Madigan, 47, has spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan (on a USO Holiday Tour with Lewis Black and Robin Williams), but her time on NBC's Last Comic Standing may have been more grueling, as she told us during a recent phone interview.
NUVO: I heard you say on a morning radio show when asked about your plans for the future: "I haven't planned anything thus far, and it's turned out great." Still not planning?
Kathleen Madigan: I don't plan anything. I mean, things happen. The night before last, I was taping another Ron White Salute to the Troops special for CMT that they show all year long. It's the third one, and I didn't plan on that. I just like telling jokes, so as long as I have gigs, to me that's fine. I don't really want to be in movies, I don't want a sitcom. This was my goal, to tell jokes in front of real people without television cameras; to just have a live night and then go to the bar. That was the plan, and it's worked out perfectly.
NUVO: I feel like those younger comics are flipping over to the insane comedy podcast scene. Comedians are the only group of people that will break every boundary in interviews - way more interesting to me than musicians or politicians. Do you listen to any comedy podcasts? I know you've been on quite a few.
Madigan: I think [the podcast scene] is like comedy clubs. There's too many now. Comedy went from a bunch of really good clubs to billions of clubs and now we're back to just the good clubs. I think the podcast thing - there's probably ten people that should actually be doing it, and now everybody's doing it. I mean, I'm surprised my mom doesn't have one. It's that overdone.
I don't want to be mean, but [podcasters], come on, I've done a hundred of these. You're too late. I'm done. I'm out. I mean, Marc Maron's [WTF] is great and worth doing. There's probably ten that are worth it and the rest, it's just an hour with my moron friend. Just come over to the house and then you can tape what we talk about. But I do not want to go to your weird garage in god knows where with my GPS that's going to have to find your apartment. No. It's just too crazy. [Some of them] get like 2,000 listeners. What does that mean, really? How does that translate into somebody coming to a show? I guess, maybe it does. It seems like a distraction. If you've got to focus on your podcast, just go write some jokes.
NUVO: The way you describe Last Comic Standing sounds kind of hellish: You told St. Louis Magazine, "In theory, the crew was supposed to bring us everything we needed, namely food, but we even had to beg for that. I'm a woman in a houseful of guys; there were mornings I'd wake up, and the guys would have already eaten everything. I'd go hungry." What the hell? That sounds horrible.
Madigan: It was like a minimum security prison. It really was. And after getting out, I looked at other reality shows and thought, "Well, look at them drinking wine!" They got alcohol. Me and John Heffron, he's from Michigan; we were like Midwest beer people. We finally [asked production], "Can we have some beer?" And one of the people snuck in a six-pack. Then I had one beer, John had two, we woke up and the three extras were gone. They even took the three extras away!
I did realize, after being out of touch with the world for a month, how much time I waste reading the news. After I got out, I asked my dad what went on while I was gone. He said, "Let me think. There was an Al-Qaeda bombing in Spain on a train..." and that was really all that happened. So all the time I spend reading news that really isn't news, it was just gargle. It's a much quieter life with no phones and no TVs.
NUVO: But if there's no beer, it's not worth it.
Madigan: No, no beer. They were very strict. The whole thing was just not what I thought it was going to be. And I knew most of those comedians that we were going in with into the house, and I thought it was going to be fun. I really did.
NUVO: Speaking of the noise of news and the noise of Twitter: you've said you like Twitter's format because it's quick, to the point and snappy. How do you think that Twitter has changed comedy? Is it a good warm up tool; a way for people to be discovered; a way for people to burn their jokes?
Madigan: I think it's nothing but a source of amusement. It's the same thing with Facebook. Everybody got overexcited a long time ago because Dane Cook built up all of his MySpace friends and then it worked. His marketing tools worked and he got very well known off that. But that was an anomaly. It's like the podcast thing; Marc Maron rebuilt his career in an awesome way through his awesome podcast. But again, anomaly.
I love Twitter. I really do love Twitter and I love to play on Twitter. But it's mainly because I'm sitting in an airport and I'm bored and it makes me laugh. I have 30,000 some followers on Twitter, but nobody's coming to a show, buying a $35 ticket because they think I'm funny on Twitter. It's not happening. For the younger comedians, I think it's for fun, but don't expect anything. Don't expect it to translate to reality. There's nothing tangible about Facebook friends or Twitter followers. It's part of your job to stay heard, but none of it's real to me. It's just - those 35,000 people, if I have the flu, are they coming over? They're not really friends.
NUVO: Your website pulls a quote from Jay Leno, who said, "Kathleen Madigan is one of America's funniest female comics." What's with the extra adjective, Jay? Just drop the "female." People don't say "funniest man comic."
Madigan: [Jay's comment] is old school. I don't even hear it anymore, because it's been said so many times. The problem is, it's ingrained. Even in the Academy Awards, even in acting. Best Female Actress, Best Male Actor. They do it on the Grammys. They do it in comedy. I don't really know that [attitudes towards women] have changed, except I'm glad to see that networks are giving female comics sitcoms. Before, they were stuck on guy comics being the lead, which is fine, but we also have some women.