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Comic Cathy Ladman performs at Morty's this week

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Cathy Ladman
Where: Morty's Comedy Joint, 3625 E. 96th St.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 2-5; 10:15 p.m. Sept. 3-4
Tickets: $12-$15
Reservations: (317) 848-5500.

Cathy Ladman, who's been a touring comic for 29 years, makes what she thinks will be her Indianapolis standup comedy debut Sept. 2-5.

Can that be right?

"I don't know if I have," she says. "Years ago, I was with my then-boyfriend in Chicago. He was working and I was with him. A local TV show in Indianapolis asked me to come on. This was years ago – in the early '80s. I took a bus from Chicago, did this TV show – they must have put me up in somebody's house; I had no way to travel back that night – and I took the bus back the next day."

In the decades since, Ladman has racked up credits that include Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, The Funniest Mom in America and Mad Men. She's gotten married and now has a 7-year-old daughter.

"Marriage is tough," she says. "Marriage is like a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle – all sky."

Here's more of what she had to say.

NUVO: Maybe this is my faulty memory, but I have this impression that I used to see you on TV a lot. Then there was a long period where I didn't. And now I do sometimes. Is that an accurate perception?

Ladman: It is an accurate perception, yes.

NUVO: So what happened? Did you take time off?

Ladman: No. Things just slowed down. There was real activity in the late '80s and early '90s, when there was just so much to do. A lot of the shows that used to be on weren't on anymore. I can't explain it exactly. Things like that happen in a career, I guess.

NUVO: Were you continuously working as a standup in those years?

Ladman: Oh, yeah.

NUVO: Carson was probably the first place I saw you. Did you do Letterman and Leno?

Ladman: I never did Letterman. When Leno took over The Tonight Show, I did that a couple of times.

NUVO: Letterman never invited you?

Ladman: No. I couldn't crack that nut. I really wanted to do that show.

NUVO: Did they give you a reason?

Ladman: At first they say, "She's on the board," which means we'd like to book her and we don't know when. Then time just went by. I think they're looking for comics who are younger, actually. That's so sad. There's nothing I can do about that.

NUVO: Is that what led to acting?

Ladman: When I moved out to LA, I wanted to get into acting. Slowly but surely, I started to get more opportunities. And I like it. I really like it a lot.

NUVO: Let's talk about some of the talk shows. Did you have a relationship with Carson?

Ladman: Not a relationship. Just a guest. He was very nice to me.

NUVO: When you first got on The Tonight Show, did you feel like: This is it. I have made it?

Ladman: I think that felt like my ultimate goal at the time. Like: Wow, I did The Tonight Show. It's every comic's dream. Then, like any goal that's been achieved, it's like: This is great. Now what? It wasn't the key answer to every question in my life. You have to be careful with all those ultimate dreams you have. They're not the answer to everything.

NUVO: Craig Ferguson seems to like you. You're getting booked on there fairly regularly.

Ladman: I really like him. He does the best monologue on TV.

NUVO: You're doing a lot of acting now. What was Mad Men like? (She played Gladys, one of the actresses involved in a public relations stunt at a supermarket.)

Ladman: It was exciting. I think it's the first time I'd ever done a show that I really, truly liked, that I was a fan of. I did Brothers & Sisters, and I think that's a good show, but I don't watch it regularly. But Mad Men, I'm really a fan. To get the opportunity to audition and then do the show was really exciting – even though it was a very small part.

NUVO: Remind me who you were. I thought I would have recognized you.

Ladman: No, no. The way they did my hair, I looked awful. I looked awful. I played an actress who did a publicity stunt for them.

NUVO: How much secrecy was there?

Ladman: A lot. At the table read, Matthew Weiner (who created Mad Men) said he doesn't want anyone to discuss the show. He asked nicely, and I believe everyone deferred to him. It's a nice group of people. Everyone is really terrific. It's not intimidating; it's just happy. People are happy to be there – I'm pretty sure of that. And it's got to be great to be on a hit show.

NUVO: How did you end up on The Funniest Mom in America (the 2007 edition)?

Ladman: I was coaching someone, and she was going to audition for The Funniest Mom in America. I hadn't heard of it, and she said to me, "You should do it." I was embarrassed to respond to her, in a way. It was like: I'm not going to do that. It's beneath me. I realized, when that was my knee-jerk reaction internally, that my ego was involved here, and that was the only thing that was really stopping me. So I thought: What the hell, let's try it out.

I have to say, I was definitely the most experienced veteran around and at another level of comedy than the people who were trying out. It was kind of easy for me because it wasn't an intimidating arena. And to tell you the truth, I really didn't like the experience. I hate contests. But I thought: Not a lot is going on for me. Maybe this will jump-start something. And it never did. But it confirmed the fact that I can't stand contests.

NUVO: You finished third?

Ladman: I didn't win. There were three of us.

NUVO: Have you heard anything since about the person who won (Vicki Barbolak)?

Ladman: No.

NUVO: Which proves that contests are pretty worthless.

Ladman: Right.

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