By Mary Ann Bourbeau
RED BANK – Kathleen Madigan has been performing stand-up comedy for 25 years, and she is content with that. She has no desire to helm a TV show, star in commercials or break into the movies as so many other comedians have done.
“I just like to tell jokes for an hour or so and laugh,” she said. “For a few of us working today, this was our goal. Can’t you ever have a goal, reach it and then enjoy it? This society is being driven by Type A lunatics that say you have to set more goals. No you don’t. Have a seat and enjoy the fact that you’re here!”
That’s just what Madigan does, performing nearly 300 shows each year. She will appear at the Count Basie Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 9 as part of her new stand-up comedy tour, “The Mermaid Lady.”
Madigan performs so many shows each year that she is almost always on the road.
“We don’t get time off like a band,” she said. “Our tour never ends. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say, “How long is your tour?’ Well so far, 25 years.”
During that time, Madigan has performed on nearly every late night television show, starred in two HBO specials, one on Showtime and three on Comedy Central. She has released five CDs and three DVDs, was nominated for an American Comedy Award and had one of the top-rated comedy albums on iTunes. She was also a Season 2 finalist on Last Comic Standing, and a judge on Season 5.
But of all the shows she has done over the past quarter century, the ones she enjoyed most were during her two USO tours with fellow comedians Lewis Black and Robin Williams.
“There’s no better show on earth than a show for the troops,” she said. “They are so grateful someone showed up in seriously awful places. Iraq and Afghanistan were the most memorable things in my career. It’s a weird thing to say, but true. I wouldn’t trade it for any TV show I’ve done or anyone I’ve met.”
Madigan grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, in a large Irish Catholic family, so she had to learn to speak up in order to survive.
“When there are nine people in the house, if you don’t speak up, you might not even get dinner,” she said. “Shy is not an option if you’d like to eat, get a good seat in the car or not be left at a gas station on a family vacation.”
In 1988, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, but after working at a newspaper for a short while, realized it wasn’t the future she envisioned for herself.
“Newspapers today are the cobblers of the 1920s,” she said. “It’s the Titanic and they’re kind of the band.”
While working for a St. Louis newspaper chain, Madigan started performing comedy at open mic nights and eventually got a full-time job with The Funny Bone comedy club chain. The inspiration for her jokes comes from the simple, everyday things in life.
“Everything I say on stage is true and has happened,” she said. “I don’t like confrontation so I’m usually never extreme. My act is like the movie ‘Arthur.’ It’s fun and makes a few points, but it’s mainly silly.”
When she’s not on the road, Madigan, who is single, splits time between Missouri and her home in Los Angeles.
“I golf and I sleep,” she said. “I remain on my couch watching ‘House Hunters’ and drinking red wine.”
Madigan will appear at the Count Basie Theatre at 8 p.m. Jan. 9. Tickets are $19.50 and $25. For more information, visit www.countbasietheatre.org.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnBourbeau.
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