Kathleen Madigan and Lewis Black just wanted to see a moose.
But despite hours-long bus rides between shows during their current 49th Parallel Tour, they’ve had no such luck – at least not during the first half of the trip.
Traveling from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay this week, the American comedians shared this fact during a joint phone interview from their tour bus.
“We’ve been traveling for seven hours since this morning, and we’ve seen nothing … not one animal,” said Black, the co-headliner of the 10-show tour which comes to London on Saturday night (Sept. 16 at Centennial Hall). “We just passed a truck filled with logs. That’s the high point so far today.”
But moose aside, there’s been no shortage of fun – on the tour bus and on the stage – for the highly-accomplished comedians during their time in Canada this month.
“We planned this really far ahead,” said Madigan. “It’s not a big money-making adventure, it’s more for fun. It’s different and interesting.”
“Yeah, it’s fun for us, but our tour managers are losing their minds just due to the conversion rate,” said Black. “Every night, they’re weeping, and saying, ‘Too much math, too much math. How many loonies are in a dollar?’ Then they cry themselves to sleep.”
The format of the tour, which opened in Calgary on Sept. 6 and wraps up in Hamilton on Sept. 17, features individual sets by both comedians, followed by a Q&A portion and a segment called ‘The Rant is Due,’ where Black, fuelled by his trademark outrage, reads rants sent in by fans over the internet.
“It’s been great,” he said. “The big hook is you show up in a town and all these people are happy to see you. That’s extraordinary. They’re happier to see you than you’ve ever been to see yourself in the morning.”
Perhaps best known for his ‘Back in Black’ rants on The Daily Show, which date back to the pre-Jon Stewart days (with Craig Kilborn) and continue with current host Trevor Noah (his most recent appearance being this past July 27), Black has criss-crossed the United States as a standup comedian for decades, his material often focused on American politics.
Madigan, a 28-year veteran on the comedy circuit, has also been selling out theatres across the U.S. for decades, while appearing on every late-night show along the way. Her most recent hour-long special, ‘Bothering Jesus,’ is currently streaming on Netflix.
“I think she’s the funniest person in America,” said Black.
“That’s a nice compliment, but he’s not treating me like that on this bus,” Madigan said. “I mean, if that’s true, you’d think I’d get a little more respect. Maybe the coffee would still be available when I woke up. ‘Here you go, funniest person in America, here’s an empty pot. Get to work.’”
“You’re the funniest person in America, but we’re in Canada,” said Black, causing an eruption of laughter on the tour bus.
Informally dubbed ‘Seeking Asylum,’ the tour has given the comics a chance to get away from the chaos of the current American political climate.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Madigan. “It’s nice to turn on the news up here because it’s different than the same crap.”
“Sadly, it’s actually been helped by this hurricane stuff,” said Black. “The only thing that could knock [President Trump] off the dial is a natural catastrophe. That’s how appalling it is.”
Black says he finds the levels of absurdity exhausting, and it’s changed the way he approaches some of his standup act.
“How do you satirize something that’s already satirical?” he asked. “Reality and satire have intersected, so when you pick up the paper and you read the front page … what do you need the comedian for?”
“You don’t know whether the headline is real, or if it’s a headline from the Onion, the parody newspaper,” Madigan said. “The one thing I’ll give Donald credit for is he played the media. And he won…
“Now they all go, ‘well, now we have to get serious.’ It’s too late now, jackass. You created the monster.”
A little action
About 40 kilometres outside of Thunder Bay, the tour bus drives past an accident, where a truck has gone off the road and landed in the front yard of a property.
“This is the first accident we’ve seen,” Black said. “You know what probably happened?”
“He hit a moose? Madigan replied.
“Yeah, or he tried to avoid hitting a moose,” Black said. “That’s as close as you’re going to get to seeing one.”