"All I want to do is tell jokes." In that sardonic, working-class tone that fans of her comedy know so well, Kathleen Madigan declares this during a recent phone interview. For the past couple of decades, the Florissant, Mo.-born Madigan has been first and foremost a touring stand-up comedian, hitting the road (and USO tours overseas) with such comics as her good buddies Lewis Black and Ron White.
The 47-year-old Madigan has always wanted to be successful as a working comedian; breaking into other forms of entertainment never really appealed to her. "I don't really want to spend my life trying to be, like, on sitcoms and movies," she says, on the phone from LA. "I mean, if somebody said, 'Oh, here's the part and you can guest-star," and I happen to be home, sure. But I'm not gonna go try and audition and, you know, try to battle it out with the network."
Her experiences appearing as a contestant on the second season of Last Comic Standing, the stand-up reality competition, certainly didn't help matters much. "I just thought the whole thing was kind of really poorly done on a lot of levels," she remembers. Madigan initially thought it would be fun, as well as bring her more exposure. However, she didn't like how the show was trying to portray comedians.
"I don't think they showed really what comedy can be. They wanted more drama than they did comedy, which I thought was odd. I'm like well, why have a comedy show?"
Madigan definitely didn't approve of the way producers were trying to get some conflict going among the contestants. "Like, when we lived in the house together, they wanted there to be drama and we just weren't—you know, most of us were already friends," she says. "I like those guys. I'm not gonna act like I'm in a fight with [second-season winner] John Heffron. I like John."
So, right now, Kathleen Madigan is very content being Kathleen Madigan—telling jokes, doing theaters, recording CDs and comedy specials and, more importantly, doing what the hell she wants to do. "I like telling jokes for an hour and a half in a theater and there are real people that really wanted to come," she says. "And we have a great time and go home!"
While Madigan prefers to just stick to being a comic, fellow Missouri native Cedric the Entertainer doesn't mind getting his fame and fortune on outside of the stand-up stage. He's even finding that it's getting him some new audience members when he does do stand-up around the country: white people.
As the co-creator and star of the TV Land sitcom The Soul Man (which was recently renewed for a second season), where he plays a former R&B singer turned minister and family man, the 48-year-old Jefferson City-born Entertainer has found himself entertaining crowds other than his usual African-American followers.
"Because TV Land is predominantly a white network, I start to have a new fan base that has an appreciation for that," he says, also on the phone from LA. "And, unfortunately, there are a lot of people that come out and want to see 'the Reverend.' And, then, they kind of run into old Ced the Entertainer when I'm live. They're like, 'Oh! Oh my gosh! Oh!'"
Even though Cedric (last name: Kyles) is sharing network time with the likes of Betty White, the Def Comedy Jam/Comic View vet—and Original King of Comedy—still enjoys stepping onto what he calls his "real pulpit" and getting the laugh-riddled roar of the stand-up crowd.
"It's the opportunity to say the kind of things that I'm thinking about, the type of experiences that I'm having," he says. "It's very therapeutic in the sense that it's where I started. I love it. I love the immediate response that you get from an audience that's live, as opposed to films and television, where the response is a couple of weeks later or a month later or even a year when it comes to film."
He also does stand-up because he doesn't have to answer to anyone but himself. "I like the fact that there are not a lot of cooks in the kitchen when you do stand-up, you know," he says. "When you do a TV show, it's several producers. It's the network. It's writers. It's many people with their own opinions... But when you do stand-up, it's literally just going out there to please that audience that's paid money to come see you. So it's the thing that I appreciate and it just allows me that freedom."
Like Madigan, Cedric the Entertainer is just looking to give audiences a good time when he's doing stand-up.
"Let's laugh with each other," he says. "Let's dress up. Let's be nice. That's the type of attitude that I want to share into the world, and I really like to get that back. And that's what I usually offer when I'm onstage."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Show me the comedy."