A few weeks ago comedian Kathleen Madigan received a tweet from a guy who had just returned home from one of her live performances. “He said, ‘I just spent an hour at Kathleen Madigan’s show and felt like she was in my living room,’” she recalls. That summation makes total sense. Madigan is, on all levels, a laidback, take-it-as-it-comes type of gal. And that attitude is on full display in her latest hour-long comedy special Madigan Again, now streaming exclusively on Netflix. In other words, you can have Madigan in your living room at your convenience. And it’s a good thing, too. The veteran comedian is the kind of person that, after just a few moments in the same room, you sort of want her to be your best friend.
Los Angeles-based, but born in a suburb of St. Louis – where she now owns a farm – Madigan was raised by Irish Catholic parents, her lawyer/judge father and nurse mother alongside six brothers and sisters. It was a happy home, but Madigan knew early on that she didn’t want to subscribe to the suburban dream. “When I was 10, I remember being in bunk beds with my sister thinking, is this it? Are we supposed to grow up and then we get a house like this and then our kids are in bunk beds?” she recalls. “And my sister was like, ‘Yes! That’s life, Kathleen!’ And I’m like, there’s got to be a little bit more. Do we just stay in Missouri? Is that the plan? ‘Yes, this is where our family is.’ And my sister’s done exactly that— and good for her. That’s what she wanted.”
Being somewhat of a pragmatist, Madigan decided the most logical way to see other places was to become a flight attendant. However, she didn’t meet the height requirement. “You had to be 5’2” and I lied. I’m really 5 one and a half,” she says. So it was back to tending bar (which she really loved) and freelance writing on the side since, after all, she did have a degree in journalism. Then one night, she and a friend visited the local Funny Bone comedy club, where they would drink on Mondays and Tuesdays during open mics. Madigan had a life-altering epiphany: she was way funnier than the crazies on stage. “I never thought about being a comedian,” she says. “I didn’t even know it was a job.”
Eventually the Funny Bone would book Madigan at all their clubs across the country, where she honed her comedy chops. And today after decades on the road, 15 appearances on The Tonight Show – she’s one of Jay Leno’s favorite comedians – half a dozen visits to Late Show with David Letterman multiple albums and television specials and countless hours logged onstage, Madigan is selling out theaters and living a dream she didn’t think existed when she was 10 years old wondering aloud in her bed.
“After 25 years, the slot machine is finally paying off,” she says about her now-enviable career status. “But, whatever— I’m patient. I’ll sit at the machine until the thing breaks or I win.”
Dylan Gadino is the founder and editor of Laughspin.com, the premier editorial destination for all things comedy. He's also the co-host of the Laughspin Podcast, a weekly comedy news roundup and interview show. Gadino contributes to The Huffington Post, has appeared on SiriusXM and has been quoted as a comedy expert in many national publications. He hopes the Shire is real.