February 23rd, 2012, 6:01 pm · · posted by KELLI SKYE FADROSKI, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
For nearly 22 years comic Kathleen Madigan has been performing in front of live audiences. Now, at 45, after touring the states repeatedly, doing several USO shows in Afghanistan and Iraq, surviving being not only a contestant but also a judge on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” she says she will happily deal with the traffic from her Los Angeles home to get to her show at City National Grove of Anaheim on Friday.
Madigan will be bringing a new hour of comedy with a few fan-favorites peppered in the act, she says. With so many other female comics taking on talk shows (Chelsea Handler with “Chelsea Lately”), sitcoms (Whitney Cummings with “Whitney”) and reality shows (Kathy Griffin’s “My Life on the D-List”), Madigan says that after her experience on “Last Comic Standing,” she’s not willing to put herself through any of that again.
“I can see why Paula (Abdul of “American Idol” and “X Factor”) lost her mind,” she says of being a judge on the fifth season of the stand-up competition show after being a finalist on the second season. “I’m not snippy and I’m not mean – those things are not me and to be a judge, we saw like 2,000 comics and really only 200 were funny comics, the rest, well with comedy you can get some real wack-a-doodles off the streets. It was seriously a free-for-all and I couldn’t think of 1,800 ways to say ‘You’re crazy’ without sounding mean. I don’t like making fun of people like that, that’s not in my nature and clearly there was something wrong with some of them and they shouldn’t have been on television. I would never do it again unless it was like a dog jumping contest or something that was fun and silly.”
Recently Madigan spent time overseas doing shows with the USO alongside various other comics such as her long-time friend Lewis Black, musicians like Kid Rock, Kellie Pickler and Zac Brown and actress Tichina Arnold.
“People think that it’s very altruistic to do those shows but really, after putting on a flak jacket and a military helmet, I’m so happy that other people are signing up for that job,” she says. “I will do whatever I can to keep them happy so that they continue doing that because I do not want to come home and get a note in my mailbox that says ‘P.S., No one signed up for the military. You need to be in Kabul tomorrow’.”
While in Afghanistan Madigan says that none of the stars received special treatment, but she was bothered by the fact that she could spot about 120 Hum-V’s but not one toilet.
“Really? We can get 120 Hum-V’s over here, but no one could pick up a Porta-Potty? Call the Missouri State Fair, they know how to get them,” she adds. “But you never hear any of the military people complain and if they do, they must do it quietly and to themselves, because they all had the best attitudes.”
Madigan and the crew stayed in the barracks right alongside the service men and women and journalists, where it was often cold and taking a shower was sometimes risky due to unpredictable electrical wiring, but they still managed to have some fun.
“Kellie (Pickler) and I got cold in the girls room one night so we went over to where Lewis, Kid Rock and Zac Brown were and I never would have dreamed in a million years that we’d all be together – it was like a weird dream that you have while on Percocet. I swear to God, though, we’ve never had so much fun on one of those tours, especially for us comics because we never get to hang around musicians so we don’t know what their lives are like, so it was fun to see another side.”
It’s hard to find one interview where comics Lewis Black and Ron White aren’t singing Madigan’s praises when asked who they think is funny in the industry. Madigan was an opener when Black and White were just starting out as headlining acts.
“I’m really good friends with those guys,” she admits. “I mean this, but I’m not friends with comics that I don’t think are funny. I don’t think I could hang out with a hack. We (Black and White) all watched each other develop through the years and it’s nice because those are two of the guys I respect the most. They’re both very funny, but very different.”
“Lewis is the nice Jewish man who is never going to do anything impulsive or crazy (said with a sarcastic tone) and Ron is Elvis, so I may, at the end of the day may end up having more unexpected fun with Ron, but I will always feel safer with Lew.”
Madigan says she didn’t have any real reference for what a stand-up comic did or was when she and her bartender friend Mike signed up for a comedy open mic night on a whim. Her influences quickly became the other comics who were working the small-club circuit with her.
“I think I went to the club once when I was starting and Ron (White) was headlining and he became one of my favorite comics,” she recalls. “But my taste was good because usually when you don’t know anything about comedy it’s easy to like a hack, but I never liked a hack so I’m proud of that I had a discerning eye even when I didn’t know what I was looking for.”
In her spare time – what little she has – Madigan heads back to the Midwest to spend time with her young nieces and nephews.
“Basically, I go there and goof off, drive the kids around on a baby four-wheeler, go in the lake, hang out with my family and drink beer.”
See Kathleen Madigan: 8:30 p.m. Feb. 24 at City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim. $25-$30. 800-745-3000. Ticketmaster.com.
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