The stand-up comedian goes off about the weather and the evils of Hollywood
By Michael Yoder
Photo courtesy of Brian Freidman
Kathleen Madigan has gotten numerous offers to star in her own network TV sitcom, but becoming a Hollywood personality was never her goal. Being a professional touring comedian is satisfaction enough.
Give her the chance to talk about tornadoes and hurricanes on The Weather Channel, and you'll get a completely different story. The Midwestern stand-up has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 25 times, taped two HBO specials and won the American Comedy Award for Best Female Comedian. But at her core, she is a self-described weather fanatic.
When she tweeted back in January about her displeasure with DirecTV's decision to remove The Weather Channel from its offerings, Madigan got personal messages from Weather Channel representatives, including her favorite meteorologist, Jim Cantore. They even invited her to do an on-air segment the next time she travels near The Weather Channel's headquarters in Atlanta, GA.
Predicting storms is a life-long dream for the St. Louis native who has been on the road nearly 300 days a year for 25 years. If not for her lack of scientific knowledge and below average math proficiency, the world may have missed out on Madigan's straightforward but always hilarious take on family, politics, athletes (she's a huge St. Louis sports fan) and being Irish.
Madigan returns to Central PA this month for two shows on her Madigan Again tour. We spoke with her from her home in Los Angeles where she talked about late-night television, storms and dealing with pink eye.
Fly Magazine: As someone who's been on The Tonight Show dozens of times, what's been your impression of the recent transition from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon?
Kathleen Madigan: I think it will be fine. There's never going to be another Johnny Carson. And when people go, "Well, he's not as good as Johnny Carson," they forget that when Johnny Carson was on TV, there were three channels - that's it. And one of them in my house was fuzzy. You had to get the antenna right in Reynolds Wrap, and maybe the hockey game would come on. So really there were only two channels, and Johnny Carson was the only other choice. I don't even know what was on the other channel for all those years. Now there are so many choices and so many channels.
FM: How much harder does that make it to have a successful show?
KM: If Jimmy can get the ratings that Leno got and maybe a little more, he's good to go. These shows cost nothing to make. I think people will watch what's on after the news - unless they really don't like you or are put off by you. But Jimmy's friendly enough. I think his sketches are way more interesting, because Leno was never going to do a sketch. That wasn't his thing. So it's really what's up your alley. At the end of the day, I would probably choose Craig Ferguson because he's more about a conversation. Craig just wants to talk, and that's my personal preference - I want to hear people talk. I'm not as much of a sketch person. But if I was, Jimmy's are the best. And Jimmy's a very nice guy and genuine. That means a lot, because a lot of these people are not what they seem. They're not nice people, and many of them are evil.
FM: Are there really that many evil people in Hollywood?
KM: Dude, show business and politics. That's the good thing about Fallon because finally one of the good guys wins. And that's not comparing him to Leno or Letterman. I'm really good friends with Jay - he's not evil. But within all of show business, the amount of people who are not qualified and not talented but succeed because they're manipulators and users is amazing. Nobody checks their resumes. You can bullshit your way through this whole business because it's show business. You can't bullshit your way at NASA. I can't walk in and be a fake astronaut. It's a very cutthroat business, and there are just a lot of really bad things that happen. And you have to be okay with that. That's why I prefer stand-up than trying to be in television. I just like going on shows. I don't want my own show. I don't want any of that crap. This town has no soul. There's not really even people here - 9 million narcissists and the lady who works at the post office. That's the book I always want to write [laughs].
FM: How many comedians do you know who have gotten personal shout-outs on The Weather Channel?
KM: That was the greatest day of my life [laughs]. I was so excited. I was at The Tonight Show and was supposed to be paying attention because I was playing a game. I told them, "I'm sorry. I'm really distracted. I've been tweeted by Jim Cantore!" My youngest brother and me are total weather freaks. I could tell you the weather patterns of Hurricane Katrina before anyone was even paying attention. Jim Cantore is one of my heroes. I had tweeted how mad I was at DirecTV for canceling The Weather Channel and just having Weather Nation. I decided maybe I should give it a try, but it's just a map with an old man who doesn't know how to read it. There are no field reporters. That's what I like. I want Jim Cantore's ass out in the biggest hurricane ever. I want to see boards flying at his head.
FM: Did you want to be a meteorologist growing up?
KM: If I knew and could understand one thing in science, I'd like to be one of those geeks that just tracks storms all day. I wish I was given any scientific ways or means in my brain, but it just didn't happen in this lifetime - maybe in the next one.
FM: As a sports fan, what were your thoughts on the Winter Olympics this year - especially Bob Costas' pink eye problems?
KM: Well, I've had pink eye before because I wear contacts. And if you wear contacts, you're probably going to get pink eye at some point just because your hands are never clean enough. I know [Costas] from St. Louis and doing benefits with him. He's a work-to-the-bone type of guy if he gives you his word. He probably did six months worth of research and had all these stories he wanted to tell, so I get it. But Bob, if you have pink eye in one eye and you don't go lay down with a giant hot washcloth on your face, it's going to jump to the other eye. It's a given, and I thought, "What is he doing? You're going to come to work with this shit?" Plus, it's highly contagious. I thought it was extremely bizarre, and I couldn't believe at that level that there wasn't an eye doctor over there that would tell him what to do. Or maybe he ignored them.