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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Kathleen Madigan takes Northern Quest stage

Comedian Kathleen Madigan returns to Spokane on Thursday, Dec. 1 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino.  (Courtesy photo)
Comedian Kathleen Madigan returns to Spokane on Thursday, Dec. 1 at Northern Quest Resort and Casino. (Courtesy photo)
By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

When Kathleen Madigan was asked about Spokane, the veteran comic, who often jokes about her family, laughed and connected the Inland Northwest to relations with relatives.

“When I first visited Spokane and saw that there are buildings there from the 1870s and 1880s the first thing that came to my mind was that people must have really hated the members of their family to move that far from them,” Madigan cracked. “Think about it. Someone said, ‘I’m walking from New York to the end where no one else is and that’s Washington state.’ ”

Madigan, who will perform Thursday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, always feels guilty when she performs in Spokane.

“It freaks me out when I come back since I feel like I’m traveling to another country but I entered without a passport. It feels like Canada in Spokane and I can’t identify the trees. You guys are just so far away. When I look at Spokane on the map, say from Los Angeles, it doesn’t look that far, but a flight from Los Angeles to St. Louis takes the same time as LA to Spokane. I don’t get it. You guys are so far away from everywhere.”

Madigan, 56, will riff about the aggravation of travel but that’s part of the deal for a stand-up comic.

“It’s the hardest part of my job,” Madigan said while calling from her Nashville home. “I love performing. I didn’t miss all of the flying when the pandemic shut everything down.”

When lockdown commenced Madigan enjoyed being able to just hang out in Music City or in the Ozarks.

“It was so nice to stay home for a year,” Madigan said. “(Comic) Ron White said something hilarious to me, which was ‘Isn’t it funny how the one thing that got in the way of our fun were those shows we did at night?’ I love my job but I got to do all of these other things in my life, like play golf, fish and go walking in the woods.

“My friend (comic) Lewis Black came down from New York to visit me in the Ozarks and he was just concerned that a bear would eat us on a walk but I love being out in nature and just enjoying the day. Ron White also said, ‘Isn’t it amazing how we seamlessly slipped into retirement?’ ”

White, 65, announced that he is calling it a career after his New Year’s Eve gig next month. However, Madigan isn’t close to saying goodbye to the stage.

“I’m not ready to quit but I get where Ron is at,” Madigan said. “Ron is around the age of Bob Saget and Norm McDonald when they died. He freaked out and it makes sense to me. He said he doesn’t want to be found dead in a hotel room.

“When he told me that he was thinking about retirement, I asked Ron, ‘Do you ever want to perform in Des Moines again?’ And he said no and I told him to quit. Ron realizes that time is a thing. We only have so much of it so let’s spend it as wisely as we can. For me, there is nothing I would rather do than stand-up.”

Madigan isn’t just blowing smoke. The quick and unpredictable humorist had plenty of television offers over the years. The gigs Madigan turned down range from being an ESPN anchor to acting and writing for sitcoms.

“Ever since the ’80s when they started giving out sitcoms to stand-ups like Robin Williams, there have been comics that are really actor people looking to get acting gigs but trying to do stand-up,” Madigan said. “I never wanted a sitcom. Asking me to become a sitcom actor would be like asking me to become a veterinarian. I have no concept about how to treat a dog or act.

“How arrogant would I be if I could pretend that I can do what (actress) Patricia Heaton does. Give the acting jobs to someone who studies acting and works at it every day.”

Some of her peers would have jumped at the chance to join ESPN just due to the national face time.

“I can see that because you would have great exposure as an ESPN reporter,” Madigan said. “The job I turned down went to Suzy Kolber, who has had a heck of a career with ESPN. I love sports.

“But there were a few big reasons I passed on ESPN. I don’t like every sport. I know nothing about NASCAR, so I wouldn’t want to cover it. ESPN isn’t going to pay much for new talent because they can get away with it. Everyone would sacrifice to work there. Hey, I studied journalism but it was evident early on that I could make more money as a bartender than as a journalist. But I didn’t want to do that either. I always wanted to be a stand-up comic.”

Madigan will deliver bits about the advanced age of politicians.

“Aren’t there any politicians under 80 who can be president or run for Senate?” Madigan asked. “There should be age limits on running for office. Chuck Grassley is a senator from Iowa and he’s 89.

“I asked some Iowans how they can keep him in office and they told me people are afraid to vote him out. They said it would be like voting against your grandfather. They said this was the guy they remember sitting in the middle of a hay wagon when they were kids and they can’t say goodbye to him.”

Madigan, who will debut a new comedy special in February, wouldn’t mind if there were limits on seniors driving.

“When my grandfather was 85 he hit the same guy twice in one day,” Madigan said. “He hit the guy at the bank and at Denny’s. My parents are up there in age. If you see a silver Lincoln with Missouri plates, watch out.”

Don’t expect much pop culture material to emanate from Madigan.

“I guess I’m supposed to know about the Kardashians but I think I’m the one person who doesn’t know about them,” Madigan said. “I don’t even know why I’m supposed to know about them. Fortunately I’ll have enough material about my family and all of the other stuff I have going on when I get to Spokane.”

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