Milwaukee Comedy Festival Offers Laughs
10th annual fest offers huge line-up of comics over four days with most shows at Next Act Theatre.
The 10th Annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival kicks off today at the Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. and continues all weekend, with four days of mostly evening shows, but with some starting as early as 4 p.m. The festival ends with stand-up veteran Brian Posehn performing at the Historic Turner Ballroom on Sunday.
Ten Years of Fun is the theme for this years festival. The lineup is mostly local comedians who do stand-up, improv and sketch comedy. But it’s not all Milwaukee performers, the performers are coming from all over the country.
Posehn might not be a household comedian name, but take a look at his face and (hopefully) a flash of 90s-00s sitcoms and small film roles come to mind. This includes but is not limited to movies like The Wedding Singer and Sleeping Dogs Lie, and programs Everybody Loves Raymond, the Sarah Silverman Program and a number of Comedy Central Presents shows. Fans will know his last two comedy albums Fart and Weiner Jokes and The Fartist. Yes, we detect a theme there.
Posehn has interesting hobbies that aid his comedy greatly. He loves comic books and has written a couple. He also enjoys heavy metal music and the last time I saw him perform he came to the conclusion — humorously — that he had to be careful taking his children to those shows.
The festival held its kick off event last night at Lakefront Brewery. Ticket holders for the festival took a free tour of the brewery and then settled in for laughs and live music.
The lineup of comedians was a nice mix of Milwaukee comedy, including Steve Breese and Sammy Arechar. Grasping at Straws are a local band that provided the opening night with great music. They recently played Riverwest 24.
The festivities begin today at 8 p.m. when evening host Milwaukeean Josh Hillman takes the stage at the Next Act Theatre. He’ll be followed by Broadminded, an all-female tandem that has been doing sketch comedy since 2006. After that comes musical improvisations from T.I.M., another Milwaukee group, which was founded four years ago.
Headlining this first evening will be Chicago stand-up, Zach Peterson who offers his thinking on politics from the standpoint of someone who doesn’t really care about politics. Probably a lot like Donald Trump but without all the money.
Peterson has toured the country and worked with comedians Dave Ross and Timmy Williams from The Whitest Kids You Know and has also worked with stoner extraordinaire Doug Benson.
Friday’s show starts at 8 p.m. and Chicagoan Shannon Noll will be hosting the entertainment. She’s been in the comedy game in sketch and improv groups since 2006, but in the past two years has been solely focused on stand up.
Mark Kendall is next up, he’ll be doing his show which aims at making white people aware and nervous (and amused) with “Morgan Freeman presents the Magic Negro and Other Blackness.”
Also performing: the Tall Boys, who have been on the scene the past few years and made the festival last year. They’ve done over 40 shows in the Milwaukee area since 2013. And Josh Johnson wraps up the first set with his stand-up performance
The second act of the night will be hosted by Green Bay-native Josh Egan. My experience with Egan is from 2010 at a UW-Green Bay Comedy Sportz show where he Egan played the referee of the evening. Now he’s transitioned to stand-up and has opened for comedians such as T.J. Miller.
The festival’s website warns that the sketches from Dynamo Kickstand contain harsh language and sexual innuendo. Well, it wouldn’t be much of a comedy show if nobody got offended.
Jack & the Wolf are the next sketch comedy act on the lineup. They’ve trained at Second City and Comedy Sportz and it should be noted that they eat, sleep and breathe comedy in Chicago.
Headlining belongs to Alex Kumin on Friday. A Bostonian shifted to Chicago, Kumin is a veteran stand-up and has been praised as unapologetically honest as she deals with social issues.
As the festival continues into Saturday the only things going on at 4.p.m. is The Whoremones podcast. Alia Janine and Jaqi Furback appear to have different views on everything — feminism and antifeminism. One’s politically incorrect and the other a conservative.
Jim Zarling graduated from Marquette University and has traveled the country doing stand-up and sketch comedy. He’ll be hosting the 6 p.m.
Sketch Marks got their start volunteering at the 2013 Milwaukee Comedy Festival and even though they’re just starting out they’re always looking to expand their fan base.
Sam Ike will be finishing off the show with his stand-up performance. Ike has done other festivals including the Del Close Marathon, the Boston Comedy Festival and is a member of BostonImprov, where he holds a monthly talk show titled, “So That Happened.”
Sam Gordon spent her childhood in the midwest and she’ll be hosting the 8 p.m. show. She was recently a finalist in 100 Proof Comedy’s Top College Comedian contest.
Chairs is a fairly self-explanatory improv comedy group from Chicago. It’s simply that the only props they have are the chairs they’re sitting in, from which they attempt to produce hilarity.
King Quail are straight out of Brooklyn and have been performing together for six years. They’ve done videos for MTVU and College Humor.
Sammy Arechar is the last act in the show, he’s a local and when he’s not on stage he’s checking to see what’s in the fridge. So we hear.
The host of the final show on Saturday at 10 p.m. is Danny Lobbell. He’s from New York, but lives in Los Angeles. Lobbell has been on The Artie Lange Show and WTF with Marc Maron.
Variety Hour Happy Hour will be doing sketches, making music and bringing on special guests. The women of Fancy Football are from Wisconsin and they use corny humor to snap the funny bone of anybody in the audience.
The last call comedian for Saturday night is Chris Schmidt. Schmidt has risen up the ranks of Milwaukee stand-up and won the fourth annual Caste of Killers Battle Royale contest. He is also the writer/performer/producer/ for The Goodnight Milwaukee Show.
Bringing us to the last day of the festival, Ryan Mason will host the show at Turner Hall Ballroom on Sunday starting at 9 p.m. Mason has confirmed that his set will include new material about being a young father.
Geoffrey Asmus has become a staple in the midwest stand-up circuit. Last year he was a finalist for at the Cleveland Comedy Festival. Earlier this year he was crowned “Funniest Person in Madison 2015” at Comedy on State and “Funniest Person in Iowa 2015” at Penguin’s Comedy club.
Milwaukee Comedy Festival has also announced an extra laughs series that will showcase live music.
The festival is also holding three different workshops over the weekend: they span the topics of music improv, long-form comedy and physical humor. All workshops costs $30 per person and require 10 people to sign up for each class.
Tickets in advance are $14 and at the door they’re $18. Tickets for Posehn on Sunday cost $20. Yes, there are a lot of shows and all information on shows and times and places can be found on the Milwaukee Comedy Festival website.