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This Comic's Hardly A Home Body

July 08, 1993|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who regularly writes about comedy for OC Live!

For a stand-up comic who began working at it full time only four years ago, Kathleen Madigan has amassed an impressive string of TV credits--from "Comic Strip Live" and "Evening at the Improv" to HBO's "Women of the Night" and NBC's "Bob Hope's Ladies of Laughter."

The Missouri native--who's headlining at the Irvine Improv this week--has even been nominated two years in a row for an American Comedy Award as best female stand-up comic.

But that didn't stop her from being nervous when she made her debut on "The Tonight Show" in May.

Standing behind the curtain before doing her spot, Madigan recalls thinking: "I still have time to run: I can still work in Omaha, even if I don't do this."

Madigan, as it turned out, scored a hit with her "Tonight Show" audience and was even called over for a brief desk-side chat with host Jay Leno. Of her set, Madigan says: "I was very happy with it."

An engaging performer who mixes a girl-next-door quality with a "yeah, right" attitude, the 5-foot-1-inch comic with the smoky, just-woke-up voice deals in what she calls "light sarcasm."

In her act she says that she reads Cosmopolitan because she quit buying perfume.

"Now, I just roll around in all my magazines."

After doing a joke about Moses, she says she'll probably go to hell for it, "but that's OK because I'll probably get to meet Madonna. . . . I do hope she goes to heaven, though, because I'm counting on her to set the curve."

Madigan spends 45 weeks a year on the road, but she's not complaining.

"I like it that way," she said by phone from her room at the Irvine Marriott last week. "If I'm somewhere too long, I get really bored--and it's harder for the phone company to find me if I just keep moving."

When she does return home to St. Louis, she stays at her parents' house, "in my room--27 years old and in my room . But it'd be stupid to have an apartment (in St. Louis); I'm never there."

The middle child of seven, Madigan taps the doings of the folks back home for a good portion of her act.

"I have more jokes about my dad than anyone else," she said, "just because he's so ridiculous--some of the stuff he says, you can't believe he says them.

"Like he wouldn't pay for our college (education) and then he would say, 'College--these are the best years of your life.' And I'm thinking, 'Oh yeah, right Dad--three jobs, junk car, no money. Pinch me, I'm dreaming. . . . Maybe I'll go to graduate school and be homeless."

The slightly sarcastic view on life comes naturally to Madigan, who earned a degree in journalism and was working for an in-house magazine for a St. Louis men's athletic club when she began going to open-mike nights.

Material for her act, she said, is the result of "just whatever pops into my head. I don't really sit around writing jokes all day. Maybe I should. Usually, it's because of somebody saying something or seeing some things I just can't believe.

"Like I can't believe that book 'Final Exit' was on the bestseller list. I was in a bookstore and saw a guy buying it and he was depressed because it cost 17 bucks. I took him out of line and said, 'Sir, I'll stab you in the head for four. '

"He bought the book and he paid for it in cash. I was standing behind him going, 'Sir, if you're going to kill yourself, charge it!' "

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