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After two decades as a stand-up comic, Kathleen Madigan has accomplished a lot.

She has become a regular on the late-night TV talk show circuit, done funny person-on-the-street interviews for Dr. Phil's shows, and scored a success with her own "Gone Madigan" special on Showtime, Country Music Television, Netflix and DVD.

And she has toured Iraq and Afghanistan with the USO to entertain American troops.

But she's still ready to conquer new worlds. She'll make her first appearance Aug. 26 at Santa Rosa's Wells Fargo Center. She recently took a few minutes by phone from her Los Angeles home to talk about her work.

<CF103>Q: How did you get hooked up doing the USO tours?

</CF>A: Actually, I'm really good friends with Lewis Black, and he did it first. The following year, I went with him, and the next year, too.

<CF103>Q: How do you manage to be funny about Afghanistan?

</CF>A: Most of the jokes aren't political. It's just the absurdity of it all. They've got people going to the bathroom in a hole in the ground, and yet there's 150 Humvees on the base. You couldn't get a Porta-Potty? Why don't you call the Missouri State Fair? They figured it out.

<CF103>Q: Did you feel safe in the war zones?

</CF>A: Yeah, totally safe. I guess I was naive. We flew all over the place in helicopters, and it never occurred to me that someone could just rocket-launch us out of the air.

<CF103>Q: Do your audiences here at home appreciate your entertaining the troops overseas?

</CF>A: Yeah, because I think everybody forgets about it. We have two full-blown wars going on — now three, if you count Libya, I guess — but most of the time, it's on page 8 of the newspaper. It's because it's such a small percentage of our population, comparatively, that goes to war. And it's a volunteer army. The people that are really paying attention are the ones whose families are involved. Everybody else just goes about their business. It's just so far away.

<CF103>Q: What's the difference between the two wars?

</CF>A: In Iraq, you can see where there used to be a city, and you could build that back up, but in Afghanistan — no. There wasn't anything there to begin with.

<CF103>Q: What struck you as absurd about Iraq when you were there?

</CF>A: This last Christmas when we went, there was a Taco Bell on the base. I think we can declare victory. I think it's time to go. We turn over the keys to the drive-through and go, "Look, we don't know what else we can do to help you. Work with it." I mean, downtown St. Louis doesn't have a Taco Bell.

<CF103>Q: You talk a lot about growing up in St. Louis. Is there a kind of Midwest humor, do you think, that's different?

</CF>A: I think it's probably more accessible, a little more mainstream. Midwest humor is not alternative. We don't even know how to be alternative.

<CF103>Q: What's the Missouri notion of being alternative?

</CF>A: I don't know. Sometimes I wish I was weird, so I could be as alternative as some of the alternative comics. But I can't even make my brain think that way.

<CF103>Q: The Detroit Free Press called you one of the nine funniest women on the planet. How did that come about?

</CF>A: Detroit always has been super nice to me. Outside of my hometown, that's my favorite place to work. I think it's because they're the same type of people. They're just Midwest, blue-collar, workin' people. These are my people.

<CF103>Q: Your cable TV special aired on Country Music Television, and you kid the Southerners a little bit. How does that go over?

</CF>A: I think if you make fun of them, but you are one of them, it's all right. I still have a place in the Ozarks. You don't get much more hillbilly than the Ozarks. I'm not Southern per se, but southern Missouri is pretty Southern. You can hit Arkansas with a rock. In the Civil War, Missouri was half and half. Missouri could never get its act together. We couldn't even pick a side.

<CF103>Q: Do you write your own material?

</CF>A: Yeah, it's all me. The whole point of stand-up comedy, for me, is saying what you want to say.

<CF103>Q: Do you think there's a particular need for comedy right now?

</CF>A: I think people just want to take a time-out. People work 40, 50, 60 hours a week. They don't want to come home and read about the debt crisis. It's too hard. Obama said the other night, "I gonna talk about the debt crisis, but I don't want to bore you." And I thought, "Well, too late!" I don't know what the debt ceiling is. I raise my own every month. Who cares?"

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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