NBC's Last Comic Standing is being taped under a shroud of secrecy. There's no way of knowing whether Florissant native Kathleen Madigan is still living in the Hollywood house with the group of back-stabbing funnypeople or not. But Unreal bets she is. We caught up with her after she'd taped all of the episodes except the last one (or something like that). St. Louisans will likely have the opportunity to vote for her, or vote against her, soon.
Unreal: So, you're not in the house right now? Are you having fun?
Kathleen Madigan: Now that we're outta the house I am! It was kind of like when you went to camp when you were a kid. You can't use the phone without permission, you can't turn on the TV. We didn't even have a TV! We did have a pool, but the water was so cold I just called it the heart-attack pond.
Do you think it's lame that they made the show into a petty, one-person-eliminates-another thing, when it could have been purely laugh-offs?
I don't like pitting people against each other at all. I'm a big fan of Eco-Challenge on the Discovery Channel because it encourages teamwork. But the good thing about Last Comic Standing is that, in the end, your standup makes or breaks you.
Do comedians ever use mind- or body-altering substances for the purpose of being funnier?
I don't, but Lord knows there's a lot of 'em running around who do. The most I would have is, as Mike Shannon would say, "a nice cold frosty Budweiser."
What high school did you go to?
What's the most unintentionally funny thing about St. Louis?
That when you go up in the Arch, on one side you see beautiful downtown St. Louis, and on the other side you see rows of burning tires. I don't think they thought that through very well.
Who do you think is the funniest Scientologist?
I would say Lisa Marie [Presley], because she married Michael Jackson. I think she agreed to marry him as part of her Scientology duties, because he was dabbling in it. I don't have any proof of that theory. I love the fact that the person they use to tell you how cool the religion is is Kirstie Alley. I like Kirstie Alley, but I don't consider her one of our deep thinkers.
How old are you?
78. I never tell. Never.
Howd'ya Like Them Apples?
Ex-major league slugger Bob Horner sits in the living room of a dilapidated rental home on Leavenworth Street in Manhattan, Kansas (a.k.a. The Little Apple), shoveling Goldfish crackers and Colt 45 into his Hoover vacuum of a pie-hole.
"I call this the Fatkins diet," Horner says between mouthfuls. "The better the Cardinals play, the more I eat."
It hasn't always been this gloom-and-doom for Horner. A mere two months ago, with the Cardinals languishing near the bottom of the National League's Central Division, the 46-year-old first baseman and his 24 "Shadow Cardinal" teammates stood poised to replace the big club in a revolutionary anti-aging experiment undertaken by St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and yogi Lokesh Patel. (For more on the story, see Mike Seely's March 31 feature, "Tony La Russa's Manhattan Project.")
Then the St. Louis version of the Cardinals woke up and smelled first place -- and the shadow team's discipline abruptly went down the crapper.
"I knew the dream was dead when Pedro Guerrero started substituting Wild Turkey for his wheatgrass shots after breakfast," concedes Shadow Cards manager Dick Williams. "But hell, who could blame him? These guys had their hopes up higher than a glue-sniffing shoeshine boy in Rio de Janeiro."
Indeed, it's difficult to see a silver lining for these Shadow Cardinals. Case in point: Tito Landrum's bat has shown considerable pop in simulated games, but big-league scouts are barred from the ultra-secret training sessions, all but nixing the possibility that the 49-year-old Joplin native might hook up with another team.
"Sometimes a taste of honey is worse than none at all," laments a bittersweet Landrum, succumbing to a handful of Goldfish and the lure of Horner's malt-liquor stash. "But we'll always have Manhattan."
Used to be, leaping off a curb was a way to avoid a large puddle and ironing slacks a dreaded chore. But these seemingly mundane daily tasks of yore bore two Euro-bred crazes: extreme ironing and Parkour.
This is what passes for extreme sports nowadays. Seriously. The March 28 Sunday Styles section of the New York Times served up a 1,500-word piece about a burgeoning extreme sport called Parkour, recently imported to the "forests of Georgia and the deserts of Arizona" from suburban France. Known in England as "freerunning," Parkour is a primal amalgam of skateboarding, Spider-Man and street gymnastics that requires nothing more than a pair of sturdy sneakers and a surface-intensive landscape. Ultra-advanced "traceurs," as the discipline's practitioners are known, have been known to leap from building to building in a single bound, while scab-weary adolescent and adult newcomers bound off sidewalk curbs and small concrete walls like kindergarteners on speed.
Extreme ironing, another European "sport" that has gained the Gray Lady's imprimatur, was birthed across the pond when Brit Phil Shaw and his buddy, Paul Cartwright, "did a spot of ironing whilst rock climbing," sayeth the Times on May 21 in a piece called "Get Out Your Boards: Extreme Ironing May Soon Be Hot." Shaw carries a bag of different irons for different extreme-ironing climates and situations, such as stiffening up a shirt collar on a frozen lake or while "hanging off the side of a World War II amphibious vehicle known as a duck boat" in Boston, the St. Louis of New England. He and Cartwright now harbor Olympian aspirations for their steam-drenched activity, placing it on par with "synchronized swimming and curling."
The extreme-sport realm can't possibly get any more surreal, Unreal caught ourselves saying.
Oh, sure it can. We hereby propose a new pastime, which we'd like to see to heat up St. Louis like spicy food in a spastic colon. Behold, if you will, Stagour:
Step one: Sneak up on an unsuspecting beer drinker at any local watering hole, armed with a bottle of Stag beer
Step two: Bonk top of said reveler's upright bottle with the bottom of yours
Step three: Watch gleefully as at least half the contents of your pal's twelve-ouncer spews forth from the top of his bottle like Mount St. Helens
Step four: Hilarity (or, alternatively, fisticuffs) ensues.
Stagour practitioners are to be referred to as "hoosieurs." Underage players are encouraged to take Stagour into four-star restaurants, where the enterprising adolescent hoosieur might bonk fifths of Dom Perignon with a double-fisted Stag attack culled from Daddy's garage fridge.
Go forth and bonk, hoosieurs -- and please fill Unreal in on your exploits by e-mailing accounts of Stagourian mayhem to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Unreal is in no way obligated to bail your hoosieur ass out of jail.
And so it came to pass that a decree was sent out by the Reverend Flip Benham, proclaiming: "Abortion is murder! Homosexuality is a sin!! Islam is a lie!!!"
The good reverend was delivering a scathing sermon outside the Old Courthouse last week when Unreal caught up with the leader of Operation Save America.
Benham and his followers were halfway through a 2,600-mile walk across the United States, and as luck -- or fate -- would have it, they landed in St. Louis on the very weekend the nation celebrates Pride Fest.
"They want Sodom and Gomorrah, but we're going to deliver them a bit of Heaven," said the reverend, filling Unreal in on his game plan. "They're out-of-the-closet homosexuals, and we're out-of-the-closet Christians. The fact is that some of our own members have been saved from homosexuality, and we hope to do the same here."
Operation Save America had a busy itinerary for St. Louis, including protests outside several area abortion clinics, but on this afternoon Benham was most concerned about Judgment.
As the donkey Mercy and the quarter-horse Justice idly chewed the lawn of Kiener Plaza, Benham lamented the lapse of Judgment, a seventeen-year-old horse that went lame after stepping on a rock outside Kansas City, the previous stop on the group's march from California to Washington, D.C.
"He's a beautiful horse, and we hope to have him back before we leave St. Louis," Benham said.
The barnyard critters are part of a procession that includes an infant's casket outfitted with bloody rags and a broken Styrofoam replica of the Ten Commandments. For special occasions the group also reveals another prop, an aborted fetus stored in formaldehyde. On this day, however, the little tyke had been left behind in the horse trailer.
As the interview drew to a close, the reverend politely thanked Unreal for our interest and with a quizzical look asked for a second time what paper we work for.
"Funny thing is, it seems that only homosexual newspapers ever cover our story," he said.
"Bill Me!" will return if -- and only if -- you send a question to St. Louis school-board member Bill Haas! Address matters of love and lust to email@example.com, or stamp and send c/o Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130. You can also call 314-754-6411 and leave a voicemail -- but only if you promise to speak in a husky bedroom voice. NOW!