If Comedy Ever Stops Being Fun, Stand-Up Kathleen Madigan Can Always Bartend

Kathleen Madigan will keep doing comedy, as long as it keeps being fun
Kathleen Madigan will keep doing comedy, as long as it keeps being fun Photo by Kim Luzena Adams

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Kathleen Madigan will keep doing comedy, as long as it keeps being fun
Photo by Kim Luzena Adams

Kathleen Madigan says she enjoys the simple things in life: good friends, family, a drink or two. “Day to day, beer and wine,” the 54-year-old comic shares. “I’m a cheap date! Occasionally Jamison. But for the Christmas season, I’ll be drinking some Red Velvet Bailey’s, which is a special Bailey’s made for the Christmas season. It’s probably about 1,000 calories in one glass, but oh well.”

Unfortunately, audiences will have a hard time sharing the special Bailey’s with the comic, who will be headlining a night of comedy at Revention Music Center on January 19. Why? Because Red Velvet
Bailey’s is exceedingly rare: “They’ll never find that one,” Madigan explains. “I’ve found a bottle in Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee and that’s IT. This is like hunting for beanie babies, except it’s alcohol!”

Beyond alcohol, Madigan is candid with her astonishment she’s still in the stand-up game after nearly 30 years. “I’m really surprised. You know, I made a deal with myself that when I started this, that if every year I didn’t see progress, I’d re-think it. I just wanted to make enough money to pay rent and maybe buy a small normal house, those normal – like, can you make a living at this? A decent living. You know, can you at the end of the day walk out with like, 75 grand? That was my goal.

"And it just kept getting better and better! I mean, it’s extremely lucky. I didn’t grow wanting to be a comedian. That always cracks people up. People go: ‘Isn’t it great that all your dreams came true?” And I’m like, this is not my dream! I’m living somebody else’s dream. I wanted to be a jockey, that did not happen. Second choice: I wanted to be in the band Heart… that did not happen. So this is just a happy accident, as the Joy of Painting guy would say.”

Staying grounded seems of paramount importance to Madigan, who has appeared on late night programs hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld and others. The focus on her humor has remained consistent too. “Like with my act,” she elaborates, “the themes have stayed pretty much the same over 30 years. It’s usually just about regular life, my family, traveling. And then SOMETIMES, current events, like politics – if it’s in the news. But like, Lewis Black would do that all the time and I don’t. It’s just if it’s in our face and it [gets] hard to ignore. The same themes over the years, but different material, because life goes on.

"But I’m never going to be Kathy Griffin, who is very good at celebrity jokes. She does it very well. But mine’s more about regular life, like I wouldn’t know a Kardashian if one actually got in my car. I don’t really know who they are, so I don’t really get those jokes. But a lot of people like all that stuff. Mine is more about regular life.”

Madigan is happy to pay a compliment to fellow comics, like long-time friend Lewis Black, with whom Madigan just released an Audible album with entitled Lewis and Kathleen Escape To Canada. “He’s got this thing at the end where he reads feedback onstage where he does this rant thing, and I just helped him with that part,” Madigan says. “I don’t normally do that, but it was a one time deal and it was fun. He likes to do that at the end of his act. We do a ton of stuff together, but its usually charity stuff. Cystic Fibrosis, Autism, we do all kinds. Really we just want to see each other and hang out, so we figure out a way to do shows and maybe golf? It’s great.”

As for other comedians, Madigan’s friendship is very clear. “The comedians that I’m friends with are great to drink with, and the ones that are not great to drink with are not my friends,” she laughs. It’s too much of a part of my life. If you don’t drink… like my friend Greg quit drinking. That’s fine, because at least he started out drinking and quit! But he’ll still go to the bar. Like if I say go meet me at McGirk’s, he’ll come and just hang out for an hour or so and let me have my beers. And I’m not really friends with the pot people, and I’m not against pot, it’s just a different group. And they would never cross over to our group. Stoners hang with stoners and the drinkers with the drinkers.”

In the end, a grateful world hopes Madigan keeps sharing her cut-and-dry looks at American society flowing, like Red Velvet Bailey’s from a oh-so rare bottle. But if things take a turn, the comic is confident she’ll
make a living somehow.

“Seriously, my back up plans, because one of my sisters and my brother work at a bank, and I know what the rate if for a first time small loans for business owners for women. I was just going to go get a loan, open a bar called Madigan’s and throw TVs up, and just bartend for the rest of my life. And I’d be pretty happy doing that. And if it’s my bar, I can bring my dog. That would be a fine back up plan if I didn’t see progress. You don’t really get a normal life if you choose this job, so you should make sure the exchange is worth it. And that could still be the retirement plan. It’s just hard to trust employees in a cash business, but maybe by then there won’t be cash at all. [It’d] probably be in the Ozarks, in Missouri. There’s a lake down there. And I’d probably just leave in the winter when it got too cold. It’s a seasonal hillbilly lake bar. That’d be a dream come true.”

Kathleen Madigan's performance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, January 19 at Revention, 520 Texas. For information, call 713-260-1600 or visit $65-320.

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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee