COMIC INTERVIEW: Kathleen Madigan keeps it out of the box

Unlike comedians for whom the craft of stand-up comedy is merely a launch pad to sitcom or late night TV heaven, Kathleen Madigan prefers to stay out of the small box, to keep it pure, to work hard to make comedy something best experienced by a live audience. Ironically, this makes her a better comic and therefore an even more of a worthy contender for her own sitcom. You just can’t win!

Madigan performs Saturday night at the River Cree Casino.

Q: If you could be any celebrity (other than yourself), who would it be and why?

A: John Grisham, because nobody knows what he looks like. He has all the money and power and perks of fame, yet he gets to walk around like a normal person.

Q: Best heckler story?

A: Most of mine are just drunks that just want to talk. They’re usually very nice. They’re just very drunk. I don’t get mean people. I’m not trying to change anybody’s mind. I’m not trying to go crazy on people.

Q: Do you have an old bit you were sad you let go?

A: When John Kerry was running: His personality is so bad, but he was married to Teresa Heinz. If I was him, I wouldn’t make any more commercials. I wouldn’t try to be likable, because he’s not. I would just come out and say, “Hi, I’m John Kerry and I’m running for president. If you don’t vote for me, I am going to take away all of the ketchup. I’m going to leave it up to you guys. How much do you love Heinz ketchup? You wanna spend the rest of your life eating Hunts? Do ya? I don’t think so.” I liked doing that joke because it was stupid.

Q: New bit that’s killing?

A: I do a thing about Mitt Romney. I don’t know who’s handling him, but I think they’re doing it the wrong way. They keep trying to downplay the fact that he’s rich. We all know he’s rich. They try to dress him like a normal person and he ends up in mom jeans and some weird shirt. He looks like the cop at a drug party. Everybody knows. It’s totally bad. If I was him, I’d say fantastical things. I’d say, “I’m so rich I have a unicorn.” And if the press said, “well, can we see the unicorn?” ‘cause you know they would, I’d go, “No, you can’t. But if I elected, I will ride the unicorn to inaugural day!” That’s all I would need to hear to vote for the guy. I would put aside all politics to see a unicorn, because I believe they might exist.”

Q: What’s close to over the line for you?

A: I have some stuff about the Catholic church, and I’m Catholic, and if they’re offended, well, so am I. That’s why I wrote the joke.

Q: Can you get away with your bit about the Mormons?

A: That really happened. I really did go to the Mormon temple, and it really was just me or this other guy on the tour. I don’t really say anything controversial, where I’m trying to make a statement. I’m usually just telling you a story that’s true. And you can make up your mind to laugh or not laugh.

Q: Do you think there’s more honesty in comedy today?

A: Comedy is more personal than it used to be. It used to be Don Rickles and one liners, bam, bam, bam. And somehow through Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, and those guys, they started actually talking about their lives. It wasn’t just jokes out of a joke book. Bob Hope never wrote a joke in his life. He had 50 writers. I don’t think you could get away with that today. Well, some do, actually, you just don’t know it.

Q: Why aren’t you developing yourself into TV series?

A: I think the whole thing’s out of control. The problem is that most of the sitcoms I don’t think are funny. I’m not being a snob. There are so many channels on TV and it’s so hard to find something good. And then I think, why would I want to go over there and be in this show that I don’t think is funny, and that somebody else is writing? I don’t love acting. I find the process really slow and labourious and boring.

Q: So you’d have to do something like Seinfeld where you have complete creative control?

A: Or to collaborate with someone you think is funny. But I won’t show up just to show up. And the money’s not that good, quite frankly. I’d rather just go tell jokes in front of real people. Now there are people on TV all the time, but if they wanted to go out on the road and tried to sell tickets, they wouldn’t. They exist only in that box. They have to stay in that box. I would rather exist outside of the box and just go in the box every so often.