The Arts

Comedian Kathleen Madigan Coming to Carolina Theatre

(Last Updated On: October 2, 2016)
Kathleen Madigan - Photo Credit Luzena Adams

Kathleen Madigan – Photo Credit Luzena Adams

Though she fell on her career completely by accident, it’s with full intention that Kathleen Madigan, comedian and regular panelist on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, brings her new “The Mermaid Lady” standup comedy tour to Carolina Theatre next week, Oct. 8.

Nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for “Best Concert Comic,” and featured as one of the “9 Funniest Women on the Planet” alongside Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Madigan remains the only comedian in the history of NBC’s Last Comic Standing to go unchallenged.

So how did she get her big break 25 years ago, and what has life been like since? We asked Madigan herself to divulge the details.

How did you get into comedy?

I worked at a bar and went to the bar next door to drink. It happened to be a comedy club and me and another bartender did open mic night for fun. I just kept doing it. It was literally an accident.

Were you pursuing a different career before you got into comedy?

No, and I don’t have any other plans now if this doesn’t work out. So once again, I have no plans.

What were you like as a kid? Were you always pretty funny?

I think my whole family is pretty, funny, mostly, but I went to Catholic school and I was well behaved. I mean, I thought things in my head but I didn’t say them out loud. I was a rule follower. I still am a rule-follower for the most part. When the flight attendant tells me to turn off my phone, I turn off my phone.

In a male-dominated field, did you face any challenges as an up-and-coming female comedian?

No. That’s the one thing I do like about stand-up, is that when you get on stage, you know whether you did well or not. And nobody can argue that. It’s not like looking at a painting and saying, ‘that’s a good painting,’ or ‘that’s a bad painting.’ This is all about if people laughed. It’s not subjective. The jokes are subjective, but the results themselves aren’t. If you’re a woman and you’re doing great, you’re going to get hired.

What moment in your career stands out the most to you?

(My first) USO trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s not something I would have done in my real life. I was in a black ops helicopter with Lewis Black, who has been my friend forever, and Robin Williams was on that tour, too. All of those trips would be the weirdest, most memorable moments, and by far my favorite. (Even though she jokes in her special not to applaud her because she tried so hard to get out of it.)

After 25 years of touring 300 nights on the road a year, how do you keep going and stay sane?

Well, the alternative is to have a real job and I couldn’t do that when I was 25, and I certainly couldn’t do it now. I just like to see weird places. Traveling doesn’t bother me like it bothers a normal person. The whole road, even though it appears chaotic, it’s organized chaos. I feel like growing up, it was organized chaos so it’s what I’m familiar with.
My dad was a lawyer, but he’d get wild hairs and be like, “Now I want to be a farmer,” so we’d move to a giant farm. We moved to this giant lake because he wanted to be a resort owner fishing guide. We did stuff like that. But also there were seven of us so there was chaos anyway in the house. But I liked it.

I know you and Lewis Black are good friends. What is it like when you guys hang out? What do comedians do in their off-time?

Lou and Ron White are my golf buddies; we do a lot of golfing and go out to eat at a normal time since we never get to do that. We go to dinner at 7:30 like normal people and talk about work. We don’t usually talk about jokes or anything.

Are your stage personalities your real personalities?

Yeah, for better or worse, yes they are. Ron’s stories are all true, and Lou is that frustrated with politics. He’s not that angry all the time; if he ran around the golf course like that, I’d tell him I wasn’t playing with him anymore cause it’s embarrassing. But he can sit there and read the newspaper and just go crazy.

Wanna go? Kathleen Madigan performs her one-hour special “The Mermaid Lady” at Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-$50 depending on seating. For tickets or more information call 336-333-2605 or visit