Kathleen Madigan is like one of those journeyman ballplayers who spends his entire career bouncing from team to team, putting up decent but not Hall of Fame numbers before comfortably retiring. There are a lot of comedians out there like that. Their material is solid, middle of the road fare that elicits decent laughs, but aren’t necessarily moving the artform forward or doing anything particularly groundbreaking.
There’s an honor in that, of course. Especially in the dark times we could be entering into, we need all the reliable, comfort food-like laughs we can get. And Madigan is one of the most reliable and warm-hearted comics out there. She’s the bawdy aunt that won’t mind if you take a drag off her cigarette or a sip from her wine glass while your parents aren’t looking. Her latest special Bothering Jesus has that same feeling of being a party to grown up, alcohol-fueled conversations that just happen to be funnier than most.
Madigan has a lot of fun early on in the hour throwing her home state of Missouri, and the people in it, under the bus for their redneck-leaning ways, like the debate that went on for two weeks in the state senate about the legality of noodling (catching catfish in muddy rivers using just your hands). She spends some time elucidating her obsession with the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370. And, like most comics, she pokes fun at herself for her lack of a fitness regimen beyond lifting her arm to drink wine and fool her Fitbit.
Her funniest material is reserved for her exploration of the dynamics within her big Irish Catholic family. Like any big group of blood relatives there’s clearly a lot of love and a lot of frustration to be found. Her parents are gruff but slightly insane folk that wrap their credit cards in tinfoil so people with rayguns can’t scan them and steal their identities. Her siblings are much like Madigan herself, but more exhausted as they all have kids of their own. The key, their childless sister announces, is to stop the constant questioning before it starts. Oh and to have a few beers handy when you’re trying to install the car seat.
After this hour of comedy, Madigan makes you feel like a part of the family. Or at least makes it feel like you want to invite her out for a few pints of Guinness so you can join in the fun of venting about current events and laughing about your own crazy home life. If you’re lucky, you might actually get a chance to do that. And if not, you can at least spend a little time in her company by dialing this or one of her other stand-up specials when you need a little companionship.
Robert Ham is an arts and culture journalist based in Portland, OR. Read more of his work here; and follow him on Twitter;.