Comedy News

All the local comedy news you need to know about in and around Milwaukee!

Milwaukee Comedy supports the local comedy scene in Milwaukee, WI and surrounding areas with this comedy news blog, offering incite on the local comedy scene, info on area comedy shows, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, special offers and ticket giveaways and more.Something missing?  Tell us about a local comedy event!

Check out more comedy in Milwaukee with our Comedy Event Calendar!

Johnny Beehner on Festivals

Festival season is in steady course for comedians and The Milwaukee Comedy Festival is gearing up for another year of great laughs! We thought it would be a great idea to talk with local great Johnny Beehner about comedy festivals!

Johnny BeehnerJohnny, who recently competed in Gilda’s LaughFest Best in the Midwest Competition and returned to Laughing Skull Comedy Festival, was awesome enough to chat with us about his experiences with comedy festivals and offered some humbling advice for young comedians looking to submit to festivals.

(Milwaukee Comedy) You recently finished Laughfest and Laughing Skull…what were the most enjoyable moments that came from those experiences? What did you learn that you didn’t know before going into these events?

(Johnny) don’t know that I learned a ton that I didn’t know before going into those. I did go to a couple of seminars at the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival on the business of comedy and what industry is looking for. This was my 3rd time doing the Laughing Skull Festival and I love it every time—lots of comics, lots of opportunities to hang with comics, and lots of industry.

LaughFest was great because it is so well put together and a great cause! Gilda’s Club runs and puts on the festival and there are so many shows and it’s just great. The whole city of Grand Rapids gets behind it.

Here’s what I learned doing those festivals and talking to the higher ups: The comics that do the best are one’s that have a unique point of view and are very memorable. There were some comics that killed in their sets and didn’t advance. These judges see over 60 comics and they look for the one’s they will remember weeks after the festival.

Ya got to stick out.


There’s more to these events than winning and performing…can you explain what some of the benefits of participating or just hanging around festivals/contests?

The best part is getting to hang out with comics that you don’t get to see very often.  As comics, we all work at the same time and only 2 or 3 work together on weekend shows, and if you are at the same level as each other, you never get to work together.  That is why festivals are so great. Comics get to hang out and have a week of fun together. 

The networking is really important. If you don’t live in NY or LA, festivals are a great opportunity to get seen and meet people in industry that can help your career. I met very important [individual] at the Laughing Skull Festival the year I didn’t even advance [who] I to this day have a pretty close relationship with.

How do (did) you typically choose which festivals/contests you enter or perform in?

The reputation of the festival based on just talking to other comics. There are a LOT of festivals that pop up that make a lot of money for the person putting it together that don’t really do much for the comics that have to pay to be in them. That’s upsetting, so I am pretty picky.

I’m not saying every festival has to have promises of boosting your career, but it needs to be well organized and provide lots of social opportunities for fun.

Laughing Skull is great about that—they have lots of parties and outings, and a kickball game, etc. I’ve kind of gone through my “submit to every festival” phase and am pretty picky now. If you have to pay to submit AND there are no accommodations included, it’d have to be really GREAT festival for me to give it a shot.b

Sometimes comedians will avoid applying to (or get upset when denied from) certain festivals and contests. What are some suggestions that may help new comedians understand the process of entering these sorts of events from your experiences?

Obviously it sucks getting rejected from a festival, but I think comics just have to understand how it goes.  As long as they don’t look at the roster and feel like it was an obvious game of unfair playing favorites, then I think they understand. I usually put it out of my mind right after I submit to stuff.  Waiting and hoping doesn’t change anything.

What would you say to newer comedian looking to enter contests or festivals to avoid?

Just make sure your submission video is professional and the best stuff you got. It has to have great sound quality AND it has to look great. You can be killing, but if its shot from a cell phone and a guy’s head keeps popping in front of the camera, it’s annoying to watch and nobody will care how well you’re doing. 

Johnny Beehner
What are things to avoid worrying about in contests?

Winning. You can hope to win, but try not to stress and worry. I know that is way easier said than done, but its true. When I feel like I need or want to win so bad, I perform way worse than when I am laid back and relaxed. Comedy is subjective.

The important thing is doing a good show and being you. Most festivals that have a contest aspect to it, the contest doesn’t mean much, it’s more of a gimmick for the audience to get excited about. They feel like they are witnessing a live reality show.

What is the atmosphere like at these events?

Some comics are chill and some are pacing. It’s fun because they are usually GREAT shows. Everyone wants to do their best and is on their game so the audience really gets a great show. 

Is it best to submit with friends or alone or does it matter?

I like both. I have done it both ways. I used to do it alone and took them really seriously and got stressed if someone wanted to do something that prevented me from focusing, but now I try to go with friends. I did Laughing Skull with my good buddy, Mike Merryfield last year and this year. We both have pretty good attitudes about not caring what happens. Last year we both got knocked out right away and had a blast.  This year, Mike didn’t advance and I made it to the finals and it was fine. 

How often are practical jokes played between comedians during these events? What are some you’ve pulled on your fellow comedians?

 

Ha. Not a whole lot of pranks other than farting in someone’s face when they are sleeping and stealing each others phones to post horrible facebook status’s on each other’s fb accounts. This day in age, at these festivals, it’s a lot of incestual podcasting taking place. Everyone has a podcast. In fact, if you wanna hear what happens at comedy festivals, listen to Mike Merryfield’s Irrelevant Radio Podcast. We recorded a bunch this year and last year festivals. Some with industry, and some where we were super drunk and just making each other laugh at 3am.

 

If you’d like to find information for upcoming Johnny Beehner events check www.johnnybeehner.com. You can also grab Johnny’s album ‘Tiny Weiner’ on iTunes! Connect and Follow Johnny on Twitter @johnnycomic.

Don’t forget to check out information on The Milwaukee Comedy Festival!

 

Recycling jokes

Supposedly, the British author and cleric Charles Caleb Colton is the one who said "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." We think he stole it from someone else (and hope they thanked him for it).

Anyway, that's the sentiment behind this Tuesday night's weekly open mic at the Down and Over Pub, 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Milwaukee's Bay View.

Christopher Schmidt, a connoisseur of comedy, and co-host Tom Grimm are turning the free forum for stand-ups into a used-joke session, a humor swap night, an opportunity to blatantly share some other artists' material without any pretense of making it their own.

From the Facebook event, Joke Thief Night at the Down and Over Comedy Open Mic:

"Stealing jokes is one of the most despicable crimes a comedian can commit. But sometimes you hear those jokes that you really wish you'd written, and maybe you feel a little tempted. Well, here's your chance to embrace that envy. For one night only (at the Tuesday 4/15 mic), it will be completely okay to pilfer each others' joke books. Here are the rules:

-This is an open mic event, anyone can sign up to do up to five minutes of material. Sign up will be at 8:30, the show will start at 9:00.
-That material must not be your own, but you can "borrow" from any source material you'd like: local comics, famous comics (yes, you may finally bust out some Mitch Hedberg Jokes), street jokes, etc…It's all fair game.
-You may draw from as many different sources as you'd like during your set; it isn't necessary to only tell one comic's jokes.
-Repeats will probably happen. That's okay.
-This is a tribute to our fellow comics, so be respectful. The intention is to have fun, not to mock or ridicule."

Because that was better said and eaiser than putting it in our own words. That's why.

The open mic starts at 9 p.m., Tuesday, April 15. And it's free.

Improvised musical review

Often, we use critical reviews as consumer guides, helping us decide which movie or TV show or theatrical production to see. They give us a professional perspective on what is worthwhile or what suits our mood or complements our taste.

But reviews also serve as historical records, documenting what happened only once and never can be experienced again.

Last month, Russ Bickerstaff, from the Shepherd Express, reviewed the March performance of the monthly show T.I.M., The Improvised Musical. Because the musical is improvised, it's one-and-done. It's never the same. There's no going back.

Yet, the review specifies insights into the spontaneous, toe-tapping, heart-pumping creativity that audiences have found at T.I.M. shows since 2011. From Mr. Bickerstaff's review of the show "Book of Ninja," suggested by the audience (emphasis added):  

"Now in its third year, the show regularly sells out. This month’s show was no exception with an enthusiastic crowd enjoying the presentation. A very charming Amanda Carson played the central heroine, a timid young woman studying to become a ninja. The cheesy action-musical plot played traditional journey-of-the-hero themes that were manipulated with some considerable efficiency by a group of students and a sassy spirit played by Mara McGhee as they followed the heroine to her triumphant finale."

So it won't be the same. A review is not a preview. But the next T.I.M. is at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 17. It's at ComedySportz, which will have its bar and restaurant service open for the show. The address is 420 S. 1st St. And it's only $5 cash.

You can wait for someone to review the show afterward. But by then you'll have missed it. You can reserve seats by calling weekdays at (414) 272-8888.

Pony up to Timmy Williams

A camera, an idea, and a method to reach an audience are the basic ingredients for sketch comedy. Success can be an instant or a result of consistently creating quality material for audiences to enjoy and share. So if creating content is an easy task today than how does a group (or an individual) become successful in comedy?

Milwaukee Comedy got the chance to ask some questions to Sketch and Stand up performer Timmy Williams (of The Whitest Kids U’ Know) about the current shape of sketch comedy in today’s culture.  Williams’ provides some great information for sketch groups and/or people looking to start working on building their sketch career!Whitest Kids U Know

(Milwaukee Comedy)—What do you think the current state of the sketch scene in the comedy world?

(Williams)—Sketch comedy is in a great place right now.  Anybody anywhere can come up with an idea and shoot it and upload it to the Internet in a matter of hours.  This has changed the game considerably because Joe Schmo in Buttzville has just has much chance of accruing a million hits as a bunch of celebrities on Funny Or Die. 

The ease of getting your comedy to the masses has also made comedians become jack-of-all-trades; many stand-ups make sketches on the side, and vice versa.

How does a sketch group get noticed? What worked with The Whitest Kids You Know?

If you want to get noticed, you need to make stuff all the time.  With WKUK we were uploading videos online and writing new live sketches constantly for years.  The more quality stuff you can put out there, the more likely someone will see you.

How does a sketch group developed characters? What makes the process fun for the group to write out a sketch? How does a sketch group (or stand up comedians) judge their work before it seen by an audience?

With Whitest Kids we never worried too much about recurring characters.  We focused on our actual personalities and kind of exaggerating those and making those the characters.  That's why we don't really have ‘named characters’ that show up in tons of sketches, but you know that if you see a "Darren Girl" that it will be different than a "Zach Girl" or a "Trevor Girl." 

As far as judging your material, it's easier with sketch writing, because we always had four other people in the room deciding what worked.  We had a general rule that anything we would release had to make all five of us laugh.  That democratic process really helps control the quality.  With stand-up you think you have something but don't know until you get on a stage and throw it out in front of people, so it's a little more dangerous that way.

What characters do you enjoy playing? Do you have any characters or sketches you really like, but never have aired?

We have some stuff that never aired for one reason or another, and a lot of it involved harm coming to children (oops)!  There is one sketch called "Good Cop, Terrible Cop" that didn't air but may have been on a DVD, but I played this cartoonish Italian guy and it was very over-the-top and since I didn't get to do tons of accents on the show I really liked playing that guy.  Other than that, I like playing the dumb innocent characters, which is kind of my niche in the group since it's an exaggerated version of myself.  There are a few times I've gotten to play a jerk or an asshole and really enjoyed that too.

How does sketch writing differ from stand up writing? What's the most challenging difference between performing stand up verse sketch? Does one influence the other and vice versa? What defines a bit verse a sketch–how do they develop?

Timmy WilliamsThe big difference between sketch and stand-up to me is the concept of "safety in numbers."  When you write with a group, you have the other people's ideas and opinions to help shape your material.  When you write stand-up it's all you and anything that doesn't work is your fault.  Same goes for live performance.  If I forget a line onstage in a Whitest Kids show, someone else can say my line or ad-lib something else and keep things moving; if I forget a line in stand-up I just stand there looking stupid.

I think a bit and a sketch develop similarly, at least for me.  They start out with a one-word or one-line idea and blossom from there, and you just hammer it and hammer it until they're perfect-ish.  I have learned to write out my stand-up jokes as more of a sketch script and that has certainly made them better.

What are some of the biggest problems in the writer's room? How do they get resolved?

I have mentioned the many strengths of writing with other people, but the biggest weakness is when someone doesn't agree with something that you just know is funny.  You try and try to convince them but they're just not having it.  In Whitest Kids we rarely put anything through that we didn't all agree with, so sometimes that one person not being convinced has prevented ideas from happening.  And that's fine, because that's why we're a group.  The Whitest Kids is a sum of its parts and if we let everyone push through everything they wanted it would just seem like five separate people doing their own things under a banner.  By letting the group control the quality things are more streamlined and I think our material has a unique voice that only comes from five people's brains coming together instead of fighting for dominance.  There's always time to do your own stuff later.

How would a group get rid of a 'toxic' member?

I don't know how a group would get rid of a toxic member.  If you find out would you let me know?  I'm really sick of Sam.

What sort of advice can you offer individuals looking to put together or join a sketch group?

Just do it.  Get your buddies together some time when you're all free, start writing things down and shooting them and putting them online.  Being "good" takes time but it really is that easy to start.  Perform live!   It's really fun and makes you better.  Chances are you can find somewhere to perform no matter where you live.  The main thing though is to just try it.

You can catch Timmy Williams at Pony’s Bar and Grill (5132 S Packard Ave—Cudahy, WI) on Sunday, April 13th at 830pm. The show is hosted by local comedian Tyler Menz and featuring comedy from Alice Galloway and Zach Peterson.  Tickets can be purchased at Pony’s during business hours (3pm-close) or by calling (414) 975 5556.

Midnite comes early

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Aside from ComedySportz (born 30 years ago in Milwaukee), no other Milwaukee comedy improv show has stood the test of time like The Midnite Show.

Unlike the family-friendly ComedySportz, Midnite is uncensored. Its shows are at ComedySportz at midnight (duh) on Saturdays, after the 10 p.m. ComedySportz audience clears out.

But this Friday only, thanks to the magic of Milwaukee Comedy, you don't have to wait for midnight on Saturday to see The Midnite Show. 

Because The Midnite Show is performing as part of the monthly Comedy Arcade Show. That's why.

The Midnite Show will be joining standup comedy artists:

  • Bryan Morris
  • Geoffrey Asmus 
  • Gena Gephart
  • and Steve Breese, your host.

The Comedy Arcade Show starts at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 11, at the Arcade Theatre, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level.

Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door. 

Tomato Dodgeball fundraiser

McMann & Tate Adult Improv Comedy, an arm of the resident theater troupe of the Cedarburg Cultural Center, is improvising a fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at 6 p.m., Saturday, April 12.

The improv show, called "Tomato Dodgeball 2014," begins at 7:30 p.m., at the Cedarburg Cultural Center, W62-N546 Washington Ave., Cedarburg.

Before that, pizza, beer, caramel apples and a silent action happen.

Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, please click here.

 

How to Promote Your Comedy Show

Here at Milwaukee Comedy, we spend a lot of time putting on great comedy shows, but figuring out the best way to tell our fans about the fun is the real challenge.

It can be difficult to promote your own comedy show, but with a little motivation and this simple advice, you can learn How to Promote Your Comedy Show!

How to Promote a Comedy Show

It’s all about getting more fans in the seats!

1. Create a unique graphic or use a photo and include all the important event info including Name, date, and time of show, the location, ticket price and some way to get more information (Like a website or phone number).

  • Use your graphic when posting on social networks and on show posters or flyers.  It helps create an identity people remember when your image is consistant.

2. Write a short description of the show that includes more important information, like what audiences should expect, the performers involved, directions to the venue, etc. This description should be used with the graphic when creating event pages on Facebook or other social networks.

3. Use Social media to promote the event, starting a few weeks ahead of time. You can Tweet a few times a week, Post ticket link and event links on Facebook, or talk about your show on Tumblr. Include the graphic and imformation you created in steps 1 and 2. 

  • Be sure to make every post unique and engaging. Don't just repeat the show information over and over.  Here is one to get you started:  “Don’t just sit there, check out some Stand Up!” 

4. Post to online event calendars.  There are hundreds of places online to post your show information. Use local event calenders and other online event sites. Include as much information as you can and include the show poster image and information on tickets and location. Start with our Comedy Event Calendar.

Audience Laughing

  • Here are some examples of places you can add your event online right here in Milwaukee: jsonline.com, expressmilwaukee.com, onmilwaukee.com, milwaukee365.com and ThirdCoastDigest.com

5. Think of creative ways to promote your show. Your audience has hundreds of other entertainment options every month. Make your show stand out.

  • If you have trouble filling the seats, sometimes you have to think outside the box. It's a comedy show, right? So try using humor.  Don't just tell people it's happening, get people excited about your comedy show!  

Wisconsin Gazette: Growing Milwaukee Comedy

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival got a financial kick April 4 and 5 with a couple of fundraiser shows aimed at its 9th annual event – Aug. 7-10 at the Next Act Theatre space, 255 S. Water St.

Journalist Matthew Reddin took the occasion to put a historical perspective on the festival and Milwaukee Comedy in an article in the Wisconsin GazetteIn the article, Reddin shares some thoughts from Matt Kemple, founder of the festival, who cites an expansion of comedy in Milwaukee since the first fest in 2006. From the Wisconsin Gazette:

"New sketch, improv and stand-up artists are joining the pool each month, and they’re all dedicated to helping each other grow.

'That’s where the strength of the comedy scene comes from,' Kemple says.

Milwaukee Comedy has given the community a tremendous boost, providing not only support for artists, but also an additional comedy venue: the Underground Collaborative, a shared office/performance space located in the basement of Grand Avenue Mall."

Reddin notes how Milwaukee Comedy has been using the Underground Collaborative for regular shows that aim at building both talent and acceptance for a mix of comedy forms – improv, sketch and standup.

"Making comic variety a priority is Kemple’s way of introducing audience members to comedy genres they might have written off," Reddin writes.

One of those regular variety shows is the monthly Comedy Arcade Show. The next one is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 11, featuring improv from The Midnite Show, as well as standup comedy from Geoffrey Asmus and headliner Bryan Morris. The Underground Collaborative is at 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the door.

Check out entertainment coverage in the Wisconsin Gazette. 

Improv to Improve

Last month, the longtime Milwaukee-based improv troupe Homegrown Electric Circus said it had performed its last show. But Milwaukee continues to have a vibrant improvisational comedy scene. For instance:

Even with all that, Milwaukee Comedy recognizes an appetite for more Milwaukeeans to study improv, so it has been offering workshops, including a session at 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 14.

The class is $10 ond focuses on the long-form improv style known as the Harold. It's taught by Amanda Eaton, a member of the Sketch Marks comedy troupe as well as The Improvised Musical and Bye Bye Liver

From the class description: 

"Character and scene work will be a focus while building on the structure. A Harold is a style of long form improv originally developed by Del Close. In his book, Truth in Comedy, (co-written by Charna Halpern), describes a "training wheels Harold" as three acts (or "beats"), each with three scenes and a group segment. With each beat, the three scenes return. By the end of the piece, the three scenes have converged."

Click here for more information and to enroll.

Seven Easy Tips for First Time Open Mic Comedians

Trying out your stand up comedy skills for the first time can be down right terrifying.  Focus on doing your best and having some fun, and take a look at these Seven Easy Tips for First Time Open Mic Comedians.

7 Tips for Open Mics

1)   Prepare yourself—write some jokes, locate an open mic, and tell your friends to come enjoy some laughs.

2)   Sign up—locate the sign up sheet and put your name down. Here’s a couple quick side-tips:

  • Remember the name above yours
  • Ask who the host of the show will be
  • Introduce yourself and tell the host it’s your first time doing comedy (if you’ve got a unique name—help them learn it).

3)   Rules—Ask the host about the amount of stage time each comedian gets to be on stage and how to know when you’re supposed to be done.

  • Each comedian is given an allotted amount of stage time. Comedians are given a ‘light’ this indicates the comedian on stage has less than a minute to finish their jokes.
  • Acknowledge ‘the light’ by giving a subtle signal to the host.

4)   More rules—ask the host if there are any language or content restrictions (it’s rare, but some establishments do ask performers to reduce explicit language and content).

5)   Before and after your set—remain respectful to other the performers and enjoy the show.

6)   After the show—hang out and introduce yourself to other performers.

7)   The last piece of advice will be—throw away your nerves and enjoy your experience!

 

Now check out Milwaukee Open Mic's list!

 

  • Tickets Tickets Buy Tickets for upcoming Milwaukee Comedy Events!
  • The Comedy Arcade The Comedy Arcade Milwaukee’s new, collaborative comedy showcase featuring. A little of everything for every comedy enthusiast!
  • Retro Comedy Show Retro Comedy Show A night of new comedy based on old ideas! Standup, improv and a surprise retro 70's, 80's or 90's sitcom live on stage.
  • Variety Hour Happy Hour Variety Hour Happy Hour An all new variety comedy show with live music, special guests and plenty of comedy acts!
  • Featured Comedy Featured Comedy There are plenty of high-quality comedy shows and performers. Here are our favorites!

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