Growing up attending San Francisco Catholic schools, Al Madrigal was never the class clown, a surprising fact considering that the still-Catholic, now-married dad is also one of America’s freshest comedy talents.
Since 2011, Madrigal has helped Jon Stewart skewer some of the most ridiculous stories on the world news stage as the Chief Latino Correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
He currently co-stars in the NBC family sitcom “About a Boy” as Andy, a married friend of the show’s lead character — a committed bachelor whose life is turned upside down when he befriends an odd boy and his single mother.
On top of all that, Madrigal is one of the most in-demand standup comedians in the country, and he roots his jokes in his life as a family man. In fact, he says marriage saved his life.
“My character Al on ‘About a Boy’ is not the typical married guy who hates his wife and family who lives vicariously through his single friends and their sex exploits,” says Madrigal. “He is trying to tell Will to settle down, that married life and kids are great. That’s not too different from me.
“Standup is great, but I have two kids, my son is 12 and I’ve always had kids in my time in comedy. I love marriage and the balance it brings to your life. I would be a dead man without my wife and kids for sure,” he continues.
“Comedians are out all night and have access to alcohol and I have no willpower!” he explains. “I love the character, and also as a Latino actor, a lot of comedy roles are exaggerated stereotypes and that’s the furthest thing from this.”
As Madrigal noted, many standup comics remain single for life or get married well into middle age, a fact he attributes to the “lone wolf mentality” of standup. He says his own marital bliss just “sort of happened,” giving him a balance.
He’s thankful not to be in a 9-to-5 work rut and being a comedian allows him to go on the road “whenever my wife gets sick of me.”
Madrigal’s love of married life also stems from his own traditional Catholic upbringing, from which he recalls walking to Mass “at a huge pink Catholic church called St. Anne’s” with his family every Sunday.
His actual parochial school education took place elsewhere, as his parents made him hop a street car every day to a French-language Catholic school called Our Lady of Victory.
“We had to wear a French sailor suit every day, so imagine wearing that while taking a street car through the inner city,” he laughs. “You had to be pretty confident.”
While it takes confidence to be a standup comic, Madrigal applied his toward student politics as a kid, serving on student council and even as student body president when he reached 8th grade. In high school, he got involved in school plays and the newspaper, and admits he was “like the kid in the movie ‘Rushmore,’ way more into activities than my classes.”
Madrigal had a couple of comics living on his block during his childhood. Thus, he knew comedy was a job even though he got a late start at age 28, “which is ancient starting in comedy.”
He broke free from working for his parents four years later, and his unique storytelling style — influenced by such comics as Patton Oswalt, Dave Chappelle, Garry Shandling and Greg Behrendt — helped him stand out from the crowded field of comics tossing one-liners about clichéd topics.
His unique takes on life helped him draw the attention of the producers of “The Daily Show,” where he has gained prime status as the show’s Latino voice — one he exercised regularly when pitching topics for the show’s biting satire.
He likens the taped segments he regularly “reported” in from across America as “doing news ‘60 Minutes’-style but taking it 10 steps further.”
Aside from “About a Boy” and “The Daily Show,” Madrigal also occasionally cohosts the podcast “Minivan Men” with Maz Jobrani and Chris Spencer, and he also launched the “All Things Comedy” podcast network with fellow comedy star Bill Burr. What pulls all these projects together is his personal identity as a Catholic family man.
“I take a lot of aspects that were ingrained in me after 14 years of Catholic school, but I had the pastor from our parish in LA come to see me at the Ice House (a comedy club in Pasadena) last time I was there,” he says. “He was shocked but he laughed.”
To learn more about Al Madrigal, visit www.almadrigal.com. His sitcom “About a Boy” airs at 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC and “The Daily Show” airs at 7 and 11 p.m. Mon.-Fri. on Comedy Central. To hear the full audio of this interview, link here: http://archives.radiotitanscom/Kozversations/AlMadrigal.mp3