Comedian Kathleen Madigan takes her life in full stride

May 7, 2010 at 12:07 a.m.

By Julie Hinds

Detroit Free Press


Kathleen Madigan's joke about illegal immigration is that there should be a reality show where people vote on who stays or goes.

"I think we can all agree there's illegal immigrants that are already here that work hard and we'd like it if they stayed," she says. "And I think we can also all agree there's a lot of Americans that haven't really panned out. So let's start voting, OK?"

Madigan has been described as one of America's funniest female comics by Jay Leno.

She has been a special correspondent for the "Dr. Phil" show. She has starred in specials on HBO and Comedy Central. She jokes that she wants her next DVD to air on Animal Planet, because nobody else has a comedy special on that cable network.

Madigan talked by phone recently about her busy schedule, her thoughts on women and comedy and her recent USO tour with Kid Rock.

Travel time: It's an understatement to say that Madigan, who tours nationally doing stand-up comedy, spends a lot of time at airports. And when she stayed at her sister's house for almost three weeks recently, Madigan commented that she hadn't been in the same place for more than two weeks in a row in 20 years. "My sister goes, 'Kathleen, that is just freakish. You are a freak.' ... But that's just the way I live."

Being onstage: Madigan says she's essentially the same person offstage that she is when she's telling jokes to an audience. "I feel like my act is me. I just walk from the bar to the stage, and now there's just more people sitting at the bar, in my mind."

Comedy's glass ceiling: "If you're just going to tell jokes and be a stand-up, if you're funny, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman. It really doesn't," she says. But getting a TV sitcom or late-night talk show is more difficult for female comics, according to Madigan. "It's just a perception that women aren't a good group to target advertising-wise. But it makes no sense, because then you look at the success of, like, 'Desperate Housewives.' Well, duh, it's all women."

Working with Dr. Phil McGraw: "It's very strange, but it's really fun," says Madigan, who has been making appearances as a special correspondent for the syndicated daytime show. She describes Dr. Phil as someone who's goofy and has a great sense of humor. He's "a big ole Texas fun guy," she says.

Working with Lewis Black: Madigan says she and Black, who'll be the opening act for the New York City concerts she's filming this month for her next DVD, have opposite styles as comedians. "He's more frustrated, and I'm more accepting," she says. Where Black is from the '60s generation that wanted to change the world, she grew up at a time when "somebody gave us Atari and Pong and said enjoy your life. I didn't have the hope that he had to get shattered."

Visiting Iraq and Afghanistan: Last year, Madigan was on a USO tour with Black, Kellie Pickler and Kid Rock. "We so lucked out that nobody in our group was a diva," she says. And Kid Rock "could not have been cooler and nicer. ... He could not have been more normal."

Political tensions: Although she has made fun of leaders like George W. Bush for years and gotten bipartisan laughs, Madigan says people seem more divided by politics lately. "I do a couple jokes about Sarah Palin and I've been heckled a few times about it, which I rarely get ... Her people, they are all on board and they get upset very easily."


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