Comedian Kathleen Madigan on Allergies, Lewis Black, and Which Joke She'd Take Back

Kathleen Madigan is just here for the jokes. In her 25-plus year career in standup comedy, she has bypassed the coveted sitcom and movie route that so many comedians strive for and stayed doing what she really loves instead – simply standup. It is what has made her a frequent guest on nearly every late night show in the last two decades and a favorite among her peers including best buds like Lewis Black and Ron White. Her material often mines her family situations (her parents cruise her website and seek out her casino dates so they can tag along), politics, golf and her friendships on the road.

New TimesWhat tour does this make? I know you are constantly on tour so it’s a hard thing to keep track of?
Kathleen Madigan: Yeah, I wouldn’t even know. Twenty-fifth? Twenty-sixth, because I’ve been doing standup for 26 years.

I noticed on Twitter you are having all kinds of allergy issues on tour. How is that going?
Oh yeah, I really am! I’m allergic to laundry detergent, so at hotels I am basically my own maid. I have to bring my own sheets everywhere. I have to remove all of their bedding. 

Besides the travel woes, what subjects are you thinking about lately? What will be coming up in your act?
I usually talk about the same things just in different ways but my family, traveling on the road, politics. Politics is always big. The same things I’ve been talking about over the years.

Who do you trust to bounce new material off of?
I’d probably go to my friend Lewis Black. We don’t really do that but if I were going to, I’d run it by Lew, probably.

What is his off-stage demeanor like? I imagine him as super excitable, but maybe he is the opposite in person?
He’s actually just very silly. He’s goofy, he’s silly. But I like to get him riled up. Certain subjects get him riled up but he’s not always that crazy. If he was, he’d have a stroke.

You are often referenced in with Lewis Black, Jim Gaffigan, and Brian Regan but are left out of the realm of "lady comics" or the female comedian clutch. Was that ever intentional on your part? Or just something that happened?
No, it’s just who you end up being friends with and who you start out with. You get booked randomly with people and then you get booked with other comics a bunch and you get to know them better. That’s why I’m such good friends with Ron White because we were working this chain of clubs called the Funny Bone and I’d open for him and for whatever reason I kept ended up with Ron. You end up spending Tuesday through Sunday with someone and you will either really like them or not and with Ron, he’s still one of my really good friends and we talk all the time and go golfing. But all of those guys, Jeff Foxworthy, John Pinette, I just ended up working with those guys so much you just end up as friends.

You have been on every single late-night show in the last two decades. Obviously, there are a lot of new faces of late night recently. How have you seen the late-night show landscape change over the years? Is it still as fun?
It’s still a lot of fun but in general in society there is this lack of focus because everything is so fractured. There are so many options for entertainment, and this not only goes for comedy but music and TV shows, everything. You have to hear it from a friend now like, "Go watch Making of a Murderer it’s on Netflix, it’s amazing" versus way back when there was only X amount of channels, everybody just watched what was on. Even the late-night shows, I cant keep up with who is hosting what and who is booking what. It’s not as simple as it used to be. It’s more complicated and fractured but it’s still just as much fun. There’s just lot going on. You know Johnny Carson had two-thirds of the country watching him every night, 300 million every night. Jimmy Fallon and those guys are getting 6 million so it’s all divided up. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It’s more for everybody and more jobs so that’s good.

It’s more places for you to be seen, though.
Yeah, and you’re really doing it now for your own five-minute clip that you’re going to post on all your own sites. I did David Letterman like seven times, and I never had anyone come up and say, "Oh, I saw you on David Letterman and that’s why I came to the show." Never. Now Sirius radio, a Showtime special, and Netflix special? Absolutely. But the late night shows you just keep doing them because it keeps your name going but it’s not really effective, it doesn’t really do anything. It’s fun! But it doesn’t really do much anymore.

In your 25 years is there ever a joke you would take back?
No, absolutely not. No.

Kathleen Madigan will perform two special South Florida club dates in preparation for recording her next special later in March. Wednesday, February 24, show at Fort Lauderdale Improv begins at 8 p.m. with a $30 admission. Thursday, February 25, show at Palm Beach Improv starts at 8 p.m. with $30 admission as well. Ticket information can be found at and
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