On Politics, Men and the Business of Being Funny
By Jason Webber
Kathleen Madigan is kind of a pain to interview … because she’s so damn funny and interesting. It’s tough to take notes and move through your list of questions when you’re too busy laughing at her no-nonsense analysis of this insane asylum called the Modern World. There’s a reason why Madigan was recently named one of the Nine Funniest Women On the Planet by Pop Matters and the Detroit Free Press, and why Lewis Black called her “the funniest woman in America.” We caught up with Madigan recently to get her take on the Republican debates, men and whether or not Obama can get Joe Biden out of a bar.
As someone who lives in Ohio, I have to give you props for the Dennis Kucinich jokes that you made around the time leading up to the last presidential election. What’s your take on the recent Republican debates?
Kathleen Madigan: Oh, God, they’re so crazy. Ron Paul, to me, is the biggest anomaly ever, and I’ve paid attention to politics my whole life. At every point in a debate, he’ll say something that makes every American go “Yeah! Yeah!” but then your next thought is “But we can’t do that.” He’s like your crazy grandpa who just shouts things out at Thanksgiving: you know he’s right but you also know you can’t do it. [Ron Paul] is the most interesting. The least interesting is Mitt Romney. I just can’t believe how boring he is. Even the Republicans and the Evangelicals are having secret meetings and going “It can’t be him.” I’ve never seen the Republicans go this far in eating their own. The Democrats will. The Dems are never organized, it’s always a free-for-all. The Republicans usually get in line, but Newt has just gone off the rails. Everyone was saying this Fannie Mae thing was gonna bring him down and I remember saying “No, it’s not.” Americans aren’t gonna understand that. I pay attention to the news and up until last year, I thought Fannie Mae was a chocolate company in Chicago. People aren’t paying close enough attention for it to be a big enough scandal. I think the moderators at these debates suck. There’s never any follow-up questions. When they say you have 30 seconds to answer a question, give me a break. You can’t answer a serious question in 30 seconds. It’s crazy.
When you go to more conservative areas of the county, do you ever scale back the political humor?
No, because I’m not really coming from a left point of view. I’m pointing out the absurdity of all of it, which includes the Democrats. I mean, Obama? Come on. Last month I saw him on TV and he was saying “Listen, Americans, I’m gonna need you to email your Congressmen and let them know how you feel.” I remember thinking, “Well, then you’re going to need to email me who they are.” What is wrong with him? People don’t know [who their Congressmen are]. He so far overestimates the general public. He’s saying “I’m gonna need your help on this.” Hey, we’re busy. My fantasy football team is falling apart at the seams. Call Biden, because the ticket didn’t say “Obama-Madigan,” it said “Obama-Biden.” Go get that Irishman out of a bar somewhere and have him help you. [KM]
Can someone learn to be funny or it just something you’re born with?
I think you’re either funny or you’re not. One of my brothers could never be funny; I mean, he doesn’t even get it when we’re funny. That’s why I think comedy classes are kind of pointless unless you’re just wanting to learn how to be a better public speaker. I think people are under the illusion that they can make you funny and they just can’t. It’s like having a good singing voice; either you do or you don’t. You can take classes to make yourself sound better, but if you can’t sing, you can’t sing. [KM]
Do you think female comics are taken as seriously as male comics?
I think they are now but I think it’s really telling when people come up to me and say, “I usually don’t think women are funny but you were great tonight.” They don’t mean that in an insulting way. I forget that when I go onstage and people don’t know who I am, they’re already thinking there’s a chance I’m not going to be funny. I don’t think they’d think that if it were a guy onstage. A lot of comics, we sit around and talk about the positives and negatives. As a woman walking onstage I’m a negative-one. A white guy is at a zero. If you’re a black guy, you’re probably at a plus-one, because people automatically think you’re funny. If you’re fat, you’re probably at a plus-one. But at least half of the people who come to see me are guys and they get it. [KM]
Do female comedians ever get male groupies?
Not in the same way a male comic would because usually if a guy is at the show he’s with a date. So you’re not gonna get a bunch of guys to rent a bus and go to a comedy show, but women might do that. But it doesn’t really work the other way. [KM]
Do you think men are afraid to approach you and ask you out?
Well, I think I have a better chance of getting asked out if they don’t know what I do. Guys say they want a woman with a sense of humor, but I don’t know if they mean a professional [sense of humor]. It’s a little weird once you cross that line. [KM]
You appeared on Vh1’s I Love the ‘80s and I Love the ‘90s. If you could make out with one ‘90s rock star, who would it be?
I’m gonna go with John Mellencamp. He’s a Midwest guy, my type. He’s kind of hot. [KM]
Kathleen Madigan will be performing on Friday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre. For ticket information, call 937-228-3630 or visit www.victoriatheatre.com
Reach DCP freelance writer Jason Webber at JasonWebber@DaytonCityPaper.com.