Talking Standup, Boxed Wine, and Bigfoot with Kathleen Madigan
It’s been a year since I last caught up with comedian Kathleen Madigan and to be honest, it was long overdue. Madigan, a 30-year comedy veteran, is currently in the process of preparing her Netflix special Bothering Jesus for album release and gearing up for Boxed Wine & Bigfoot, a 30-city tour that kicks off on January 12th. After we got up-to-date on the latest tidbits from the still unsolved Malaysian Flight 370 mystery, we talked about the upcoming tour, consuming media in a post-discovery era, and why comedians rarely get corporate sponsors.
You just announced your 2018 tour called “Boxed Wine & Bigfoot.” Can you explain the name to me?
There are two jokes in my act that go with boxed wine. Boxed wine is kind of a running theme. Bigfoot is a side obsession of mine. They’re basically my two hobbies — drinking boxed wine and watching Bigfoot clips. The problem is that once you get into the wine and then you get into the wormhole of the internet, it goes from Bigfoot to a monster in Missouri called Momo. The wormhole of Google is really a fun way to spend an evening sometimes.
What is it about the mysterious and unknown that grabs you? Is it a distraction, a nice way to check out of reality?
There are so few mysteries anymore because everything is kind of at hand on the internet. We kind of already know everything. I think the ocean is one thing that we still don’t know hardly anything about. And space…I went to Huntsville to goof off at (Andrew) Dorfman’s club (Stand Up Live) and went to space camp for the day because some lady on Twitter said, “Stop by and you can do the weightlessness and all that stuff.” The Malaysian thing is just a mystery that I can’t believe everyone is fine with never solving. Bigfoot and all that stuff is just fun, but I do believe it. At the risk of sounding completely crazy, it’s totally possible that there’s a giant primate in the woods of Oregon and all these places where people have never even been. Of course something could be living there. I’m not saying what, but something. Or the ocean — are you going to tell me there could not be something like the Loch Ness Monster? Come on.
Totally. Look at some of the stuff that they’ve pulled out of the ocean, or even swamps and ponds. Some of these things look like legit sea monsters.
That’s the correct word too — monsters. We haven’t even gone into the depths of the depths. Anything could be living down there. My brother says, “You can’t really believe in that stuff.” I say, “Patrick, at least once a year they come out with a new species of monkey they had never found before.” That’s a monkey! It’s in the woods. That’s not even under the earth or in the ocean. Of course there could be a new species of stuff we haven’t found yet in the depths of the Amazon or wherever. But it’s just a fun hobby for me because everything else is kind of solved.
Having the internet now makes it feel like we are living in a post-discovery period. I remember when I was growing up how fun and exciting it was to struggle with the validity of an urban legend or a ghost story. If some kind of wild tale was passed around by enough people it just kind of became true. Even in terms of discovering art, I miss taking a chance on an album just based off the cover or watching a movie one of your friends taped off of a channel you didn’t have. We didn’t have everything at our disposal at all times, so when you found something you liked it felt more special.
It’s weird you would say that, and this will probably make me sound like an old person, but when Tom Petty died I was looking at the tracks on [the self-titled album] and I knew every song because you would buy the album and just put it on. I don’t think I would do that anymore. Unless it’s somebody I absolutely love, I just go buy the song I like. I don’t buy the whole album and put it on anymore. You used to just put the album on and then do stuff, so by proxy you would know the whole thing. I actually went and bought a record player with Bluetooth so I could put whole albums on.
How do you feel that affects the way people listen to comedy now? The comedy stations on XM and Sirius play individual tracks and iTunes allows you to buy individual tracks from comedy albums.
For me, I know Dana Gould has a new album out and I want to listen to it. I want to hear the whole thing. Maybe it’s not fair because I do comedy, but I want to hear how you start, what’s in the middle, and how you close. I don’t know if people are buying individual comedy tracks or not.
It’s weird when you go to iTunes and see a comedy album with popular tracks. Some tracks are definitely getting more listens than others.
To that point, I’m just now tracking out Bothering Jesus because the album will be out towards the first of the year. I think it has something to do with the name of the track. I really thought about it. I think it was Daniel Tosh who named his colors, like Jasmine and Rose. I could see how he would do that because he’s irreverent like that in a funny way. But if I put “Catholics” on there, even if the joke is just kind of about that, the name of the track matters.
I never thought about it that way. Somebody might recommend you to a friend and when that person decides to look you up they might preview the track with the name that resonates the most to them.
The guys I’m working with at 800 Pound Gorilla Records said, “We’ll track it out for you.” I said, “No, no. I appreciate the offer, but I’ll do it.” I kind of know at this point after 30 years what people like the best and how to name it properly so that they know what I’m talking about. If I say “My Mom’s All Star Pills” they’ll say, “Oh, okay,” as opposed to me just putting “Old People.”
Speaking of your mom’s pills, I watched the promo videos for your tour announcement and goddamn, your parents are adorable.
They turned into crazy people. My dad is a ham anyway. I’m like, “I’m sick of talking about myself. Why don’t you to do it?” My dad was like, “Where will it be shown? Will it be on Facebook?” “Yes. It will be on Facebook and you can show all your friends.” But they got super animated. They were like a comedy team from the ‘30s. It was all impromptu.
So you have a 30-city run on this tour. Is it all theaters?
It’s 90% theaters. I still do Mark Ridley’s (Comedy Castle) in Detroit because I love Mark Ridley and we are both too lazy to go to the theater. Sometimes I like to be in the clubs to get in a writing rhythm. I love that club in Detroit. Sometimes I’ll do clubs and not put it on the theater tour list. I’ll do Zanies in Nashville for fun, or Huntsville. Huntsville is great because it’s a nice, new, little club and it doesn’t interfere with any of the theater stuff.
What is touring like for you? Do you like to explore the city or do you prefer to just do the show and head out?
It depends on where it is. For the first 15 years I just drove around in my car, so I’ve seen every city for a week at a time. There’s nothing new for me to see in Cleveland. I got it. But if it’s someplace cool…like we did Wyoming last weekend and I wanted to go early because I just wanted to see what’s going on in Wyoming. That’s what I like about the road. I had never been to Maine until last year, so I wanted to stay for a day or two extra.
Do you have a boxed wine sponsor for your tour?
It’s funny you say that because I was talking to UTA about trying to get somebody on board, but we just started the process. I would like one. I feel like comedians don’t get sponsored because people are afraid of what we might say. Comedy isn’t like music where the musicians are all sponsored because it’s just a song and nobody can get offended, per se. With comedy, nobody’s really busted down that barrier yet. I’d like to figure it out. If I was a boxed wine person I would sponsor me.
When you’re not touring you’re at home in Missouri, right?
Yeah, I ditched LA. I still have an apartment there, but I hate it. I literally hate it. I never liked it. But for a long time it mattered if I was there. I did The Tonight Show a ton of times, but then the shows I wanted to do kind of all went back to New York. I got to a point where I was like, “I don’t want to be in a sitcom and I don’t want to be in a movie, so I have no need to be here anymore. I’m cashing out before the whole place catches on fire.”