History of the Milwaukee Comedy Festival

The year was 2006.

  • The 140-character Internet messaging service Twitter is launched.
  • President George W. Bush signs a law renewing the anti-terrorist Patriot Act and includes a statement to Congress that he does not have to tell them how the law is being used.
  • After singing about it for 48 years, finally, Paul McCartney is 64.
  • Unfettered by any voter ID laws, Wisconsin citizens turn out (some more than once) to approve a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage.
  • Wildlife enthusiast and international television celebrity Steve Irwin, better known as the Crocodile Hunter, is killed by a fish.
  • After four years of marriage, Heather Mills announces her divorce, finally, from Paul McCartney, age 64.

Also making history in 2006, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival began. Learn more about the origin story of Wisconsin's largest comedy event through the mini-documentary above, thanks to Milwaukee comedians Ryan Lowe and Jeff Lampton.

Among the first acts to perform at the first Milwaukee Comedy Festival was a new local all-female sketch comedy group calling itself broadminded. The “broads*” have performed in every Milwaukee Comedy Festival since.

See broadminded comedy perform in the 8 p.m. show, Thursday, Aug. 7 along with:

  • Matt Griffo, musical standup, from Chicago
  • Geofrey Asmus, standup, from Madison

Tickets are $15 in advance by clicking here or $20 at the door. For $50, you can get an All-Access Pass admitting you to each and every one of the nine Milwaukee Comedy Festival shows, Aug. 7-10, at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St.


* They can call themselves that. You can't.

Milwaukee Comedy Fest Intro: Mary Zee

Mary Zee has an endearing, self-reflective approach to standup comedy. She boasts about resembling former SNL comedian Molly Shannon and has a huge following on LinkedIn.

Her Twitter profile (@Zemidas_Touch) describes the resident of Chicago’s Logan Square as a comedian, writer and time thief. A recent tweet gives us a peek at the thoughtfulness and wit of Mary Zee (pronounced Zed in her European tour):

“No trash cans on this stretch of road so I am holding a banana peel as I walk to a comedy open mic. In the biz, we call that brainstorming.”

We’re grateful she didn’t drop that peel and slip on it (funny as that might be). Because we’re looking forward to seeing Mary Zee at the 9th Annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival. That’s why.

Catch Mary Zee in the 8 p.m. show on Friday, Aug. 8, along with

  • Sketch Marks, sketch comedy, Milwaukee, including Kristin Althoff, Joel Dresang, Amanda Eaton, Scott Heaton, Lee Rowley*, Becca Segal and Lindsey Walcott
  • and our good friends Tall Boys improv, also from Milwaukee, including James Boland, Erik Koconis, Robbie McGhee, and Lee Rowley*, and coached by Jared Stepp

Tickets are $15 in advance by clicking here or $20 at the door. For $50, you can get an All-Access Pass admitting you to each and every one of the nine Milwaukee Comedy Festival shows, Aug. 7-10, at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St.

*You can also see Lee Rowley in the 6 p.m. show, Saturday, Aug. 9, with Vince Figueroa and James Boland in Busy Bar improv.

Milwaukee Comedy Fest Intro: Matt Griffo

Matt Griffo loves cookie dough, apparently. But decidedly, Milwaukee Comedy Festival goers love Matt Griffo.

The nerdy, endearing musical comedian originally from Rochester, N.Y., has a knack of taking uncomfortable subjects, such as his grandfather’s racism, and putting them to clever lyrics in catchy tunes.

Son of a musician, Matt initially taught himself to play piano. He migrated to Chicago, where he pursued comedy through Second City and eventually combined his musical ear with his funny bone. From his website:

Matt Griffo is an up and coming Chicago based musician, actor, and comedian. He’s been performing at festivals across the country since 2008, has opened for Reggie Watts and is the composer for the Chicago smash hit: Jersey Shore The Musical. He has songs about the environment, racism, love, and zombies. He’s joined on stage by his piano, ukulele, and unique brand of witty and off the wall comedy.

See Matt Griffo in the 8 p.m. show, Thursday, Aug. 7 along with:

  • Geofrey Asmus, standup, from Madison
  • and our good friends broadminded, sketch comedy, Milwaukee, who have been in every fest since it started in 2006

Tickets are $15 in advance by clicking here or $20 at the door. For $50, you can get an All-Access Pass admitting you to each and every one of the nine Milwaukee Comedy Festival shows, Aug. 7-10, at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St.

Wednesday: Free Open Improv

It’s that time of the every-other-week again when members of Sketch Marks comedy host a Free Open Improv at Milwaukee Comedy’s Arcade Theatre.

The first Free Open Improv session drew a fun mix of veteran and novice improvisers who engaged in an hour of free-flowing impromptu acting. With your participation, the second session, Wednesday, July 30, could be even better.

The Free Open Improv begins at 7 p.m., in the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., lower level. Just go downstairs from T.J. Maxx at the Grand Avenue Mall.

See Sketch Marks in the Milwaukee Comedy Festival:

They’re in the 8 p.m. show, Friday, Aug. 8, along with:

Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 at the door; $50 for an All-Access Pass admitting you to each of the nine shows at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, Aug. 7-10, at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St.

Milwaukee Comedy Fest Intro: Rob Christensen

Like the Dodgers of baseball renown, Rob Christensen is based in Los Angeles but started in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As his bio explains of Rob Christensen:

“He’s been a skateboarder, rapper, graffiti artist, and Air Force Sergeant; but failing at all of that lead him to comedy. Rob’s inexcusable behavior as a kid helped him develop a sharp, smart, and urban sense of humor.”

(Click here to read what Steve Kabelowsky wrote about Rob Christensen for OnMilwaukee.com.)

Rob Christensen’s well-developed humor has earned him superlative comedy credentials on stage and screen. Last year, he won the Westside Standup Showdown in Santa Monica, Calif. The year before that, he wrote and starred in the TV pilot “Low Lifes.”

This year, among his many appearances nationwide, Rob Christensen is performing at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

See Rob Christensen in the 8 p.m. show, Saturday, Aug. 9 along with:

Tickets are $15 in advance by clicking here or $20 at the door. For $50, you can get an All-Access Pass admitting you to each and every one of the nine Milwaukee Comedy Festival shows, Aug. 7-10, at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St.


Blonde ambition

GreendaleThose folks at Greendale Community Theatre are at it again with another ambitious musical with an overachieving cast.

The latest production: Legally Blonde – The Musical.

From the website:

“Watch Harvard Law’s beloved blonde take the stage by sparkling pink storm in this fun, upbeat show starring some of Southeast Wisconsin’s most talented vocalists and dancers.  This much fun shouldn’t be legal!  (See what we did there?)

Based on the movie, this award-winning musical stays true to form with a playful score and clever script. But it’s not all silver stilettos, perfectly coordinated skirt suits, Fendi bags and false eyelashes, as the story is rich in clever wit and a message of self-discovery.”

Legally Blonde begins Thursday, July 24 and runs through the next two weekends. That includes July 25, 26, 27 and 31 as well as Aug. 1 and 2.
All performances are at 7:30 p.m., except for the July 27 Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

Legally Blonde is appearing at Greendale High School, 6801 Southway, Greendale. 

Tickets are $15.

Milwaukee comedy weekend: $1 an act

Earlier, we informed you of the Saturday, July 19, Sketch 22 show, where you can see 10 original Milwaukee comedy sketches for $10 – which amounts to $1 apiece.

Coincidentally, on Friday, July 18, you can watch seven original stand-up comedians perform for $7 – also $1 apiece.

Because Milwaukee’s Caste of Killers Comedy Collective is presenting its Stand-Up Comedy Showcase at 8:30 p.m. at Karma Bar & Grill, 600 E. Ogden Ave.

The lineup this month includes:

  • Eric Thorson
  • Mario Robinson
  • Jason Hillman
  • Damon Millard 
  • Timmy Brochu
  • John Eide
  • and Suze Bischoff as emcee

From Facebook:

“This comedian-run, independently-produced comedy show that started with a couple of funny guys and a microphone has grown into a full-fledged professional comedy extravaganza.”

(How do you like that? We don’t have even one vaganza, and they have an extra.)

This isn’t to suggest you’ll be observing cheap tricks this weekend. But you are going to be laughing all the way to the bank for the bargains you’ll be getting.

Besides the $7 tickets (excluding fees), you can get a $12 VIP admission that lets you watch from the Karma’s couch. Now that’s a cushy deal. Click here for details.

MKE Follies seeking acts

Hey, Milwaukee performing artists, Dance Revolution Milwaukee is prospecting for acts for its next MKE Follies variety show, which is scheduled for Sept. 19.

The MKE Follies is a one-night-only show catering to Milwaukee artists. It’s been going on for two years, and the next one is set for The Box, 628 N. Broadway St.

From the Dance Revolution Milwaukee publicity release:

“DRM is seeking local artists to perform their work in the show… We are currently looking for actors, dancers, musicians, comedians, and more! In total, we will take 6-8 acts per show that encompass as much variety as possible.

To participate, artists, and their casts (if applicable), must be available the evening of the Follies show, as well as the Thursday evening prior to the show for a dress rehearsal.”

Ticket sales proceeds are split among the participating artists.

The selection process is first-come, first-served, so interested artists should not hesitate to contact Katie and Karen at mkefollies@gmail.com with information such as:

  • your name
  • form of art you would present
  • your contact information

T.I.M.: Improvising musicals since 2011

On the occasion of T.I.M. turning 3, let’s remember way back to the summer of 2011:

Meanwhile, after years of dreaming and months of planning, a plucky group of performers and administrators affiliated with Milwaukee-based ComedySportz kicked off what they hoped would be a monthly improvised musical called T.I.M. (The Improvised Musical).

Click here to see our first 2011 coverage of T.I.M. 

Three years later, gas costs about the same, the Brewers are barely in first, Congress is still dysfunctional and T.I.M. is stronger than ever.

T.I.M.’s one-hour on-the-spot improvised musicals, inspired by audience suggestions, continues to evolve. Among the cast, only co-founder Jacob Bach and Mary Kelly remain from the first show in July 2011 – although Mary is leaving for Chicago. Patricio Amerena moved to the cast from the original T.I.B., The Improvised Band, which has doubled in size in three years. Steven Baird has continued as T.I.B.’s guitarist since the beginning, and co-founder Mary Baird remains the show’s producer.

After three years, T.I.M. maintains its third-Thursday-of-the-month performance schedule, meaning that its third anniversary show will be at 7 p.m., Thursday, July 17, at ComedySportz, 420 S. 1st St. Tickets still cost only $5 cash at the door.

But for all that hasn’t changed for T.I.M. since 2011, its popularity has. Consider reserving tickets by calling ahead on weekdays at (414) 272-8888.




Umbrella Group Milwaukee debuts

Newcomer Umbrella Group Milwaukee has successfully opened with its production of the dark comedy “God of Carnage.”

Under the direction of Milwaukee theater veteran Bo Johnson, the cast featuring Anna Figenshtaler, Matt Wickey, Libby Amato and Jason Will is presenting Milwaukee’s premier of the Tony Award-winning play through Sunday, July 20.

OnMilwaukee.Com calls the work “an impressive debut for Umbrella Group.”

A review by Mike Fischer in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calls the 70-minute play “short, extremely funny and – best of all – adept at tracing how easily alliances can shift once the rules by which we’ve lived get trashed.”

At its website, Umbrella Group describes itself as:

“a theatrical production company aiming to challenge and inspire its audiences through a broad spectrum of creative talents and performance styles.

The company provides a framework of artistic, technical, and fundraising support to performance projects in the Milwaukee area that might otherwise go unrealized.

We strive to provide a creative environment for artists to learn, develop, broaden, and practice their craft, by establishing and maintaining a non-profit arts organization dedicated to the production of high quality performance experiences for both artists and audience.”

See “God of Carnage” at 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, July 17-19, and at 2 p.m., Sunday, July 20, at Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. Click here for tickets at $20 each, with discounts for groups of 10 or more.

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