Author Archives: Rodney

Two improvisers one-manning it

As birthdays go, No. 30 is up there as a monumental occasion. And with ComedySportz turning 30 this year, the anticipated events are forming a sort of family reunion for comedy improvisers.

For instance, Alex Grindeland, who practically grew up at Milwaukee-based ComedySportz, moved to Seattle a couple of years ago to start and manage the ComedySportz franchise there. Now, Alex is back home, and while he’s here, he’s reviving Al and Jim’s One-Man Show, with fellow improviser James Boland (pictured).

From Facebook:

“Witness as Alex Grindeland and James Boland attempt the impossible (or rather…very very difficult). These two improv virtuosos will use audience suggestions to create completely improvised scenes. Alex and James will individually compose separate worlds in which they play every character. Then the men will work together to combine the dual narratives, creating one hilarious, epic tale.”

The show is getting bigger by the day. Because not only can you see Al and Jim’s One-Man Show, but also standup comedians Erik Koconis and Jessie Mahne will perform as well as the other two-man improv team, Busy Bar, featuring Lee Rowley and Vince Figueroa. (And don’t be surprised if you see James Boland appear in Busy Bar too.)

All this is yours for the low price of $10. Just be at ComedySportz, 420 S. 1st St., at 8 p.m., Friday, June 13.

Speaking again of ComedySportz, learn more about the world championships at the franchises’ mother ship June19-21.

Tall Boys in, School's out

Just seven months after raising funds for a high school initiative for Milwaukee’s Tamarack Waldorf School, Milwaukee’s vertical virtuosos of comedic improv are staging a celebration.

Tall Boys

The improv troupe aka James Boland, Erik Koconis, Robby McGhee and Lee Rowley is performing at the Tamarack Grant Celebration Party.

And get this: It’s free!

The show starts at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 7, at the Redstar Cocktail Club, 1758 N. Water St.

It features standout Milwaukee standups Tyler Menz and Sammy Arechar.

From Facebook:

“Join us for an evening of comedy with The Tall Boys! Enjoy a cocktail. Bust a gut. Fete the end of the school year… And kick up your heels because we got the grant and we’re celebrating!”

And in case you were dozing off there, this shindig is free.

Comic See, Comic Do - Advice from the Café

Shortly after the 1980s comedy boom, Milwaukee’s Lower East Side brought a wave of laughter that has rippled throughout the city for the last 26 years. Milwaukee’s Comedy Café, fashioned on the intersection of Water and Brady streets, provides live professional standup comedy and a venue for amateur comedians to reach for the stars. Milwaukee Comedy had the chance to speak with Chris Alburg, general manager and an employee of the Comedy Café for 21 years, about comedy as a career and Milwaukee’s comedy scene.

Comedy has gone through numerous changes over the years, but today’s trends seem to have “a more lackadaisical appearance” compared to the heyday of comedy in Milwaukee, according to Alburg.

“There’s been a more relaxed feel to the stage,” says the club manager, in a suit and tie. “Comedians don’t dress the part as a comedian. There’s no indication. They look like an average person in everyday clothing talking about everyday things.”

The appearance of comedy has changed – a sea of plaid, facial hair and sarcastic views of personal insecurities. Comedy still has its fair share of poop and dick jokes; however, today’s typical audiences want more intelligent humor and crave to be challenged for their laughs. Most people want comedians to walk them up to controversial lines, sharp and fast wit or offer unique perceptions of ordinary outlooks on life. Audiences today have heard it all, and comedy thrives on breaking molds. This is achieved by recycling similar styles and structure through a more modern and relevant point of view.

Alburg has taken pleasure in appreciating these changes toward a “more intelligent, well thought out humor with a good solid punch line. Comedians like Drew Michael, Nate Abshire, and Darryl Lenox” are examples of up-and-coming performers developing a path for more performers to follow in their footsteps.

The stage has always been “a privilege to be on”, Alburg says.  “Comedians have to capture them (the audience) and keep them entertained for the entire show.” The club manager’s advice insinuates that comedians require creating a consistent flow of strong material in order to develop into strong performers. Basically, try to build up each joke into its most mature and strongest version.

Although, there has been some drift from the traditional methods of comedy, Alburg mentions, “Not all the comedians’ jokes have to work. And when a joke doesn’t work, then they will try the next one…Where comedians used to make every joke work.” However, today’s comedians are developing more material than those of the past because they live in an industry that thrives on social media – a tool that helps express people’s thoughts freely. So comedians are in constant struggle to develop an original idea. Though, an original idea or concept is not necessarily the top priority for young comedians. Rather, open mic comedians are developing their voice more than their material.

Alburg has been observing local comedy talent grow and often challenges local comedians to push themselves to pursue their careers on the professional stage.

“Milwaukee is beginning to pump talented comedians” and the scene has been “growing outrageously good,” Alburg says. “More local comedians are taking these opportunities to commit to their careers. Milwaukee’s scene is only getting bigger and better.”

And that’s true. The local comedy scene has been metamorphosing into a slight boom in the comedy world – thanks to contributors such as Caste of Killers, Milwaukee Comedy, Comedy Show Comedy Show, and the many others pushing the scene forward. Although the scene is definitely growing, its main growth has been to accommodate the comedians’ needs to get stage time with open mics and small showcases vs. getting in front of real audiences.
Alburg states:

“Open mic crowds are different than show crowds because the clientele is different. Open mic crowds are filled with performers’ family members and friends, making the laughter not completely accurate in most open mic rooms. Even the level of talent the performer is displaying is not an accurate portrayal because the comfort level is different…Milwaukee audiences are open to all kinds of comedy. It makes it comfortable for a comedian to develop their voice, but a performer needs to show a level of confidence to prove themselves.”

Each month, the Comedy Café opens its stage on the last Wednesday for an open mic-showcase night. This opportunity helps prepare young comedians for working in a club atmosphere with larger audiences.

Confidence is often something most comedians ‘supposedly’ lack in the early stages of their careers. It’s definitely a characteristic most performers try to develop a level of comfort with to accurately portray their material and stage presence. Attributes such as confidence, stage presence and strong material definitely capture the attention of club managers and booking agents, since they often look for individuals who do not get rattled on stage. “Confidence is something that continues to grow as the performer becomes better on stage,” Alburg says. “It’s a lot of give-and-take between performer and audience members.”

The level of a performer’s confidence can determine the audience’s experience. The key challenge is creating a fun atmosphere for your audience and yourself to enjoy.

Alburg reminds young comedians to watch professional comedians performing at the Comedy Café. It will allow them to analyze how professional comedians perform. “It speaks volumes when it comes down to figuring out how to develop an act,” Alburg says.

Heading to the weekend shows at the Comedy Café will also give young performers more opportunities to establish themselves within the club scene. This will help them with being recognized by management, possibly obtaining guest sets and creating a social relationship with people in the business. Commitment is a key factor, according to Alburg. He’ll typically ask young performers how serious they are about their career. “You’ve got to show you are committed to the career,” Alburg says, before laying down some solid truths. “The stage, the low pay, the no pay and the time to collect experience and information…Find the opportunities to pick the brains of the people who have some success on the stage.” Young comedians have so many easily accessible methods to speak with their professional colleagues about careers in comedy. Today, a young, eager student of comedy could send a tweet or message to their favorite comedians for advice, but there’s absolutely no substitute for catching a live performance and getting first-hand advice from headliners, feature acts, club employees and audience members.

The Comedy Café has comedy shows every week (Thursday through Saturday). Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for special offers and event information. Also, visit them on their website Milwaukeescomedycafe.com or call 271-JOKE for ticket and show information. Take advantage of their office party special offers, College ID night, and SIN nights every Thursday. And as a quick reminder, there’s always a two-drink minimum per guest. And remember to always tip your wait staff. 

"The broads" benefit Ex Fabula

So I get this email the other day from broadminded Comedy, and it’s offering to have Milwaukee’s premier all-female sketch group perform a true story about myself.

Turns out, “the broads” as they call themselves (You can’t call them that.) are part of a fundraiser for Ex Fabula, the Milwaukee-based storytelling community. “The broads” (Note the quotes.) and several other Milwaukee artists are translating people’s stories into other art forms.

The fundraiser is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, June 12, at the historic Vogel mansion, home to entrepreneur/art collector Andy Nunemaker, at 2221 N. Terrace Ave.

From the email I got:

“The broads will be hanging out in the basement, right next to the Schlitz themed bar, where we’ll be listening to your stories and making them come alive before your eyes. In other rooms of the house, a poet, a painter, and a singer songwriter will be converting personal stories into art as well. Attendees will also enjoy appetizers from local restaurants and a cash bar.

All funds raised will help Ex Fabula expand programming, which includes workshops, StorySlams, and community collaborations, in order to give more Milwaukeeans the chance to be heard, thus building community and strengthening our city.”

Get a ticket here for $40.

ComedySportz: Mort Snotlocker tribute show

He called himself Mort Snotlocker, and that’s how plenty of Milwaukeeans knew him as he joked around on WKLH-FM (96.5). Plenty more recognized him from his antics as an improvisational comedy performer since the early days of ComedySportz.

His given name was Angelo Farina, although he also went by Tony and Blaze. Last month, at 57, he died of pancreatic cancer. To help his family and pay tribute to the wit he shared and the courage he showed, ComedySportz is presenting a special show at

7 p.m., Sunday, June 8, at 420 S. 1st St.

From the announcement:

“The show is open to the public and is a fundraiser for Angelo’s family to help cover funeral costs. There is a suggested donation of $25 each.  No reservations are needed.

Veteran ComedySportz players, including founder Dick Chudnow, Bob Orvis, Paul Staszak, Tom New, Brian Green, Joe Cortese and Holly Ignatowski will perform.  Some of Angelo’s favorite games will be played in typical ComedySportz competitive matches.” 

Tickets include food and beverages from Howie’s Grille, with a cash bar.

Read more about Angelo Farina and see a photo gallery in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His is a story of persevering through personal adversity using comedy to cope and to keep life in perspective.

Joe Cortese, a lifelong friend, said this about Angelo in the show’s announcement:

“So many people in Milwaukee have been touched by Angelo’s comedy, either on WKLH as Mort Snotlocker or by attending a ComedySportz show. He was always happiest on stage at ComedySportz so I can’t think of a better place to remember him and allow people to send him off with a final round of applause.”

Allen Edge has character

Allen Edge

Allen Edge is a Milwaukee treasure.

He is a nationally touring comedian, a character actor appearing in such feature films as “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” and “Meet the Browns,” and he calls Milwaukee home.

We’ve seen him participate in Milwaukee open mics and Erik Koconis‘s Comedy Conclave, which tells you:

  1. Allen Edge is a professional who keeps working at his craft.
  2. Allen Edge gives back to the community by involving himself in the development of other performers.

On Sunday, June 15, Allen Edge is running an acting workshop on developing character. From Facebook:

“Get Character in this comprehensive workshop on Character Development for the actor. You’ll explore the foundations of your instrument (you) as well as the techniques of Stanislavski and Meisner. Character development is the foundation of the craft of acting. This workshop is for the seasoned actor as well as the beginner.”

The workshop runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level.

It costs $60, and space is limited. Please click here to sign up and more information.

 

Time for Patrick Schmitz Comedy

schmitz

You’re familiar with the formula, Tragedy + Time = Comedy.

Well, Patrick Schmitz waited more than four centuries to follow up a Shakespeare classic with a parody that only Patrick Schmitz could do. So, really, it was “Romeo and Juliet” that waited 400 years for Patrick Schmitz.

Either way, we’ve got the Tragedy and the Time. Now, Patrick Schmitz is combining them for the Comedy. “The Comedy of Romeo & Juliet…Kinda Sorta” runs Aug. 21-23 at Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre.

It includes a dream cast of Milwaukee comedy talent. But it also needs some financial support. Therefore, Patrick Schmitz has organized a Milwaukee comedy fundraiser for 7 p.m., Saturday, May 31, at ComedySportz, 420 S. 1st St.

The show is pay-what-you-can, aimed at audiences 13 and older and hosts a plethora of Milwaukee comedy performers donating their funniness for the occasion, including:

  • Sketch comedy from broadminded and Sketch Marks
  • Improv from Tall Boys, Busy Bar and Lights, Cameras, Improv
  • Stand-up from Erik Koconis and Rich Laguna
  • Raffles
  • Readings from the parody
  • And an open improv jam at the end

Going back to that formula, it would be a Tragedy for you if you don’t take the Time to attend this Comedy fundraiser.

 

Comedic Release, another free CD

A once-in-a-lifetime event: Eight hand-picked intrepid women and men of Milwaukee. Each singularly adept at telling stories and joking into microphones. One by one, they shall stand before a live audience and submit their comedic powers to the unforgiving scrutiny of advanced recording technology. Together, they are destined to forge a permanent record of their individual performances. And it shall be called:

Comedic Release Vol. 2.

At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 31, eight comedians will perform a show at the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level (thus, Underground!). And the show will be recorded and released free to audience members as an honest-to-goodness CD, including the eight-minute comedic stylings of each of the Milwaukee comedy artists.

Comedic Release Vol. 2 follows the success of the sold-out pilot show, Jan. 31. Entertainers for the sequel include:

  • Greg Bach, your host
  • Josh Ballew
  • Liza Marie
  • Mario Robinson
  • Eric Thorson
  • Allison Dunne
  • Jason Hillman and
  • Shawn Shelnutt

In other words, if you saw the first Comedic Release, you’re not seeing any repeats.

Tickets are $10 at the door and $8 online.

Milwaukee comedy gets sketchier

This time last year, pretty much the only sketch comedy in Milwaukee were two tried-and-true favorites: The all-female broadminded Comedy, begun in 2006; and Patrick Schmitz’s semi-annual crowdsourced Sketch 22, which celebrated a birthday this week and is gearing up for its 13th show July 19.

The Comedy Hour Happy Hour was just starting up back a year ago. So was Crouch Comedy.

Since then, we’ve had the additions of the Good Night Milwaukee Show with Jake Kornely and Tyler Menz, which had another raucous performance this past weekend.

The latest addition to the Milwaukee sketch comedy continuum is Sketch Marks. Conceived by veteran comedy performers volunteering at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival last summer and encouraged by fest founder Matt Kemple, Sketch Marks had such a successful sold-out debut in March that they have created an all-new one-time show they’re performing this Thursday, May 22.

Including individuals you’d recognize from ComedySportz, The Improvised Musical (T.I.M.), Bye Bye Liver, The Dinner Detective, Tall Boys and Racine’s Over Our Heads Players, members of the Sketch Marks even played roles in recent productions from Comedy Hour, the Retro Comedy Night and Goodnight Milwaukee.

The new Sketch Marks show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Arcade Theatre, 161 Wisconsin Ave., lower level. Tickets are $10 at the door but just $7 online. (click here)

 

Ryan Lowe reels in more comedy

From the ingenious mind of Ryan Lowe comes another form of comedy – Stand-Up Cinema.

As he did last month, Ryan Lowe is bringing together some of Milwaukee's funniest talent and showing them alongside a classic movie – this time, it's Back to the Future – for a mult-dimensional performance that combines the silver screen, standup, improv, sketch and video comedy.

From the web;

This is a cinematic experience unlike anything in the history of ever.  We take your favorite movies and show them to you in a way they were never meant to be seen.  Ryan Lowe has assembled a team of the very best stand-up and improv comedians and given them complete license to "enhance" a classic movie that was perfectly fine to begin with.

Expect the unexpected as we provide live commentary during the film, replace movie scenes with live-action substitutes, and even insert pre-taped segments into the film, itself!  There will be contests, special guests, audience participation and more. 

The shows are at 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday, May 15 and 16, at the Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St., Tickets are $10 and available by clicking here and then selecting the date you want.

As long as you have read this far, see Tyler Maas's craftily written article about Ryan Lowe in Milwaukee Magazine.

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