Calhoun County

Marshall native hits the jackpot by scripting funny Michigan lottery advertisements

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.

Kim Langridge has hit the jackpot even though she’s never won the Michigan Lottery.
 
Langridge, who was born and raised in Marshall and continues to make her home there, creates the majority of the radio spots for the state’s lottery, in addition to writing copy for television commercials promoting it.
 
“If you hear a radio spot and it’s funny, it’s probably mine,” she says.
 
An independent contractor with SMZ Advertising based in Troy, Langridge, 67, says she considers herself lucky to have a job that enables her to use her creative talents and make a good living while also giving her opportunities to work with celebrities like Michigan-born comedian Tim Allen.
 
After graduating in 1977 from Olivet College with a Journalism degree, she had a brief stint as the owner of a newspaper in Olivet before spending the next three years as a reporter for the Marshall Chronicle. That job, she says, made her a better writer and photographer.
 
When she left the Marshall newspaper, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and took a job that lasted one year with a friend who owned a screenprinting business.
 
“That’s when I got into comedy writing,” Langridge says. “I come from a family that enjoyed and rewarded humor. When I was little, whenever I could get a laugh out of family it felt good. I was the youngest and the comedian in the family.”
 
The jokes were put to paper on a manual typewriter perched on a treadle sewing machine that served as her desk. This was around the time that “stand-up comedy was really taking off. That’s when every town had a spotlight, a brick wall and a microphone” for comedians to perform, she says.
 
“I read an article about Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Detroit and I wrote him a letter asking for advice. He called me on the phone and I was tongue-tied because I hadn’t expected to hear from him so quickly,” Langridge says. “He said ‘I know a comedian who is coming on strong named Tim Allen.’ So, I wrote Tim Allen a letter and I got a call from him.”
 
Allen would be the first of two comedians she would be paid to write jokes for. Allen also introduced Langridge to Eric Head who would become her writing partner of 20 years and was already working for SMZ and writing comedy. He helped Langridge get into SMZ.
 
“Eric was a comedian as well as a creative director at SMZ. He asked if I’d ever written advertising copy. I told him I hadn’t and he gave me an assignment to write a 30-second radio spot for a paint and wallpaper store,” Langridge says. “After that more jobs started coming my way and I started writing for his comedy act. Eventually, Eric left the agency to do comedy full-time and I have been a writer on a retainer there ever since.”
 
The working relationship between Langridge and Head began during a three-day stay at a halfway house where Allen was staying after serving a four-month sentence in a federal prison in Minnesota for trafficking cocaine. He was arrested in 1978 at the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport.
 
Along with Allen, Langridge and Head wrote material and discussed concepts. Head also encouraged Allen to go on stage as a comedian for the first time.
 
Langridge would go on to co-write three episodes of Allen’s hit comedy show Home Improvement. They also came up with the concept for an episode of the show done using Claymation.
 
At the same time, she and Head were working with WorldWideWadio in Hollywood, Calif., focused on producing radio advertisements and more recently podcasts. Langridge was a copywriter and Head was the voice of ads for Chevrolet and Lowe’s.
 
The duo also wrote promotional spots for TV shows that went into syndication including “The Big Bang Theory” and “Sex in the City” during their eight-year relationship with WorldWideWadio.
 
“I loved that job because we were working on national stuff,” Langridge says. “But then things kind of dried up in Los Angeles for radio advertising and (WorldWideWadio) was struggling and our work with them ended.”
 
This was about the time that SMZ landed the Michigan Lottery contract. It was an easy segue for Langridge and Head who used their comedic talents to write and provide the voice talent for the lottery’s radio and TV spots.
 
“Almost everything in radio came back to comedy. There was overlap there,” Langridge says. “If you have a sense of humor and know how to write, the two come together. It’s a craft. There’s always a straight line followed by a punchline.”
 
A punchline no one saw coming
 
In recent years Langridge’s career achievements have been overshadowed by a decision she made in 2017 to come out as a transgender woman. She says she knew since the age of 4 that she was different, but didn’t do anything to re-write her own story until she was 60.
 
After seeing a therapist who confirmed that she was transgender, Langridge came out to her family when she was 63. They had no idea, which was a surprise to her.
 
“I’d never dated and I’ve still never dated. I asked them if they knew and they said no,” she says. “The only question they asked me was if I had ever thought about committing suicide.”
 
She had not, though she says the sexual identity issues she grappled with were like a “constant companion.”
 
“When you’re 4-years-old, you don’t fully understand. I knew I wasn’t like my brothers and sisters, but I knew instinctively that it was not something I should be talking about,” Langridge says. “Being transgender and closeted impacted every decision in my life which was tinged with this big secret I was keeping. I had a really good childhood, but there was always kind of a cloud nearby. There was a bit of melancholy knowing there was something I want that I can’t have.”
 
Her 60th birthday would be the turning point and established her own point of no return.
 
“I remember lying in my bed on my 60th birthday and I thought that I didn’t want to be laying on my deathbed in a nursing home wracked with what I knew to be true and to never be able to explore who I really was,” Langridge says.
 
The “firsts” after she came out were among the most difficult. She recounts a trip to her credit union in Marshall to deposit a check. She sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes in a blouse and skirt trying to work up the courage to go in and finally went in.
 
A young employee kept looking at her identification and her before speaking to his manager.
 
“He didn’t know what to make of me,” Langridge says.
 
Despite this, her check was deposited and that credit union now treats her just like any other customer.
 
Langridge says this is part of what she calls her own spotlight syndrome where she feels like whenever she’s out in public, all eyes are on her.
 
“I was self-conscious in that way. I didn’t have any close friends to guide me through this process,” she says. “The first time I went shopping for women’s clothes at Goodwill in the ladies section, I grabbed the first thing I saw and left. I knew I was going to continue to live in Marshall and I knew I was going to have to go to the bank and the grocery store and I was going to see people that I have known all my life. The Langridges have been in Marshall for eons.”
 
Aside from her personal life, she also was reluctant to share her story with SMZ. In January, she shared her journey with the creative director there who said, “That’s cool,”  in response to Langridge telling him she is transgender.  “When I pick up my daughter from school, I have all kinds of kids hopping in my car.”
 
Langridge says she knows she’s fortunate to live in a community and work for an employer that accepts her for who she is. She suspects this is not the norm and cites the number of attacks against the transgender community.
 
“I’ve never been treated like a poster child or a token. I’m just one of the group. Looking back, I’ve led a good life and now I’m leading a better one.”