Kathleen Madigan: Comedian/Angler

“At the end of the water…”

Dateline: The green room, backstage

“You can observe a lot by watching.”
~ Yogi Berra

“I don’t really write jokes. I wait for stuff to happen in life and then I tell it on stage.”
~Kathleen Madigan 

There is but one light.

There is but one microphone stand.

There is but one wooden stool.

And yet, several hundred people can’t take their eyes off that corner of the stage.

That my friends, is the magic of standup.

Even fully dressed those who stand in that light, place their water bottles on that stool, speak into the microphone do so naked.

Do so to make us think.

Do so to make us laugh.

Do so with words.

And the courage to speak them out loud.

“As a standup comedian, you have to develop a sense of fearlessness. It's really important for your livelihood and your well-being. And if you don't do that, you're going to fail; you're never going to be able to stand up on the cliff and jump off.”
John DiMaggio

Before we get going here, full disclosure, nothing up my sleeve stuff: My wife Barb and I are big Kathleen Madigan fans, been to several of her comedy shows, catch her stuff on radio and TV when we can, relate to much of what she says, she has made both of us laugh, and for that I’m grateful.

There you go.

Story time.

“…a red sun is rising…" 

It’s a red wine and red sauce dinner, table cloths, glasses that clink and not get thrown away, 20%-plus tip level service, elevator music with spirit in the background, nightly specials with no prices kind of joint.

Pregame meal, actually precomedy show meal.

Across from me sits my wife Barb, next to me sits my buddy, Bob Ley, we go way back over 20 some years most spent chasing bad guys around the world for ESPN’s Outside The Lines, across from him sits his wife…Barb.

Yeah, a cosmic sort of thing, the two of us are married to Barbs, and it gets weirder, both Barbs, also longtime friends, share the exact same maiden name and Bob’s Barb is now a Barb Ley (Ley said like Lee), and my Barb’s middle name is Lee (said like Ley).

Take a second to straighten all that out some.

So, we are having a nice dinner, I sneak the check and pay, my turn but it’s always a fight. Bob is talking about meeting Kenny Chesney and some TV/movie producer I’ve never heard of which is normal, I know who Kenny is, which is frankly not normal, Barbs squared are talking about our various dogs, children, grandbabies already here and grandbabies wished for.

“Time to go,” Bob says in his announcer voice, and so we go. As we get in his car I’m shotgun, the ladies in the back are talking about bargain shopping, Bob looks at me and smiles. Here’s why: We are up to old tricks, being sneaky.

Several hours before I send this exact txt to Bob:

dont say anything about maybe meeting Kathleen because Barb will freak and be real shy if it may happen just do it as a surprise and she'll be more relaxed

This comes back which now means neither Barb will ever trust the two of us again:


Get this both Bob and his Barb are great friends with Kathleen Madigan, the comedian we are traveling to see tonight. Bob and Kathleen do some sort of fundraising gig together during the summer and she has laid out four free tickets to her show and backstage passes to come shoot the wine with her after her gig.

I’m pretty much sleeping on the couch for the next several years after those last couple of paragraphs.

But hey, how else you going to know the backstory to all this.

One for the team. 

“…and the stars are all goin' away…”

“People entertain me more than I entertain them.”
~Kathleen Madigan

We have great seats.

As a 30-year crime reporter I know that most crime in this country is done over sex, money or better seats.

We are seated legally.

Raanan Hershberg a pretty funny young man who introduces himself as, “a Jew from Kentucky,” opens the show for Kathleen. Bob is laughing, I’m laughing Barb squared is laughing, the whole place is laughing. 

To be honest I had never heard of him before tonight, to be more honest I would now go somewhere and pay just to see him, someday someone will open for this young man, trust me.

Lights down.

Lights up.

And Kathleen comes out.

She brings with her two bottles of water, a couple sort of crunched up pieces of paper, and wit.

I look a couple seats to my left. My Barb is smiling. That alone is worth the price of admission. 

As I turn back to the stage, Bob sneaks a look at his Barb, she too is smiling, before Kathleen says a word, my row is happy.

That, my friends, is the magic of standup.

As you may know, I’m a word guy, not big word kind of guy, don’t use fancy arse words so you think I’m smart, a simple guy with simple words.

Kathleen is a smart lady, smart enough to know how to paint a story with words that neither talk up or down to those laughing, hers is a self-deprecating style with tales of family and those moments in life that happen all around us.

Truth fuels comedy.

Comedy shows us the mosaic that truth really is.

“Humor has justly been regarded as the finest perfection of poetic genius”
~Thomas Carlyle

“…and if you're…”

We are in the brown/tan/chrome “green room” behind the stage.

Kathleen has just finished her set and is sitting on a couch talking with Bob and Barb Ley. I’m in a chair across from her, my Barb is on the couch next to Bob, Raanan Hershberg is in a chair next to me, Jodi, Kathleen’s friend is sitting in a chair next to him.

Bob is doing most of the talking. 

The Barones have been introduced to everyone, they are all polite to us, smiles and handshakes, it is all kind of weird.

We know them, they have no idea who we are.

I’m thrilled to meet them all, but it’s also a bit like high school detention, just kind of listen, act like you don’t know why you are there, keep all your personal gasses to yourself. 

I’m drinking water and I hate just water with nothing in it to make it not just water.  My body is signaling shock.

I smile.

Then as I’m looking around to see if there is anything other than the salad on the serving cart that’s green in the room named green I hear exactly this:

“…throw mainly top water bait…”


I don’t even bother looking at Bob’s way, I know he knows almost everything there is about sports except for anything that has the word “topwater” and “bait” in the same sentence.


“…love to go and hang out at Bass Pro before shows…”


And as I scan the room I see it is Kathleen talking, “excuse me,” I say in a very polite voice that does not involve gases, “do you fish?”

“I do, love to bass fish.”

“Really, I’m a columnist on Bassmaster-dot-com, I write about fishing.”

And with that, it was me who made comedian Kathleen Madigan, smile.

“The secret to humor is surprise.”

“…too busy talking…”