Kathleen Madigan

Kathleen Madigan is funny.

She has been a standup comic for three decades, so it probably goes without saying. But we are on the phone, reminiscing about life in Covid limbo and she is just damn funny.

“The government is telling me to stay at home and watch Netflix?” she says. “Nailed it!”

Yes, the pandemic dealt out death and physical exhaustion on the front lines. And she tells of frustrated customers shouting at clerks because the shop is out of some item or other. But for many of us with little to do but shelter in place and watch Korean baseball on television, the experience was more benign, a glimpse perhaps of retired life—mine strolling the Rec Trail, hers surrounded by golf courses and water.

“I became a 75-year-old retired guy,” she says, chuckling. “‘Think I’ll play a quick 9 and then go fishing.’”

Madigan’s performances share the same tone. She delivers humor through conversation, weaving relatable moments through the plight of a dysfunctional family (funny), installing an infant car seat (also funny), boxed wine (yep) or Mitt Romney (yes, very funny. Only a comic genius can do that).

That she’s been at it so long, logging something like 250 days on the road every year, as well as cramming in television specials and late show appearances all the while, is a testament to her ability to so casually connect the ups and downs of everyday to laughter.

She organized a fantasy football league that failed. As she tells it, a friend originally from New Orleans stocked her squad with Saints. “That’s reality,” Madigan says. “I don’t want a reality league.” 

We both tried to rent SUVs in the post-lockdown, broken supply chain, short-staffed world. My experience, not worth retelling. Hers—well, the clerk presented her with a sedan. “That’s a car.” “Ya”—Madigan mimics a Wisconsin accent. She pauses for a moment. “What do I do with that?”

She has been on the road since summer, performing new shows and making up for those lost to the lockdown. The tour will last deep into 2022. If the pace is exhausting, the reception of audiences is rewarding.

People are thrilled to be out, to listen as she jousts with alcohol, aging parents or young people. She compares the reception to those at USO shows, where those serving our country yearn for any touch of home.

“They are so, so, so excited,” Madigan says. “The crowds are so fun.”

She admits to some nervousness during her first performance before a sizable crowd after the break. The rhythm returned with few hiccups. Remembering transitions—”what was I going to say after this?”—prompted the use of a cheat sheet. But she’s resorted to that trick before. And, she points out, “it really is like riding a bike.”

Besides, she adds, “I have a lot of new, fun Covid jokes.”

Madigan brings these, and other tales to Golden State Theatre on Friday. She is not lacking for new material.

“I told Lewis Black ‘at some point we’re going to run out of shit to say,’” Madigan observes. “But the world keeps changing, so we can concentrate on the changes. It’s a solid hour 15 show.”

Kathleen Madigan performs at 8pm, Friday, Dec. 3. Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. Tickets are $34-$59. 649-1070, goldenstatetheatre.com.

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