An interview with a singer doesn’t come with a serenade, and guitarists don’t punctuate thoughts about their work with a solo or two. That’s why comics are so much fun to talk to. A phone call with a really good one, like the ever smirking Kathleen Madigan, feels like being the only audience member at a great open mike night.
Madigan has a trifecta of New England shows coming up, including one June 19 at Plymouth’s Flying Monkey.
“I’m a Midwest person, and when I’m [in the Northeast] I have no idea where I am ever,” she said. “Wait, why would I fly into Boston to go to Maine? It doesn’t even make geographical sense in my brain.”
She did remember stalking the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport during one visit and tourists in rocking chairs on a beachside resort porch: “It looked like a convalescent home, like everyone had tuberculosis.” Then the talk shifted to Madigan’s mentors when she began doing standup in the early 1990s.
“People that at the time were not famous but in clubs and already headliners — that would be the people I golf with, my friends right now — Ron White, Lewis Black,” she said. “I ended up working with them a lot. It wasn’t like I wanted to be like them, but I learned a lot from watching night after night. They were mostly men, too; Brett Butler was in clubs as far as women go. ”
A dozen years later, Madigan was in the first season of Last Comic Standing, and though it gave her career a big boost, she doesn’t have fond memories, calling it “a bad production.” To begin with, comics on the television competition were mostly veterans, a fact barely mentioned on the air.
“Every single one of us had a Comedy Central half hour … Leno or Letterman,” she said, likening it to a haute couture reality show. “To be a designer, you can’t say, ‘I’ll just try that.’ … It’s not like singing. There might be a lady at the post office right now that can sing like Chaka Khan but you don’t have to do anything, just start singing ... but comedy. We got hate mail ... ‘You’re just a ringer!’ I’m like, ‘Right!’ Nobody lied; we told everybody.”
Madigan doesn’t aspire to have a sitcom, either. She said it’s for a number of reasons, both creative and not.
“I went with Lewis when he was a guest on The Big Bang Theory ... we got there at 4 and didn’t leave until 11! Me and his publicist drank a bottle of wine, took a nap, and I memorized the script. I knew the other people’s lines,” she said. “To stay for seven hours to go on stage and do two pages worth of BS lines ... I think you have to have some kind of passion that I definitely do not have.”
She did work with her old pal Black on Comedy Central’s Root of All Evil, though she believes the network fouled it up.
“Let me and Lew do what we know ... it would have been twice the show,” she said. “But they can’t help themselves. It’s like saying, ‘The dogs aren’t going to get out of the yard, but they dig holes, jump the fence — 1 can’t even articulate how much I hate it.”
Don’t look for her to do a podcast either.
“A guy from some company called and asked. I said, ‘Are you high?’ Here’s another thing we can do for no money. I play on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook all day long for no money … to have fun and entertain people.”
That’s not to say a Madigan podcast won’t happen; it just won’t star the comic.
“The guy that called said, ‘We were thinking you could talk about your parents’ and I told the guy, ‘You should call my father and give him the podcast,’” Madigan said. “Seriously ... you want to hear about them, not me. Well, they have nothing to do. They’re retired, driving around in circles in a town car. Give him a call; he would totally do it.”