Kathleen Madigan is not a planner.
"Stuff just flies into my head and then I say it out loud onstage," the 47-year-old comedian says during a phone interview from her home in Los Angeles. "I do have words written down so I remember the topic — like, I'll write 'post office,' or whatever, so I remember what I'm talking about, but I don't write jokes."
It's a habit that might have been influenced by the environment in which she grew up. She describes her parents and siblings as funny in a sarcastic way — without them putting any effort into it.
"Mom's funny in a dry, dark way. My dad's more of a storyteller guy ... I would be a version of my dad, edited maybe."
Of course, what works, works. And it's worked for Madigan for 24 years. She tours regularly, has had specials on HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central, and has released four CDs and two DVDs, most recently 2010's Gone Madigan.
She admits, though, that the industry is changing around her. As she explains, in years past a comedian could break by just showing up on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson. "That's unheard of anymore," Madigan says. "Now there's 900 channels. There's five late-night shows. There's Sirius Radio. There's regular radio. There's the web stuff.
"I'm really good friends with Lewis Black, and we always joke that we spend so much time doing media — we spend more time talking about ourselves than being ourselves. If you were a narcissist, that might sound like a lot of fun. But if you're not ... there's just a lot out there, and it's all splintered. Fractured and splintered, so you gotta kind of find your people, if you have your people."