Some people just want to tell jokes.
That’s not always the case, of course. For some, stand-up comedy is a passion that can be used as a springboard to even bigger opportunities, whether it’s writing, hosting a game show or late-night program, TV acting and even movie stardom.
Veteran stand-up Kathleen Madigan has been making people laugh on-stage for more than 25 years, whether she has been hitting theaters, clubs, cruise ships or racking up a huge number of appearances on pretty much every big late-night talk show there is. She’s earned a stellar reputation in the comedy world among fans and her peers. At this point, she could probably take her talent and find other avenues to express her biting blend of political, personal and observational humor.
Here’s the thing, though: some people just want to tell jokes.
“I’m tired of people taking things to the next level. Why don’t you just stay where you are?” Madigan says. “There’s a bunch of us that this (stand-up) is what we want to do.”
Growing up as one of seven kids, the St. Louis native initially went to college for journalism and got her first job in newspapers. Madigan’s up-close experience with covering the news would later lend itself to wanting to lampoon it down the road.
“I learned in journalism school don’t ever join a club. Stay on the perimeter,” she says. “I don’t want to be a part of whatever that machine is. I just want to stand on the outside of it and make fun of it.”
So Madigan left journalism and gave stand-up a try, pursuing it full-time. Once her career picked up, she just kept going, doing upward of 300 shows a year. She’s managed to squeeze in a television or radio appearance here and there while releasing a new hourlong stand-up special every two to three years since 1998, her most recent being Madigan Again in 2013.
If you’re a fan of Jerry Seinfeld, you may have recently seen Madigan getting a cup of Joe with the legendary comedian on the hit Internet series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. She said it was an enjoyable, nostalgic experience that reminded her of working in her early days as a comic.
“We would just go hang out in the day, literally go get coffee, go to the movies, go see what the town had,” she says. “He just wanted it to be comedians going out. Not necessarily being funny, just doing what comedians normally do.”
Madigan is planning to shoot an as-of-yet unnamed stand-up special on March 5 set for release later this year. In the meantime, she’s making a rare club appearance when she comes to perform at Comedy Off Broadway Thursday through Saturday. She says audiences will expect to hear an unfiltered take on familiar topics, whether it’s her travel experiences, her large Irish family or politicians, which Madigan said “don’t go away until they die.”
She said she really enjoys the intimate atmosphere at Comedy Off Broadway and it’s one of the many benefits she has from reaching a goal years ago that’s just as satisfying now as it was then.
“I just still like it,” she said. “I’m never bored. I’m still going places I’ve never been. It’s still a lot of fun.”