she has to field the inevitable question: “Where is the after-party?”

Her comedy career has placed her in the studios of such luminaries as Leno, Conan O’Brien, David Letterman, Bill Maher and Craig Ferguson. “No one is a blatant a—hole,” Madigan said. “Maher backs it up; he is authentic. I hate fake. I prefer an authentic jackass.” The ‘vibe’ on Craig Ferguson and Leno’s shows is a lot friendlier than that of the Letterman show. “The vibe is not comfortable. I don’t know if that is to keep you on your toes. Let’s just say that it’s intense,” she said.

She counts controversial comedian Lewis Black as one of her best friends as well as blue-collar comedian Ron White. Sometimes she will be hanging out with these guys and just forget who they are. To her, they are the people she hangs out with when not indulging in hobbies like golfing, traveling and exploring history.

Her experience as a comedian has not yet extended to film, although she admits that she auditioned for a part in the film “Nebraska.” “But I was too hot and thin to get the part… thankfully too!” Madigan said.