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Al Madrigal

Saturday, November 10, 2018
7:30pm Pacific Time
KQED Broadcast: 12/30/2018, 01/01/2019, 01/02/2019

This event appeared in the series
"On Arts" Benefiting 826 Valencia Scholarship Program

We've made a recording of this event free to all. Please support our institution and these productions by making a tax-deductible contribution.

Al Madrigal‘s stand-up comedy blends political satire with personal stories of marriage, family, and fatherhood. Madrigal is best known for his role as the “Senior Latino” correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart where he helped shed light on racism and anti-immigrant sentiments in the U.S. and had the chance to “drive tanks, swim with manatees, go to Mexico City and make a fake drug deal.” Since leaving The Daily Show, Madrigal has been busy doing stand-up; releasing a comedy special Shrimpin’ Aint’ Easy, in which he applies his comedic insight to topics like “cilantro politics,” anger management, and a wild tale of seafood revenge; and co-founding the All Things Comedy podcast network with Bill Burr. Madrigal currently stars in Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here, a series about stand-up in the 1970s.

Adam Savage is an industrial special effects designer and former co-host of The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters with Jamie Hyneman. He is currently an editor at and co-hosts the podcast Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project.

Comedians Referenced

  • D. L. Hughley
  • David Feldman
  • John Hodgman
  • Aasif Mandvi
  • Jon Stewart
  • Rob Corddry
  • Stephen Colbert 
  • Trevor Noah
  • Patton Oswalt
  • Paul F. Tompkins
  • Jake Johannsen
  • Russell Peters
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Dave Chappelle
  • Demitri Martin
  • Kristen Schaal
  • Hannibal Buress
  • Jeff Ross
  • Robert Hawkins
  • Bill Hicks
  • Steve Carell
  • Wyett Cenac
  • John Oliver
  • Dave Attell
  • Chris Rock
  • Jay Leno
  • Bob Rubin
  • Michael Meehan
  • Michael Pritchard
  • Melissa Villaseñor
  • Bob Sarlatte


City Arts & Lectures. Al Madrigal in conversation. Nov 10 2018., 415-392-4400.Adam Savage: Good evening. Good evening, and welcome to City Arts & Lectures. I’m your interlocutor Adam Savage. Thank you.

I’m not going to set anything on fire, don’t get too excited. And this is also a fundraiser tonight, a benefit for 826 Valencia College Scholarship program. So thank you for attending.

My guest tonight, he does it seems like everything in media. He is a writer and actor, a comedian, he’s had specials, he is a man of all seasons, please join me in welcoming Al Madrigal.

Al Madrigal: Thank you, sir. 

Adam Savage: Hey, how are ya. Good evening, sir. 

Al Madrigal: Nice to see you. Thanks for coming everyone. Appreciate it. 

Adam Savage: I’m glad you made it, you almost didn’t make it. You were flying from one fire to another. 

Al Madrigal: When the alerts pop up on the phone and say “if you want to rebook your flight can do that right here. We suggest you rebook your flight. Your flight is looking like it’s going to need to be rebooked.” Then yeah, I got worried and I texted you. But we made it.

Adam Savage: You did. Now I wanted to actually start with a little bit of the history of you and ask you when you got started doing stand-up comedy. 

Al Madrigal: I started very late for a comic. I started 28 years old, which is like 90 in comedian years. And–.

Adam Savage: Were you the oldest guy starting out in the room when you were doing that?

Al Madrigal:  I think I was. There’s always that weird like seventy-year-old that, yeah. There was that guy and then I was second oldest. I was one of the elder guys. 

I think they–when I started at the luggage store, which is on 6th and Market and I’m not sure if it’s still there, but a art gallery above a luggage store–the younger comics thought that they were going to take me under their wing because I looked so young at the time. And I remember my friend Dan Crawford who’s about nine years younger than me, said I’m going to take this kid under my wing. He’s pretty good. They thought I was an 18 year old whose family owned a store. They made up this backstory for me and they were all going to take care of me.

So and then they realized, oh this guy’s almost 30. Yeah he’s ancient. And I always wanted to be a stand-up comic, that was the thing. 

Adam Savage: And what was the tipping point for you to go to it at 28 instead of at 18 when? 

Al Madrigal: I saw some really horrible comedy when I was 27. I went to a place called Jack’s Taps on Fillmore and I watched an open mic and every comedian there was just horrible and I was like, oh I can be this bad.

Adam Savage: If that’s the bar.

Al Madrigal: If this is the bar, we’re fine. So and then procrastinated, like I’m very good at that, and finally decided I’m going to be 30, if I don’t do this before I’m 30, I’ll probably never do it. 

Adam Savage: So tell me, I’m just curious about that first night. I mean a lot of people–I have a friend whose greatest phobia is that she’ll be asked to do five minutes of funny material. How was your first night? 

Al Madrigal: It didn’t go well. I actually pretended to be a character. I got introduced as Joe Gonzales who was a guy who went to my high school who used no plurals.

Adam Savage: No plurals? 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. “Dude, I’m gonna go get some donut bro.” And…That was way more laughs than I got at the luggage store. So then the next week I went back. It was a Tuesday. And went back that next Tuesday and actually wrote material. And yeah, it went well and then a bunch of the comedians grabbed me and said, hey man, you want to go to another one? And I remember my good friend John Glugoski was there and he said “go”! And I said “ah!” And I got swept away in this group of idiots that I’ve stayed friends with over the years. 

Adam Savage: And we were talking on the phone the other day and you were saying that you’re sort of wrapping up your stand-up comedy. 

Al Madrigal: Just putting it on the hold a little bit because I got way too ambitious and I started this company called All Things Comedy, which has taken off. So we’re a production company, we’re a record company, our own network. We signed a couple deals with Comedy Central, we sold a show to TBS and… 

Adam Savage: Reading your IMDb made me tired.

Al Madrigal: It’s too much and it’s exhausting. And then also talked to a couple comics who were my senior. D. L. Hughley was one of them, who we talked about children. And I have a 16 year old and a 12 year old, and I know that they’re going to be out of the house soon. So I thought, rather than serve my own ego and get out on the road and spread myself too thin, I would have a relationship with my children. So.

Adam Savage: Shocking. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. I just put it on pause. Yeah, and I’ll go back when they’re out of the house and just leave my wife alone. Abandon my wife. She’ll come with me. That’s another thing I heard. It was a San Francisco comedian, David Feldman, who grabbed me years ago and said, “never stop, because now the kids are out of the house and me and my wife, we go on these subsidized vacations. You’re going to love it. So always keep doing it.” So.

Adam Savage: Now, do your kids do your kids think you’re funny? 

Al Madrigal: They do. Because I am. I have been joking around with them–they have great senses of humor. We were just talking about the bit where, well my son, he was three and a half years old, we were walking down the street and a homeless guy was walking towards us and my three and a half year old looked at me and said “hey who’s your buddy?”

We’ve yeah, that’s my boy. 

Adam Savage: Solid material.

Al Madrigal: Yeah, a little tear in my eye. My son. And I remember also my son was a 5th grader and he came home and he was very upset. He was drawing apparently, at school. Horrible artist, my son, just terrible. And he was drawing and a girl came up and made fun of what he was drawing.

And said, “what are you drawing there? That’s horrible. Terrible. You’re a horrible artist,” something like that. And then I said, “what did you say?” And he said, “nothing, I just felt bad.”

At that point I was like, okay, I got to teach this kid the family business. I said, what you need to do is immediately, she gave you license to fire back, and so you don’t have to be polite to everyone. If someone makes fun of you, you can go for it.

And I said, so you could for example say, “it’s supposed to be bad, it’s a picture of your face.” And this light bulb went off. So I had Don Rickles walking around the house just ripping on everybody. I was like, okay take it easy. That’s too much. 

Adam Savage: I was reading that you had enjoyed pranking your dad, but I’m wondering if you prank your kids?

Al Madrigal: Pranking my kids. A little bit. I’m trying to think of–I mean all parents prank their kids with like Santa right? I mean, that’s a long con.

Adam Savage: Totally. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. That’s the meanest thing we could ever do. I actually told my kids–this is a bit–but I wanted to be the one to tell my son that there was no Santa. I’m realizing that there’s–are the kids in the audience? Because I’ve…

Adam Savage: It’s too late now. 

Al Madrigal: I’ve spoiled it. There is no Santa yeah.

Sorry. I’ve done this so many times. I’ve ruined so many childhoods. But anyway, there is no Santa Claus. If you’re a kid in the audience, I’m sorry you had to hear it here. So I wanted to tell my son that there was no Santa because again, I wanted him to get this straight, you know, get the facts here. I got all the good information. 

Adam Savage: A critical thinker.

Al Madrigal: Sure, dad’s not going to lie to you. And yeah, he was–he tried to play it off like he knew, but he didn’t know. “Yeah sure. I knew that.”

Adam Savage: Perhaps most importantly, and this came up several times in my research about you, are Mexicans really pooping in our cilantro? 

Al Madrigal: I think they are they are. I think yes, that’s right. Another bit that was a gift at a taco cart. I just felt so happy when that happened. 

Adam Savage: That really happened? 

Al Madrigal: That really happened. I walked up to a–I was standing in line for Mexican food at a taco truck and the guy before me said exactly these words. I didn’t have to write a bit. He goes, “hey, bro, on that order. Can I get no cilantro? Cause, you know what’s going on with the cilantro don’t you?” And the guy goes “Si, si, I know.” And walked away. Just leaving me standing there, going, “excuse me, what’s going on with the cilantro?” And then the guy says “oh, bro. My mom told me if it’s from Mexico they’re shitting in it. To get back at Trump.” 

And when he said that to me, I knew it was going to be a bit just right away. Kinda like wanted to hug him. I was like, oh my God, thank you, because I was having a little bit of writer’s block. But there’s no way to, yeah, easier way to jar you out of some writer’s block than some cilantro shit story.

Adam Savage: Drops right in your lap. You were, are you still a correspondent for The Daily Show? 

Al Madrigal: No, no, no, long, long. 

Adam Savage: Ok, but you were for a long time. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, me and Hodgman and Mandvi sort of gradually faded away. There is no ceremony.

Adam Savage: There’s no ceremony? 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, there is for some. 

Adam Savage: Okay.

Al Madrigal: But during the Trevor transition we just all sort of faded out. Yeah. We were Jon Stewart guys. 

Adam Savage: I’m curious about what that’s like. I love the segments, I love, but, you know, you’re on the ground there with people saying radically weird stuff to you, and you’re…

Al Madrigal: I was thinking about it over the years and I specialized in doing a lot of the field pieces. I got to swim with manatees, you know variety of Tea Party officials. I’m on Mexico City rooftops. Jon let me do very strange things. So… 

Adam Savage: You and John Hodgman road tripped together did you?

Al Madrigal: Oh yes. Became great friends with John Hodgman and we travelled the country together doing stand-up comedy. But as far as a Daily Show field producer and writer and correspondent, I got to be in some surreal situations. Chased, almost beat up. 

We’d always do a bit, there was a regular bit on The Daily Show, where you’d tie in some political event with St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. We’d do it every single year. You can look them all up. So Rob Corddry would show up in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day and I showed up when Barack Obama was announcing that he was running for the second time, and announcing his candidacy again and kicking off that campaign. 

It was coincidentally Cinco de Mayo in Richmond, Virginia. I went to a Mexican restaurant where everyone was wasted and not a Mexican in sight, and about 20 guys who really wanted to kick my ass. So at one point I lost my field producer. I didn’t have a bodyguard, because on a couple of these you went with bodyguards because you knew it was going to get hairy. And couple guys had me up against the wall. 

But at that point I had you know, my background prior to stand up comedy was I was working at my parents’ family business where I had to, if you saw “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, I was a hatchet man. I’d fire people for a living. 

So I had been in so many stressful situations, I’m in this Richmond, Virginia Mexican restaurant getting pushed up against the wall by these tough dudes, I was like, “fellas really. What’s the, what’s the goal here? What are you gonna do?” You know I wasn’t, you just. 

Adam Savage: What’s the endgame?

Al Madrigal: Yeah, “what’s your endgame? You gonna kick my ass just because we have some cameras? It doesn’t make any sense.” But thankfully a producer came around the corner, I was able to worm away. 

But yeah, we’ve been in some crazy situations, we… One of the pieces that I’m most proud of is that I sat with Nate Silver from the FiveThirtyEight and we were trying to determine what the last state was going to be to approve gay marriage. So we’re like who’s going to be last? And it came down to the Deep South. It was going to be, Mississippi or Alabama. So we went to both places. 

Adam Savage: Oh my gosh. 

Al Madrigal: With two actors pretending to be a gay couple and we had them propose to each other in Waffle Houses. So, and I was there with a clipboard and a lab coat. Everything, we did not prove that. We came back with a different piece, which was, it isn’t a problem at all. 

Adam Savage: Like no one minded?

Al Madrigal: People, applause breaks. We had them propose, guy got down on his knees and proposed to his boyfriend and everyone clapped. And a little boy came up in Mississippi and said “you can’t do that here, but you can do that in Vermont, California” and started like. 

What’s happening! And so we came back to do it to Jon, and said hey, we didn’t get what you wanted, but we got this and it was much better. Yeah. So. 

Adam Savage: Among the pieces that you did is there one you were the most proud of? The one that… 

Al Madrigal: I am. It’s one with, I think it was sort of my last one. It was Danny Trejo. The Latinos are coming. And there’s a movie, a little trailer that we did at the end of it. But went down to Austin and had a Sheriff, I forget his name, come from Ohio, who said that undocumented workers are getting free computers and we need to cut off their resources. They’re getting free medical care. And I sat with them like, “where? Where are the free computers? And I would love to get a free computer, I don’t understand.” And he, I sort of baited him into saying a couple of things that were great.

That’s how the sausage is made a little bit, is that you interview somebody for an hour and you only need three minutes. You’re going to get something pretty good. I remember I asked a South Carolina lobbyist, who was lobbying against Medicaid expansion, 45 minutes of fake questions. So she thought everything was going great.

And then after every once in a while, I would just sneak in an uppercut, and sneak in and uppercut. And fake question, fake question, uppercut, uppercut and just use the uppercuts. So yeah, it’s… 

Adam Savage: That’s something I’m fascinated by, because you’re a comedian, you’re there to do a job. And they’re saying random weird racist crap. 

Al Madrigal: We did–so that’s the other thing, is you would never edit anything together, or fabricate anything, because there’s a lot of creative editing that could be done. We would just ask them to say what they already said, so. 

Adam Savage: Absolutely. But nonetheless you’re there in front of a person, and you’re a person, and they’re saying something that even while you understand it’s going to be gold on camera, it still might offend you on another level. I’m just curious if there’s a, like a cost there, or a toll it takes. 

Al Madrigal: The first one that they had me do was probably the toughest. I sat with a Mitt Romney super fan, a wonderful man. He’s delightful. He called us to thank us afterwards. And I had him, he made it–he was cheering for Mitt Romney and he was 72 years old. He was cheering for Mitt Romney. It looked like he was masturbating and. Again, if there’s kids here, I’m so sorry, but. Yeah, I took advantage of that. So I felt bad from the get-go and it was all downhill after that. 

Adam Savage: Even though you saw it coming?

Al Madrigal: Yeah.

Adam Savage: I’m curious how politics has affected your comedy over the past couple of years because, I don’t know if you were paying attention, but things have gotten pretty weird. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. You know with stand up–so I’m a storyteller. I prefer to go out and tell like, the last special I did my closer was 25 minutes long.

I prefer to tell–I made a horrible choice in that I picked the worst style possible. So I tell long stories with tangents built-in. I have mixed in some political stuff. I have talked about, you know plight of you know, undocumented workers and snuck those into stories. I did a day laborer bit early on.

And in the cilantro shitting story, just jumped into–it’s the most sophisticated–I’m really proud of it. It is the most sophisticated shit joke that I’ve ever come up with. But got to take everybody down to the cilantro field of Mexico where the foreman you know, organizes. Yeah, so. Like.

“Cilantro workers today Donald Trump has said quite a few things and it won’t stop now and it’s going to stop here. Let’s all start brainstorming. No idea is a bad idea.”

And how’d the shit get in the cilantro. It was a choice that was made by workers who brainstormed a lot of logical things. Let’s start a–the first guy, let’s get on the computers and start a Kickstarter. 

Second guy letter-writing campaigns, so people in America can empathize with our situation, so dire, you won’t even send your kids to the bus, but we’ll send our kids to another country in hope that they might have a better life. 

And the foreman has to shoot everything down until they get to shitting is the only viable option.

So yeah, I try to mix it in. But yeah it’s tricky. I think you know Stephen Colbert, and Trevor, and there’s other people doing a better job at… 

Adam Savage: But in your ex–you know from being on television, to being in movies, to doing podcasts–is media, is the way in which we’re taking in media changing the way comedy is happening?

Al Madrigal: Oh, yeah, and it’s making careers. You know, we were sort of talking about, the internet and social media has been able to–it’s enabled comedians and any creator to start their own channel, to immediately start making their own TV show. Most notably “High Maintenance” on HBO was started as a Vimeo show.

It’s, you can, everyone here is capable of making their own television show. And can shoot that on an iPhone and cast your friends. And I’m working on a movie right now with a lot of young actors, about a basketball coach, and we were talking about just yesterday, about don’t wait to be cast. Cast yourself.

Adam Savage: Just start shooting. 

Al Madrigal: Now, tomorrow. Yeah. Yeah, so every comedian can do that. It’s amazing. 

And yeah, I’m not sure if everyone is familiar with…Does anyone know about All Things Comedy? What I did? No? I started a podcast network in 2010 with six podcasts and now we have 60. 

And we have 20 million listeners per month and then we got a little bit of money, not too much, and we started our own digital networks. And now we just make TV shows for Facebook and YouTube and Amazon and you know, you can sort of put everything everywhere and the playing field has been leveled a little bit and.

Adam Savage: Amazing. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, we can, you’re running your own commercials on your own TV shows. It’s great.

Adam Savage: Do you still maintain not reading the comments?

Al Madrigal: Oh, it’s so hard. People are so evil. That’s, yeah commenters. I try not to. Yeah. 

Adam Savage: A friend of mine who’s a comedian described it as cutting. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, oh, I won’t read comments on any of my stuff. Now I’m sucked into reading comments on the shows that we put out. And we have other people policing those. But I’ve never been a commenter. I don’t understand the mentality of anyone that would write a review or leave a comment.

Adam Savage: Or leave a death threat for instance. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, and there’s that. 

Adam Savage: Do you see a performing gene in either of your children? Your kids are 16 and 12, yes?

Al Madrigal: No.

Adam Savage:  No? 

Al Madrigal: I do not see a performing gene at all. I, my daughter, possibly. My son definitely not. I think my son will end up in film and TV as a DP, camera operator, you know, whatever it is. I think that’s definitely what he wants to go into. I made the point of bringing my kids to set and showing them all the jobs. Because it’s fun to work on a movie.

Adam Savage: I agree. Yeah, my son’s in the audience, he’s been working in film production too. 

Al Madrigal: Oh, awesome. Yeah, it’s great. It’s, you get to make something and work with creative people and it’s always–I’m glad that I found it, even if it was late. 

Adam Savage: Do you, in talking about the way we take in media changing comedy. Do you think it’s actually not just changing the opportunities for stand up, but changing the format of it?

Al Madrigal: With, I’m sorry, say it again. 

Adam Savage: I’m just you know, I’m just curious about how it might be altering that straight trajectory that used to be, where you’d go to Cobb’s and you’d perform for an audience and you know then Patton, and Paul F. Tompkins. 

Al Madrigal: And you’d get on Letterman.

Adam Savage: Right.

Al Madrigal: Or yeah and then your life would change.

Adam Savage: That trajectory.

Al Madrigal: Yeah. 

Adam Savage: That’s totally different now. 

Al Madrigal: That doesn’t exist anymore. I read Jake Johansson, who is a San Francisco legend. I think he’s done, you know, he did sixty Letterman appearances. And yeah, he’s a great comic who opens for Russell Peters. It’s insane. Yeah, he, that you cannot go on that track anymore, that doesn’t exist. 

And you have to be–to be a successful stand-up comedian you almost have to be like a marketing major who, with an emphasis in social media, because you have to nurture and allow people to see you. You’re doing Instagram stories constantly and, “I’m dropping off the kids at school. Hey guys. I’m going to the gym. Hey guys. Hey guys. Hey guys.” 

And I’m not willing to do any of that at all. I won’t show my children on Instagram. I sort of took Instagram and Facebook off my phone a couple weeks ago. 

Adam Savage: Really. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, I just don’t care. I can’t. It’s well, I just don’t want– it’s weird. I don’t necessarily think–I long for the days when no one had to access to, you know, what, your dinner choices or whatever, you know minutia that people are posting. I think it’s ridiculous. 

Adam Savage: How do you manage, do you manage screen time with your kids? That’s a thing that parents are navigating. 

Al Madrigal: That’s very tough. Because it’s hard for me not, to manage my own screen time. There’s so much television that’s fantastic. And when you’re making it you want to be aware of everything else and so it’s difficult.

Once work is done, then they can watch whatever they want and my kids love “Bob’s Burgers.” And they have decent taste so that helps. They’re not watching crap. Fortnite is only played on the weekends. I’m not sure if anybody is in that hell. But it’s, they keep it down. They’re pretty cool. They get it. My daughter is a volleyball player. And so she’s too wrapped up in that. And yeah, takes a lot of her time. 

Adam Savage: We took their phones away every night 9:30 and this one in the audience wherever he is, handed me a dummy phone for six months. 

Al Madrigal: Oh my God, you’re a genius. That’s awesome.

Adam Savage: It was hard to punish him when I had a little bit of pride going on.

Al Madrigal: The same thing. Yeah. I love it. That’s great. 

Adam Savage: So, what’s it like–John Hodgman is a good friend of mine, but I’m curious about what it’s like to travel the country with John. Is it an endless series of polite conversations with strangers? 

Al Madrigal: A lot of that and at the time, see he is very good at social media and had a huge following on Twitter. So we always knew where the best restaurants were, and have you traveled with him at all or? 

Adam Savage: Here and there. Yeah.

Al Madrigal: So I just remembered going to, driving you know, 40 minutes to go to a cafeteria in South Carolina. Yeah, it’s, there’s a lot of that. So we always knew where to go to eat and a lot of late night drinking and I was saying we bought matching jackets, which is the lamest thing. So and we zipped them up. I should find a picture and I’ll send it to you. You won’t see it. Adam will. But it’s yeah, we bought matching jackets and walked around with our sunglasses and wearing matching jackets with our hoods up. They were Patagonia, gray Patagonia jackets that said–.

Adam Savage: That was the jacket, it was a Patagonia jacket?

Al Madrigal: Yeah, really cool. Yeah, and it said H2No on the shoulder and we called ourselves the h2no Bros. It sounds so much worse when I admit it to a group of people well after the fact. But at the time yeah, was pretty fun. 

Adam Savage: So going from a career where you fired people, you dealt with uncomfortable, rooms full of uncomfortable people to stand up comedy–you said that prepared you for doing stand-up, but did it prepare you for hecklers, for someone actively trying to ruin your bit? 

Al Madrigal: I think it actually did ruin me for hecklers because well, there’s a couple instances when I was doing stand-up and firing people at the same time. So I remember being at Rooster T. Feathers. It’s as bad as it sounds. And it’s a comedy club in Sunnyvale. 

Comedy clubs should be ranked. I hope no one’s here, but. It’s just sort of A clubs like your Cobb’s and the Punch Line and then you’ll travel all over the country and so, B clubs. Rooster’s is definitely a C club and it’s where you sort of practice a little bit. But very nice, run by very nice people, but it is sort of a practicing to go elsewhere.

Yeah, and I remember being on stage and looking out and doing well and then noticing a guy with his arms crossed glaring at me here, another one, here and another one there, and coincidentally three people I had fired were in the audience. 

Adam Savage: No.

Al Madrigal: Glaring at me. And yeah, and I remember just see him, calling him out, and I go, “hey Steve. How you doing. We go way back. Sort of forced my hand when you showed up late constantly.” 

Adam Savage: A very dark kind of crowd work. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah it’s very specific crowd work. 

Adam Savage: Yeah, very dark. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. So that happened a couple times, and it was yeah, there was zero fear of being on stage when I had been in so many tricky situations. 

Again had been chased and threatened and thrown up against walls before, you know, pre-Daily Show, while I was firing people. So when you’re standing up making people laugh.

Adam Savage: Really? 

Al Madrigal: Oh, yeah.

Adam Savage: People got physically violent? 

Al Madrigal: Yeah. There was a guy masquerading as a physician in San Jose, California. So it was in a orthopedic office and he was a physical therapist and he was pretending to be a doctor on the weekends and I went in and surprised him by myself and he took a physical therapy stick and he pushed me up against the wall and held me up there.

And again, at this point I had done 800 of these. So I just go “Hey Tuan. I don’t know what you’re gonna do with the stick, but I got a check in my pocket and you can either take the check or you can hit me with the stick. And I guess I could just press charges. Not gonna go well, so I’d suggest you take the check.” And he put the stick down. Just took the check.

Adam Savage: So and then when you have a heckler going ” you suck,” and you’re like oh. 

Al Madrigal: I look forward to the action. I like it when people talk back. And then I just got really mean so that was another thing. 

Adam Savage: Is that–I’ve gone down the YouTube hole of watching comedians deal with hecklers, and it is very enjoyable, but it can also get incredibly mean.

Al Madrigal: Yeah. I just want to–I don’t want to interact with too many people. I really do give them an out right away at first and say, you know, I’d prefer, I try to be nice, and then it would get ugly. I’ve said some horrible things. I said a lot of things that I regret. I said a lot of things that thank God there were–.

Adam Savage: Not recorded?

Al Madrigal: No phones out.

Adam Savage: Yeah. Yeah, we’re all a hot mic away from the end of our careers. 

Al Madrigal: We really are. As we were talking about a little bit, we were talking about the you know, it now, one you’re a smart phone recording away from a career ending. 

Adam Savage: Yeah. 

Al Madrigal: Mike Richards rightfully so. And then from there. 

Adam Savage: See I was telling you I thought that I like, I’ve hung out with comedians enough to know that the inter-material, the material that comedians trade with each other, is often way way darker and more problematic and difficult than what’s gets tried in front of the audience. But that’s why I love “The Green Room with Paul Provenza.” I loved seeing that conversation happen. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, it’s a group of people who have no filter hanging out with each other and you could say anything and no one bats an eyelash. And then you go try the same stuff on your dad’s group and.

Adam Savage:  It doesn’t fly.

Al Madrigal: Does not fly at all. 

Adam Savage: I also was surprised to realize that comedians will go after each other in an interpersonal way, just with really dark stuff like… 

Al Madrigal: Absolutely. No, I would, I’ve said so many horrible things. I don’t even want–to other comics from stage. And yeah its, we’re not good people. I don’t, I don’t want, I’d bring up some examples. But again there. Yeah, it’s. 

Adam Savage: Okay. So another kind of heckler we were talking about is somebody you described as an “Oh-er”? 

Al Madrigal: The Oh-er. Yeah. 

Adam Savage: What’s an Oh-er? 

Al Madrigal: Just people don’t know how to react in comedy clubs. And so you say anything and then you hear it got–if anyone’s been in a situation in a crowd where anyone’s done any material, and then somebody goes “ohhhh.” And then it sort of becomes contagious a little bit and a whole group of people go “Ohhhhh.” Like it’s guys standing around, you know, “that was a burn, oooh, can’t believe you talked about that, whoa!” They’re trying to lead the audience in an oh, you know, ohhhhhh. And I hate them. 

Adam Savage: You have to clamp down on that. You have to keep things running.

Al Madrigal: Yeah, yeah. I was doing an album recording in Pasadena and I go “dude, you gotta  stop fucking oh-ing, you’re killing me.” And he goes, “I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to do.” And it’s on and we had a conversation about it. And I was like “just laugh, or be quiet. It’s fine. Nothing else. Laugh or be quiet.” 

Adam Savage: How are you thinking about your kids and their future? Are you seeing what they want to fulfill for themselves yet? 

Al Madrigal: I’ve been saying the entire time, I’m not sure where they’re going to end up. I’ve been saying try hard and be nice since they were born, and I don’t care about anything outside of that. And so I feel like try hard and be nice works for a lot of things. 

Drugs–you’re not really trying that hard, if you’re doing drugs. It’s just effort. I don’t care what you end up doing as long as there’s effort there, if you try to be the best at it, and just be nice to people. 

Adam Savage: Yeah, work hard and be kind, I agree. 

Al Madrigal: Work hard and be kind, that’s it. That’s what it all comes down to. 

Adam Savage: It’s funny because when my kids were younger, I worried all the time about all sorts of different things. You invent all these scenarios of failure and success. And then as they start to get older you realize oh, they’re nice. That’s really it. 

Al Madrigal: Yep. That’s it. “Parenthood,” the movie with Steve Martin, Rick Moranis. He imagines his son in the bell tower. And yeah, you just want everyone to be kind to other people. You don’t want to have the kid that snaps. And if you do that, you’re good. 

Adam Savage: Now you were saying that in hanging out with John Hodgman, I hope this isn’t talking out of school, but you mentioned that you gave him some advice. Like you said, you had some internal things that… 

Al Madrigal: Well, I got to see John Hodgman, who’s an amazing writer, go out and do stand-up comedy for the first time, so he didn’t really have an act, and we went on the road. And so I gave him this crash course in stand-up comedy. But he encountered a heckler, and didn’t really know how to deal with it. 

And it is sort of prison rules. You want to establish–if someone’s going to yell out, you can lose control of a room very quickly, if you don’t establish yourself as the authority there. And so gave him some tools to shut people down right away and just said go at ’em.

And I’m sorry–I think the stock line is–I’m sorry that you’ve been giving the mistaken impression that it was okay to speak, but you need to shut the fuck up. 

And yeah, you know just, and you go to do stand up all the time. If I had a drink on stage, there’s gonna be drunk assholes in the audience that go, “what are you drinking? What are you drinking? Let me buy you a drink.” And you have to deal with that guy right away and make it clear to the other people that there’s no talking. So yeah, “oh, I’m glad you asked, I’m drinking a glass of shut the fuck up.” 

And it sounds, again it all sounds horrible. But in the moment, it’s good. It really works. 

Adam Savage: Paul Mercurio told me that the audience is a seven-year-old child. They have–and you have to deal with them like that. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, you have to tame a large group of people. I mean, I can’t even imagine that–I went on this oddball tour, Funny or Die, and it was Flight of the Conchords, Dave Chappelle, Demetri Martin, Kristen Schaal, it was just big, Hannibal Buress, traveling road show. And the biggest one that we did, there was 25,000 people in Chicago outside. 

And that’s a whole separate thing. You know small group like this in a theater with people who are paying attention. This is amazing, but. 

Adam Savage: They’re not talking.

Al Madrigal: Yeah, we, I think in Hartford, Connecticut things went horribly wrong for a lot of us. That was a rough show. It’s just when you assemble a group of people and who knows what, you know different factors, you know a fight breaks out here. 

I remember doing a show in La Jolla at the Comedy Store and there were two bachelorette parties that got in a fight with each other in the show. Drunk lady stood up, a woman came on stage and tried to get my drink. The bouncers–they hire comedians. So there’s these two 80-pound kids going “I’m sorry, ma’am. Ma’am, please, stop.” And so there’s no bouncer there and it just–I was recapping the entire time. 

And at that one point, and this really did happen, they were carrying the bachelorette out and they were dragging her, and she was held like this, and they were pulling her out, and I go “perfect way to end the night, folks,” because I recap–“we had a fight, we had the woman come up on stage,” it was like a trial for a comedian. And then I said “and now, the bachelorette is being dragged out at the end of the show. There you go.” 

And she goes, she turns around, she goes, “can I say something?” I said, “of course you can.” And she goes, “I’m not drunk. I have cerebral palsy.” 

Yes. Oh. And at that point I was like, oh, yeah, of course you do, because just having a drunk lady get carried out would have been too easy for this show. So sometimes just shit goes wrong everywhere. And you end up being this teacher who is trying to tame a bunch of drunk seven-year-olds.

Adam Savage: When you’re out with a bunch of other comedians do you get to learn from watching them–because I would imagine attenuating your routine between something like the Punch Line and then 25,000 people is– it’s a radically different–. 

Al Madrigal: I think you have to–yeah, you can watch others. I would, luckily started–I was living in Telegraph Hill when I started doing stand-up, so I was able to walk between the old Cobb’s and the Punch Line every single night, and I did that for nine months straight, so I went to go see comedy every single night two clubs. And so I walked to one and had a little group of friends and we go and I’d stand out and I’d see every single comedian that would ever perform there. And watched and learned, even the ones that I didn’t think were funny, they’ve done something to earn this stage time. So and would learn from just the cadences and how they carried themselves and I… But being in front of 25,000 people, that’s something you have to sort of experience for yourself. 

Adam Savage: Right, I mean, I would imagine–do you go slower because it takes longer for the–.

Al Madrigal: No, everybody, yeah, it’s cleaner lines, like you can’t do more complicated stories, so you do your simpler stuff. And also I–every single comedian that was going up, Hannibal Buress had a DJ and background dancers. Jeff Ross played the guitar, Demitri played the guitar. Everyone had a thing and they were filling up the stage. And I was the only idiot that walked up and just attempted to speak into a microphone. At one point Kristen Schaal pulled, had you know, Flight of the Conchords guys came out and dump water on her while she did this flashdance thing and they were making it into a production. 

Adam Savage: But not you. 

Al Madrigal: No, I picked the worst style ever. And it’s like, “hey everybody. I’m Al. How are you?” And it ended up–you figured it out after a while. 

Adam Savage: Yeah, do you have a–would you like to talk about your–do you have a darkest night? A bad bomb? 

Al Madrigal: Bomb. Yeesh. Yeah, I mean it’s happened. Well, I mean I have stories again where I’ve told an entire audience of 800 people to go fuck themselves and ran and jumped over a fence and ran to my car. I had to do–when you start doing stand-up comedy, yeah, I performed in–and I do this as a bit, but it really is. 

I did a gig in Modesto, oh it was in Stockton. I did a gig, it started at a kickboxer bar. So you’re looking for any microphone that you can get your hands on. You don’t want to stay in the luggage store. The Punch Line won’t put us up. We have to go to Jack London Square and perform in front of gang members and we had to–we heard about a kickboxer bar in Modesto. And they would leave the video games on. All the guys were in sweat suits. And yeah, they would, it was horrible.

 It was–I did crab and comedy. I performed at old folks homes, and with just a bunch of geriatrics in bibs. Eating crab. And so you take these gigs, whatever you can get and at the time it was like oh my god, it pays $200. Can you believe that? And you take the two hundred dollars and I came home to my wife and was like, oh my god, I got $200 this is amazing. 

And so we’re thrilled, but I took this one gig that was like 2,000 bucks and it was in Stockton. And it was during the day, the older comedians, Robert Hawkins in particular, do you–does anybody know who Robert Hawkins is? A very very funny funny comic who gave me some incredible advice. He pulled me aside when I was about six months in. Told me to open with my best joke, close with my second best joke, anything in between it doesn’t fucking matter. And then he also, what else? Oh. Never perform during the day, in front of children, or when people are eating. And the Stockton gig was all three.

So I went up on stage and there was a guy–because the night before I was in deep East San Jose. And I went up on stage and it was just a hardcore Latino audience and guys were holding up the corn on the stick after the comedian in front of me was doing his whole act in Spanish. And they were holding up corn. Like I didn’t know corn on a stick was the Latino concert lighter. 

So they were cheering like that and my wife looked at me and she says “you gotta get the fuck out of here. This is crazy.” So I go “no, I can handle this.” And I walked up on stage and I go “what’s up. I just had a baby.” And I just did it as this, Joe Gonzales came back real quick. 

So I did the whole act and I got out of there and then on the drive out to Stockton, because it was a two-part gig, I had this where I was like, I’m not gonna pretend to be this guy. I’m gonna be myself. And that was a horrible idea. I definitely, be something different. Yeah, so change it up. And I got on stage or backstage, and I saw the guy who did so well the night before crying. And I go “Ruben, what’s wrong? Are you? Okay?” And he goes, “they threatened my life.”

And people started booing me when I went up there and I remember I got paid in advance. So I had the money.

Adam Savage: Right. 

Al Madrigal: And there’s a great Bill Hicks story, same thing that I always remembered hearing. That he was doing a biker bar. And he would travel around with these Texas Outlaws, Ron Chalk, and, did you ever hear any of these stories? And they were in this horrible biker bar. And they’re just the worst crowd ever. Same sort of Stockton vibe. And they’re yelling at him, and the comedian that he was with goes, “we got the money. We’ve got the money.” And Bill Hicks goes, “fuck you, motherfuckers.” Like that and fucking just runs and jumps in–they run run run and get out of there and everybody’s just like “get em,” and they all get up and they chased them. And they run to the car and they see–they look for the keys, the keys are in the car. And so Bill wraps his jacket around his arm and smashes the window and they jump in and drive away with the bikers chasing them. 

And yeah that sort of thing happened in Stockton. So I remember that. And they all started booing me, and at one point I go, “listen you guys. This isn’t exactly a dream gig for me either. Stuck in Stockton of all godforsaken places, and the best part about it is I get to leave and you people are stuck here for the rest of your miserable lives. So I’m taking the money, and I’ve been paid handsomely, I’m gonna go blow it in Tracy outlet malls. Fuck you.” 

Adam Savage: Now, I think about the booker for that gig and I can’t imagine they’re going to say next time…

Al Madrigal: We gotta get him back.

Adam Savage: We need–or any comedian. Are there, like you said, there are a, b, and c clubs. Are there like Bermuda Triangles that all comedians talk about, like a place? 

Al Madrigal: Well, that’s what I really bonded with Jon Stewart when I got to The Daily Show because I was–he had you know, Carell, Colbert, all came from sketch, Wyett was more of an alternative comic, John Oliver’s coming from England. I was the only comic that had done all of these horrible gigs that he also went through. I taught my son how to swim in the Tropicana pool. Like next to a Band-Aid so. Ignore the Band-Aid son. Just try to… 

Adam Savage: That’s what his immune system’s for. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, we all have these horrible gigs in common. There’s a place, it’s Sanford and Sons in Kansas City where I always heard that they tried to pay Dave Attell in cocaine so they could– and then they, he wanted to, had to get a taxi to come pick him up and take him across the parking lot, because they wanted to, he suspected they wanted him to walk across this long parking lot so they could take his money away from him.

And we all hear about gigs like that. I used to lip-sync. There’s a show in Addison, Texas where they’d make you do–it was The Improv–they’d make you do a 7, 9, and 11. By the time you’re on the third show you have no idea what’s happening. So I started recording the second show and lip-syncing the 11 o’clock.

Adam Savage: That’s its own kind of surrealist masterpiece.

Al Madrigal: It was way more difficult because they would–all the staff would love it because I’d sit in the back with headphones and I’d memorize all of the crowd work that I did. So I was looking down at a completely different group of people, going, “how long you been pregnant ma’am?” Just like, what the fuck is he talking about, nobody’s pregnant. I’m not pregnant at all. “Nice shorts, sir. Thanks for dressing up.” And the guy’s like I’m wearing pants. And the staff is just going nuts, but it just didn’t matter. Yeah. 

And that’s when, I mean stand-up is at its best when no one–and this is all pre smartphone, you know, and no one’s recording. 

Adam Savage: That gave an amount of freedom.

Al Madrigal: Yeah. It’s a, there was just try things out. That’s why Dave Chappelle has everyone put their phones in a bag when they go to–you go to a Dave Chappelle show you have to put your phone in a bag and then they unlock it and then you get your phone back at the end of the show. Chris Rock famously has threatened to break people’s phones and buy them new ones.

It’s just you don’t want anybody to catch anything half baked. It takes a long time to work on this stuff. 

Adam Savage: How many hours does it takes to– I mean that’s it’s probably an unknowable question. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah for, I mean there’s the comedians now that are keeping a pace where they are turning out a new special every single year. And. 

Adam Savage: I mean that’s the thing is that when I was a kid there were comedians who made entire careers off the same 30 minutes of material. 

Al Madrigal: Jay Leno famously just does one act. Never did a stand-up special so he could just keep doing that act. 

Adam Savage: Wow. I think this is a great time to start taking questions from our audience.

Al Madrigal: Yeah. 

Adam Savage: Hopefully there’s no hecklers in it. We have microphones traveling around the theater. If you have a question for Al raise your hand and a microphone will come over to you. 

City Arts & Lectures: This first question is in the front row, in the center.

Audience Member 1: Hi Al thanks for coming today. One thing we didn’t talk about tonight is “I’m Dying Up Here,” which I really enjoy. 

Al Madrigal: Oh thank you so much. 

Audience Member 1: And I was wondering, you play a comedian at the Sunset Strip on the 70s, you grew up in San Francisco, kind of on the young side for the commensary comedy clubs.

Al Madrigal: But I became friends with, just to jump in, I became friends with all these older San Francisco Comics. So Bob Rubin, and you know, I grew up on the same block as Michael Meehan and Mike Pritchard, so I got to hear a lot of the stories, but I missed you know the Zoo and yeah and Other Cafe and all the cool San Francisco Clubs. 

Audience Member 1: So my question is, you jump in a magic time machine and you could start your career at any point of comedy, particular cities or times. What would be your choice? 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, I’d probably pick that sort of late 70s, you know, you–oh, cell phones would be great. Maybe like ’82, right so you could have one of those big clunky cell phones. Yeah, it would be–there was just a lot of stand-up out there. But yeah, you know, ’80s seems like it would be fun. Yeah, how about you? Definitely not now.


Also, you know, I actually when I first started, I was living in North Beach and, like I said, Telegraph Hill and I’d walk down and I’d sit at the Hungry Eye when it was still a strip club and write because I knew all the history that went into that place. And so, and got to be on stage with Enrico Banducci and like would, maybe you’d even go sort of early 60s would be cool. Yeah. All right. And that’s it.

City Arts & Lectures: This question is at the center of the orchestra.

Audience Member 2: Hi there. We have so few Latinos in popular culture. So glad to have you here, glad to be here in the audience. I’ve seen a few of your shows and notice there’s a certain level of consciousness to it. There’s a certain level of–you share an experience with your Latino upbringing. And I just wondered where did that consciousness come from? Do you do it deliberately in your shows? Just want to hear a little bit about that.

Al Madrigal:  Oh so initially it was very self-serving. I went to the Montreal Comedy Festival and my manager at the time asked if I had any French stuff. And I went to–my parents sent me to Notre Dame de Victoire on. Yeah, I’ve hey. And so yeah, I did. And started talking about myself and it was very specific. 

So I you know again, probably chose the worst style, but talk about growing up half Mexican, you know in the Sailor suit and how tricky it was. But just the awkwardness and I didn’t feel like accepted by either side and just the difficulty growing up half Mexican. And it was all on me for the most part. But it was, I liked being very specific. I found that that was. You know, it was easier and no one else could take any of my material. Because there’s a lot of people stealing. 

So I just felt like if I made it hyper personal. And then again tried to weave in some you know, stories here and there that I could, and talk about sort of current events. It’s always long stories with observations built in and a lot of those observations are the plight of the undocumented worker, which is difficult to talk about in a funny way, but I tried. 

Adam Savage: That’s also a thing Bill Hicks used to say about not worrying about people stealing your jokes. That you have the monopoly on being you. And the more you you make your comedy, the less you make it available for others. 

Al Madrigal: Exactly. Yeah, there’s not too many people that have, half Mexicans with half Korean wives and yeah just very specific about every single story and every single bit and it worked. No one took anything. 

City Arts & Lectures: This question is at the front on your left.

Audience Member 3: Well, obviously you’ve accomplished a lot and I’m just wondering what’s your dream gig going forward? 

Al Madrigal: Oh my god. Well, I joke that I want to be ethnic lab rat on an NCIS or Law and Order. Right? Best gig ever. Because then it’ll enable me to do a bunch of stuff. Like just a microscope and then “guys, you’re not going to like this.” And I’ll go back to my trailer and. 

Adam Savage: That’s a sweet gig. 

Al Madrigal: Work on all my other shit. But I am–I’m so lucky to be able to do– it hasn’t really officially been announced but I’m going to be working on a comic book. I am going to, I’m writing a movie. And I just am getting to do all of the stuff that I wanted to. And thanks to stand up, that allowed me to, you know get introduced to a lot of people that are helping me out. And then you know, luckily getting to work with cool people is a big thing. So once you forget, you stop thinking about the money part and just sort of imagine, okay. I just want to work with nice talented people. That’s pretty much the goal. And yeah, it’s happening.

City Arts & Lectures: This question is all the way at the back towards your right.

Audience Member 4: Hello. I am dying to know what this business of your parents was that you got to run around and fire all these people. What was the business? 

Al Madrigal: Well, I think my mom is here. If you want to stand up and you can do a sales–I’m not sure if anybody owns small businesses, but Judy Madrigal and Associates or JMA, what we’re able to do for you is we absorb your company, so we employ everybody working at your organization. We’re technically a PEO, so it’s a professional employment organization. So we hire everyone at your company to work for us, but we take care of all the dirty work. Workers comp, your benefits, your payroll. You get to concentrate on your day-to-day and we worry about everything else. It’s like outsourcing your lawyer. So you’re outsourcing your HR department. Now, I do have some business cards and brochure setup. 

But what we would do is if something went wrong, then technically it’s our responsibility. So we had one point, you know, when I was working there we had about 3,000 employees out all over the Bay Area and it was our responsibility to make sure everything was handled perfectly. So if somebody was showing up late then we’d warn them properly. We get them a written warning, a verbal warning, written warning and then yeah. I’d show up. At the, and go “hey, remember how we told you not to be late a couple times and you were late again? I got a final check for you. And I’m gonna–understand you have a ficus and a credit card and I’m going to walk you to your car.” So yeah, I did probably over a thousand of those so that the–that was the  company. 

Adam Savage: Okay. I’m really curious. Within the family. Was this the job that like you just turned out to be suited for or was it? 

Al Madrigal: I was sort of, I fired my first person at 19 and yeah, I think I was pretty good at it. I remember at the time that things started to go–like I had, I was going so well.

Because I sincerely, this is the thing. I wanted everyone–I wasn’t laying off people that didn’t deserve to be let go for the most part. We were letting go people that we warned and that screwed up a lot. Yeah, and I hated it. So I was very sincere in my approach, which was please don’t make me do this. I don’t want to come back. So this is what you need to do to succeed. And you are putting me in a very difficult situation. So. 

Adam Savage: So there’s–“Up in the Air” must have resonated, but also that episode of “Cheers” where Norm turns out to be good at firing. 

Al Madrigal: Oh my god, I’m so glad that you saw that. So there was an episode of “Cheers” where Norm had to fire people and his first one he breaks down crying. And the guy ends up patting him on the back. And so then light bulb goes off and he starts pretending to cry and at the end of it… 

Adam Savage: “You’re a monster.” 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, and when I watched “I’m Dying Up Here.” I mean, I’m sorry the George Clooney movie. 

Adam Savage: “Up in the Air.” 

Al Madrigal: “Up in the Air.” I, my wife put her hand on my leg. I was–because I was looking at her, because of the travel as well. He was flying around, I’m not sure if you guys remember that movie. But he goes “let’s get behind the Japanese businessmen. They’re very organized when you’re going through TSA.” And my wife patted me on the knee and she goes “I know. This is a movie just for you.”

My family, I mean if you travel a lot in the height of–just taking three other people that are inexperienced travelers, or just don’t travel as much, with you, when you’re a well-oiled machine is.

Adam Savage: It slows you down. 

Al Madrigal: Yeah, like guys guys guys. Come on. There’s a hole over there, shoot to the left. Let’s go. I got pre-check. I’ll see everybody later. I can’t take this.

City Arts & Lectures: There’s a question on your far left toward the front.

Audience Member 5: Hi, I was just wondering when you first realized that you’re funny. And if you remember maybe the first joke you wrote or told that you were truly proud of.

Al Madrigal: Oh my god, well I’m so excited to talk about this because he is here, where’s–is Uncle John here? Where are you? My Uncle John. Say something. Hey, oh, he’s right there in the middle. We’re just talking. So I told these two jokes last night, but this is the first joke I remember hearing, and you didn’t even remember telling me these, but he told me two jokes. My uncle John and my dad were always very very funny. And yeah, he told me two jokes that I remember thinking, oh, this is hilarious. And they were really long, and I’ll tell you–I told it yesterday so I should be pretty good at it. But this is the–do you guys want to hear the joke? 

Adam Savage: Yeah. 

Al Madrigal: Alright. So a husband and his wife are on this big like cross-country trip in their car and they got the luggage on the roof and the car’s dirty and they’re in a gas station, they pull into Arizona. And they’ve got Georgia plates. They pull into–this is how old this joke is–they pull into full service. And the attendant comes up to the window and he says, “what can I get you folks?” And the guy says “fill it up with unleaded.” And the wife who’s hard of hearing says, “what’d he say?” He says “honey, he wanted to know if we wanted it filled up. And so I said yeah fill it up with unleaded.” And she goes “oh okay.” 

And the guy fills it up, he comes back, and he goes “folks I noticed you’re on the road trip, you want me to check your oil and your water?” Man, he goes, “yeah, that’d be fantastic. Thank you so much.” “What’d he say?” “Well he asked if I wanted the oil and the water checked and then I said, yeah, that’d be great. He noticed we were on the road trip.” “Oh, okay.” 

And so the guy comes back and he goes “hey guys, I noticed the Georgia plates. I’d been you know a lot of places, traveled quite a bit, and I’ve been to Georgia. Where in Georgia?” And he goes, “ugh, you never heard of it. Very small town. It’s 14 people. Just tiny.” And he goes, “no, try me. I’ve been a lot of places. I might know it.” And he goes, “it’s Atwater, Georgia.” 

And he goes, “Atwater, Georgia. No. Oh my God, this is crazy. I’ll never forget it because,” he says, you know, “the most disgusting woman that I’ve ever had sex with, Atwater, Georgia. I mean vile. Just nasty. Smelly, just a disgusting vile vile woman. And it sounds crazy. Small world huh?” And then they drive away and the wife says “what’d he say?” And the husband says, “he says he knows you!” 

So. That’s the joke that my Uncle John told me when I think I was like, I was like 9 years old. That’s the other thing is like, the most disgusting woman.

And so yeah, I remember thinking that my dad and my uncle were hilarious. They would prank call my grandmother non-stop and do voices and I thought they were very very funny. And then I grew up on a block with comedians. I think it’s so important and I try to go out and I talk to as many kids–I’m trying to start the Latino Comedy Festival which I’m introducing people, I had the showcase that got Melissa Villaseñor on Saturday Night Live.

I’m trying to tell a bunch of younger kids that this is a job and I was so lucky to be on the same block as Michael Meehan and Michael Pritchard and then Bob Sarlatte, I’m not sure if anybody knows, went to my high school. And so Bob Sarlatte would play Letterman tapes and I was like, this is amazing. I remember watching SCTV through a grainy sort of television on channel 26. Remember Channel 26? So I always just loved loved comedy. But it was, I think the biggest thing was for me to realize that it was a job, from the guys on my block and Bob Sarlatte. 

Adam Savage: I think that is a great place to stop. Well you guys thank me in welcoming Al for being here tonight.

Al Madrigal: How’d I do?

Adam Savage: Thank you so much. That was great. 

Al Madrigal: Awesome. Thank you very much.