Q&A: “The Daily Show’s” Al Madrigal

David L. Garcia
Staff Writer

Al Madrigal was just two Spanish credits away from graduating from USF when he left school to work with his parents. “I’ve always entertained the idea of going back to USF and finishing up, since it’s just two credits. I’d have to figure out exactly how that would work.”

It’s safe to assume he wasn’t assigned a registration date. Since beginning his entertainment career in 1998, Madrigal found success on television, both as a stand-up comedian (he recorded a special, “Why is the Rabbit Crying?”, in 2013), and as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Last year, he was casted in the new NBC comedy “About a Boy,” which is being hailed as a fresh addition to network’s comedy lineup as the show went into its second season this fall. 

Foghorn: You live in LA now. It seems like comedians, and entertainers in general, are forced to move to certain cities to continue their career? Would you have been able to achieve success if you had stayed in San Francisco?

Al Madrigal: A baseball analogy works really well here. San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Chicago and Seattle are like really good farm teams for comedians. Making it in LA and NY always have been the “bigs.” With social media and YouTube you can achieve success anywhere but if you want to be involved in TV in any way, writing, acting, directing, producing, you’re most likely going to end up in LA.

F: You’re originally from San Francisco. Has the city influenced you in any big way?

AM: I grew up in the Inner Sunset. The city has been a huge influence – socio-economic diversity is very important to me. Too bad those working class families like the ones I grew up with are getting pushed out.

F: How did you get your start in comedy??

AM: I ran for student body treasurer when I was a junior at St. Ignatius and gave a speech that killed in front of the entire student body. I got the bug then. Being a huge fan of stand-up, I always wanted to try it but put it off to help run my family’s business. Finally at 28 I tried my luck at an open mic on Market Street. After that I quickly made some comedy friends and was off and running.

F: What’s the process for developing a segment for “The Daily Show”?

AM: “The Daily Show” segments come from every department, anyone is welcome to pitch. No ego involved, best jokes and stories make it in.

F: What’s it been like to transition from stand-up on “The Daily Show” to a more conventional sitcom, like “About a Boy”?

AM: The transition from stand-up to TV has been easy but I think that’s unique to these two shows! I have complete creative control over stand-up. And with “The Daily Show” I am free to collaborate with the writers. With “About a Boy,” there are very funny confident people at the top who don’t care where the jokes come from so I feel free to ad-lib and suggest jokes. I am really so lucky to be on two shows where everyone is open to ideas coming from anywhere.

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