Interview: Comedian Kathleen Madigan talks ‘Boxed Wine & Bigfoot’ standup tour, career
Photo credit: Luzena Adams and used with permission

With more than two dozen appearances on late-night television to coincide with sold out standup performances and riding along with Jerry Seinfeld on an episode of his hit Netflix show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”, it’s safe to say that Kathleen Madigan is the quintessential comedian.

The bawdy, warm-hearted Madigan is currently riding the wave of success from her sixth album, “Bothering Jesus,” which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Comedy Charts in 2016 and is taken from the Netflix special of the same name.

Madigan is currently on the road in support of her coast to coast, 32-date, “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot” tour. AXS recently spoke with her about her new tour, her career and more in this new interview.

AXS: What can fans expect from your “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot” Tour?

Kathleen Madigan: More of what I’ve been doing for the past thirty years. It’s different material, but the same subjects. Things that make for a big bar conversation I have with myself.

AXS: How would you describe your brand of comedy?

KM: It’s very conversational, or as Lewis Black would say, “A lady with a lot of opinions and very deep facts.” [laughs].

AXS: Where do you draw inspiration for your material?

KM: It comes from everyday life but also current events and what’s in the news. For example, it’s hard for me to believe that an airplane with 239 people on it can go missing, and everyone is kind of cool with it. It’s crazy to say that we’ve lost our planes. That’s an acceptable statement to make about a boat in 1492, but not in today’s world.

Another thing is UFOs. I recently read an article online where two American Airlines pilots; another plane and the control tower all said they saw a UFO flying above them. Every bit of it is online, including the conversations from the control tower. What I don’t understand is why that’s not the lead story on the news. Stormy Daniels is a porn star on Earth. These people are saying that there are people who aren’t from Earth ON Earth! [laughs].

AXS: What would you say is the biggest challenge of doing standup comedy these days?

KM: Current events and politics. It was never really a problem until Donald [Trump] came along. I’m not a political person, and I still have my Bush and Obama jokes. But, for some reason, Trump has divided the teams so clearly that each side feels so passionate it’s almost personal. I could talk about Mitt Romney all day long, but no one would ever come to his defense to the point where they’d be willing to throw their life on the line. Whether you’re left, right or somewhere in the middle, it’s never conjured up this level of craziness.

AXS: Has having a hugely successful comedy album and Netflix special sunk in yet?

KM: I’m not sure that it resonates. I don’t really think of it as me existing as myself. Here’s an example: I was recently at a bar with Lewis in New York, and I was telling him how one of my brothers had done something that didn’t sit right with me. So, I’m going off about this family issue and there’s this millennial sitting next to me who says, “Oh my God! Are you Kathleen Madigan? You’re my favorite comedian! Can I get a picture with you?” [laughs]. It never even occurred to me that people might know who I am. What’s worse is the lady just heard me throw my whole family under the bus [laughs]. Another comedian once said that when you’re in the building, you’re the most famous. I know that when I’m at work, I’m popular. But once I leave work, it’s a regular life.

AXS: Was having a career in comedy something you always envisioned for yourself?

KM: It was an accident. Originally, I didn’t even know it was a job. When I watched Johnny Carson growing up, and comedians like Buddy Hackett or Bill Cosby came on, I thought they were just his funny friends. Then, when I found out the truth, I was like, “Wait, you mean these guys are getting paid for it?” Even when I went to do the open mic night for the first time, I couldn’t believe someone would give me money to do it.

AXS: You mentioned the open mic night. What was it about doing standup that night that piqued your interest? 

KM: It was literally $50 [laughs]. I bartended through college and then one night after work, we all went over to comedy club where an open mic was going on. One of the people I was with told me I should do it, and then offered me $20. Then it got up to $50. That’s when I said, “Sold!!”

AXS: What was it that kept you coming back?

KM: The main guy who hosted the open mic in St Louis was a local star who told me I should come back because I was good. I told him I wasn’t sure because I was graduating college and wanted to get a real job. I remember he said you can make real money doing this, and I said, define real money? Had he not said something to me, I’m not sure if I would’ve returned.

AXS: What’s the best bit of advice you can give to up and coming comics?

KM: There’s no school you can go to or book you can read. You have to find your own way. The other thing I would say is to go see other comedians perform. Even if you don’t like their brand of comedy, you can learn something, like how to handle a room or the check drop. Every single one of them can teach you something.

AXS: What satisfies you the most about where you are in your career?

KM: I’m at a point in life where I get to pick and choose where I go. It’s freeing to finally see tickets sell on their own and to not have anyone yelling at me [laughs]. There’s an ease about it now that’s really fun.