“Growing up in the Midwest, you always hear about the Hamptons,” stand-up comedian Kathleen Madigan shares. “It’s like Narnia.”Ms. Madigan—who returns to the East End this Saturday, July 21, when she brings her Boxed Wine & Big Foot Tour to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center—is from the St. Louis suburbs. “I just feel like I’m sneaking into another world when I go out there, as a Midwest person,” she said during a recent interview.
She’s performed in Westhampton Beach before and at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. “Every time I go out there I think, ‘Why didn’t I just book a couple more nights and stay there?’” she said.
Though she’s been to the East End only for work, if she were to make some time for recreation, she’d choose fishing on a boat out of Montauk over lying on the beach. However—being from the Midwest—the type of fishing she is used to is different than anglers on the coasts are used to. She recalled that when she watched fishermen on the Hermosa Beach pier, she was at a loss. “I didn’t even understand the bait.”
Another favorite pastime of hers is golf, and she noted that she recently got back from a golf trip to Ireland and Scotland with longtime friend and fellow comedian Lewis Black. “We usually go golfing after we are done touring,” she said. It’s a chance to unwind. It’s also a way to get away from “the reality show of Trump.”
President Donald Trump, that is.
“Like Lew said, ‘We got a break.’ They don’t report his tweets,” she said of the media in Europe and Mr. Trump’s Twitter habit. “Our media is obsessed with him to the point that they’ve lost their minds.”
She said she doesn’t need a 20-person panel talking about “the tweet that he doesn’t even give a shit that he wrote.”
Having earned a journalism degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville before she became a headlining comedian, she has strong feelings about the media and its dealings with the president.
She was a freelancer for the Suburban Journals newspapers in Missouri, and wrote for Cherry Diamond, the in-house magazine of the Missouri Athletic Club, which she described as a club of “old guys, doing no athletics.”
“All I did was stories on the members,” she recalled. “If anybody did anything, I would be happy to write about it.”
The problem was, hardly anyone ever did anything interesting. One guy had climbed Mount Everest, she acknowledged. But that was very much an exception.
Lacking a passion for what she was doing, she moved on to comedy—which she had been doing simultaneously—full time.
How she became a successful comedian is not explained by one big break. She said she’s had luck and “accidental, awesome timing.”
Just a few highlights: She was featured on HBO’s “Women of the Night” in 1991, got an episode of Comedy Central’s stand-up series “Comedy Central Presents” in 2000 and was a competitor on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in its second season in 2004.
She said that when young comics ask for advice, she says, “I don’t know what to tell you.”
Because things have changed. She said she couldn’t imagine Netflix and Sirius XM when she started.
YouTube is for little kids and teenagers, but that’s not the crowd that a 35-year-old comic is after, she said.
So what can they do?
“There’s not a clear pathway anymore …” she said. “I just lucked out. I hope they luck out. The only thing I can say is ... get on stage every night if you can.”
She stated a simple formula that she has followed: “Tell jokes. Get cash. Where did you get lost?”
That’s the deal, she said. No TV shows, no movies. “That’s the deal you get on open mic night.”
She is passionate about comedy and joke telling, and takes exception when someone says something inexcusable and then tries to pass it off as a joke. For example: The recent infamous tweet by Roseanne Barr that got the reboot of “Roseanne” canceled after only a few episodes.
A joke requires “an intent to be funny, not an intent to do anything else and then call it a joke,” Ms. Madigan said.
“Occasionally, Trump will tweet things and say things and [White House Press Secretary] Sarah Sanders will say, ‘Well, it was just a joke, if you all had a sense of humor—maybe you should get one—and you would know that was just a joke.’ No it wasn’t. It was quite clear he did not intend for that to be a joke, and he doesn’t know how to write a joke, and he doesn’t ever tell jokes. So don’t tell me, all of a sudden, he’s funny. It’s ridiculous.
“I’ve heard super offensive, cross-the-line things out of comedians’ mouths and I still laughed because they put the work in and it was actually funny. That’s the hardest part, I think. I mean, there are people that I have seen cross lines—whether it’s Doug Stanhope, I can go through the list of those guys—but I find myself laughing. I shouldn’t laugh at it—he’s crossed a line—but you made it funny and that’s f---ing hard to do. That’s probably another reason I don’t do it—too much work,” she laughed. “It’s too much work to go that far.”
Mr. Trump, naturally, comes up in her act. But she has issues with politicians in general.
“My biggest theme right now—and he would be the low end of this group—I think our politicians are too old,” she said.
“[Senator] Orrin Hatch is 84 and is thinking about running again. No, paw-paw. You’re done. He took imaginary glasses off of his face and put imaginary glasses on top of his head. You’re out. You’re done. You’re out. You’re done.”
She compares elder politicians to her own parents, who are 76 years old.
“My bigger problem is, I’m sick of looking at old people tell young people how they’re gonna live, and what they’re gonna do. And I don’t care if there’s a couple of them. Like, I said, I would hire my dad as a consultant, because from 10 to 2 my dad is on fire. He has answers to questions, he knows where the phone is. He knows where the car keys are. And he is super smart. But, full time? No.”
She lauds Mr. Trump for one thing.
“I compliment Trump on his ability to manipulate the media,” she said. “Because I’ve never seen it done. It will never happen again. He has a natural gift for it, and he did it. And I don’t think there’s anybody else who can do it. Does that mean I agree with him? No. But did he masterly just bitch slap them? And they’re still doing it. He exposed them for what they are, which is rating whores, which is also what he is. So, you see one, you know one. And he did it.
“But I actually make it funnier than that in my act.”
Her most recently comedy special is “Bothering Jesus,” her second for Netflix.
She said she didn’t make a deal with Netflix for multiple specials, and that’s the way she likes it. She explained that she doesn’t like being committed and on a schedule. “I might not turn in as good a homework as if you let me turn in my homework on my own time.”
Once she has a special in the can, she doesn’t make a point of writing a new act from scratch.
“[Jerry] Seinfeld will basically just throw out an act and start all over. And I never do that,” she said.
She said her performances are typically made up of three parts: a third old material, a third new material and a third greatest hits.
Kathleen Madigan performs stand-up at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 21, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $71 to $91. Call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.
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