Milwaukee is the fourth of five stops in a five-day tour by first-string comedians (from left to right) Eugene Mirman, John Hodgman and Kristen Schaal.
The three friends – whose burgeoning body of work includes “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (Schaal and Hodgman), “Flight of the Conchords” (Mirman and Schaal) and “Bob’s Burgers” (Schaal and Mirman) – perform at the Pabst Theater, 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18. (More info and $32.50 tickets here.)
While riding a “pretty sweet van” with Schaal and Mirman between the first two legs of the tour – Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Hodgman spoke with Milwaukee Comedy about the Sandwich-To-Go-Tour and how he’s looking forward to the Milwaukee audience and a hookup with a signature Milwaukee sandwich. Here’s a slightly edited transcript of the conversation.
Milwaukee Comedy: Tell me about the show and its genesis.
John Hodgman: We enjoy each other’s company very much and have known each other for a number of years, and it seemed like it would be a good idea to get together and drive around in a van and visit some of the cities of America and perform comedy. So far, that has proven to be true. I hope that by the time we reach Milwaukee, it will be truer than ever.
Us: Tell me about the show itself, how the three of you are working together on this.
Him: We had a couple of different options to work with:
- We considered all going out together on stage and performing our individual sets simultaneously, and people could tune in to specific radio stations so they could hear which ever comedian they wanted to hear using a small AM transmitter. We were going to do that.
- The other possibility that we would all prepare comedy together, and we would memorize it, and then we would all three of us come out and recite the whole comedic routine together in unison – all at the same time. It seemed like that would be a good idea because we would not need microphones. It would be sort of like the people’s microphone from Occupy Wall Street. Everyone would be able to hear us very well.
- But then we decided to do something a little more conventional, which was that we would split up our time in the theater among the three of us and we would each perform our own individual comedy sets linearly, which I gather is how it has been done on the vaudeville stage for many years.
So in effect, it becomes a little bit of a variety show. We three of us go out on stage. We exchange some pleasantries with each other and the audience. And then we have a physical fight as to who gets to go first and be done the quickest.
Last night (Tuesday), Eugene won the fight. He’s a very talented fighter. I think he’s been going to some ultimate fighting gyms, I think, to practice. His ground game is really good these days. I hurt my back, though.
Us: It sounds like some of the real collaboration here is on the road together.
Him: Yes. You reach us after we have done the first installment, in Philadelphia, and let metell you, it was a triumph. Would you agree, Kristen, Philadelphia was a triumph? (Schaal’s voice in the background: “Yes. I mean, I am done now.”) I think we all feel like Philadelphia was so great that we could basically check out for the rest of the tour. (Unintelligible comment from Mirman. Laughter from Schaal) There’s a smoldering comedy hole where the Trocadero Theatre used to be in Philadelphia after last night.
But I’m a professional, and I really wanted to continue and do the rest of the shows. In particular, I wanted to make sure to go see Milwaukee, which is a town that I’ve enjoyed visiting before.
And, personally, I have a mission too. You know, it’s the Sandwich-To-Go Tour. I have a mission to eat a sandwich in every city that we stop at. And not just any sandwich, but the definitive sandwich of that city. And I’m not sure what that will be for Milwaukee.
We had an Italian hoagie in Philadelphia. We’re now going to Washington, D.C., where we’re going to get a half-smoke from Ben’s (Chili Bowl) and eat that onstage. And in Detroit, I think that they make a sandwich in Detroit out of foreclosed homes that I’d like to try.
And then in Milwaukee, what do you think is the sandwich we should order to the stage?
Us: Tell me about some of your impressions of Milwaukee from previous visits here.
Him: Well, I enjoyed playing the Turner (Hall) Ballroom in the spring of 2012. I appeared with Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett at that time.
And I found the Milwaukee audience to be extremely smart and tuned-in and fun to play for – and fun to play with. We stayed, I think at the time, at a hotel where they had a lot of motorcycles in the lobby. I liked that a lot too.
Playing the cities of the Middle West is always a pleasure for a comedian because the audiences listen to what you say. They are not audiences like from my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, where their goal is to do battle with you and yell at you with a raspy voice until you cry.
In Minnesota, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, the comedy fans there are interested in comedy and they like to listen to what you’re doing, and I appreciate that.
Us: Do you think that’s some sort of a Midwest politeness or that we just don’t see as much of people like you here?
Him: I wouldn’t know what beats secretly in the heart of the Milwaukeean. It may just be that people are nicer there.
Us: I don’t think you played at the Pabst Theater before. It’s swankier than Turner Hall. What does that say about the stature of this tour?
Him: I generally prefer to work in a working man’s hall, like Turner Hall, an old union hall. That’s my style. But Eugene and Kristen have very high standards. I gather that they really wanted to get the swankiest hall in Milwaukee. It was kind of in the contract: Give us the swankiest hall in Milwaukee. (indistinguishable comments from Schaal) All the other rooms can be drab, says Kristen, but the performance hall has to be pretty sweet.
Us: I want to be mindful of your time. Is there anything else you want the fine people of Milwaukee to know about your visit?
Him: I think they will find this to be an enjoyable evening of comedy and one that will not easily be replicated. The fact that we are only doing five cities is testament to the fact that both Eugene and Kristen have busy, professional schedules. And I’m just along for the ride. So I hope people will come out and see the incredible chemistry. I wouldn’t say that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see two of my favorite comedians and me together, but I would pay money to see us, and I hope that people will come and check it out.