Tag Archives: stand-up

Cream City Comedy Festival puts Milwaukee stand-up first

Milwaukee’s comedy scene punches way above its weight class. Despite not having the lofty reputation of New York, LA or neighboring Chicago, there’s more places that you’d expect offering open mics, showcases and other comedy events. The trick, of course, is figuring out where to look for local laughs.

A new stand-up comedy festival plans to make it a little easier. The Cream City Comedy Festival, scheduled for May 12 to 15, will bring together numerous local comedy showcase producers for a weekend of performances from both Milwaukee and out-of-state.

Phil Davidson, who’s coordinating the event with recent Milwaukee expatriates Sammy Arechar and Liz Ziner (now based in Chicago), says the idea for the festival originally came about from idle discussions with Arechar about a year ago. He says that while there are lots of independent stand-up showcases throughout Milwaukee, presenting local comedians on a monthly or biweekly basis, there was no annual event akin to the Milwaukee Comedy Festival — which takes place every August but features sketch and improv comedy in addition to stand-up — dedicated to exclusively presenting stand-up artists.

About three months ago, Arechar and Ziner emailed Davidson, asking if he was interested in joining their effort to change that fact. Things moved quickly from there, and the festival now has about 70 comedians booked for the four-day event, which will consist of 11 different shows.

Rather than choose one location for the festival to take place, Davidson says, the organizing team has embraced the fact that Milwaukee doesn’t really have a unified arts district, and comedy showcases can be found all over the city. “It would be great if we could somehow “Transformer” Bay View and the East Side and Riverwest into one super-neighborhood where everyone likes to go out and see entertainment,” Davidson says. “But because they’re all split apart … we wanted to showcase all these different locations and neighborhoods where there’s comedy happening.”

To that same end, festival organizers have done their best to feature local comics in addition to guests from out of town, with Davidson saying the festival is split about 50-50. To decide what comics got the invite for the inaugural festival, Davidson says they turned to the showcase producers participating, asking them to pick a “dream lineup” of Milwaukee stand-up comedians. Davidson, Arechar and Ziner then went through those lists, adding in out-of-town comedians where appropriate and fairly distributing locals requested by more than one showcase until they came up with a final schedule.

Of those out-of-town comedians, Davidson says their biggest get is Nick Vatterott, a New York-based comedian who got his start in Chicago and has since been featured on Conan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and a Comedy Central special. After learning he’d be in town that weekend already performing at another club, Davidson says they reached out to see if he was interested in coming, and he signed on without hesitation. “It’s a good get for us. We’re excited to have him,” Davidson says.

To help encourage audience members to try the festival out, all shows in the festival are free admission, but Davidson says they’re encouraging donations to support the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by depression and mental illness.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, May 12

8 p.m.: Yeah Buddy Awesome Time, Club Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior St.

Friday, May 13

7:30 p.m.: Blipsters, Karma Bar & Grill, 600 E. Ogden Ave.

9 p.m.: Hot Room (local showcase), Angelo’s Piano Bar, 1686 N. Van Buren St.

10:30 p.m.: Boy Kisses, Hybrid Lounge, 707 E. Brady St.

Saturday, May 14

3 p.m.: Bad Comedy Theatre (local showcase), Hybrid Lounge

6 p.m.: Subjective, Var Gallery & Studios, 643 S. 2nd St.

8 p.m.: Clam Jam, The Jazz Gallery, 926 E. Center St.

10 p.m.: Sammy’s 3rd Annual Zucchini Party (afterparty/no comedy), Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St.

Sunday, May 15

2 p.m.: Sorry Not Sorry, Riverwest Public House, 815 E. Locust St.

4 p.m.: Super Talent Show, Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave.

8 p.m.: Closing Ceremony ft. Nick Vatterott, Club Garibaldi

Comedian Jen Kirkman is feeling fine. Promise.

In the opening of her Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), comedian, author and podcaster Jen Kirkman tells a story about overhearing someone ordering a drink and slowly realizing that person cannot tell the difference between a lemon and a lime. It’s like she’s a dear friend venting her frustrations with the world already, and it’s only been a few minutes.

That’s the brilliance of the special. Recorded shortly after her 40th birthday and the release of her successful memoir I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids, the Netflix special shows us what Kirkman’s best at: autobiographical and shameless banter about the various elements of her kidless, post-divorce life — from being an unintentional cougar to finding gray pubic hairs.

In addition to her Netflix special and book, Kirkman is known for her appearances as a panelist and writer for Chelsea Lately and a narrator for the Comedy Central series Drunk History (and the original Funny or Die webseries). She’s also recorded two comedy albums — 2006’s Self Help and 2011’s Hail to the Freaks — and is the host of the I Seem Fun podcast, which largely consists of her speaking about whatever is on her mind while sitting around her home.

Kirkman is on a nationwide tour, which includes a stop at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on Sept. 9.

She spoke with WiG about her special, her comedic approach, dying alone, the chances of her own TV show and her amusing idea of an Uber horse. 

You’re on tour to promote your Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). A Netflix special is a pretty big deal. How did that come about? 

It is. Thank you. I’m really just on tour because that’s what I do for a living. I think I sound stupid when I say I’m on tour to promote it like as if Netflix needs my help (laughs). They got the advertising dollars and they’re obviously in everybody’s home. 

Actually, to be honest, I’ve never wanted to do a comedy special. I preferred albums for a long time. I didn’t like putting my physical self on tape. I don’t like looking at my mannerisms. I don’t like the idea of having to pick an outfit that’s going to live on for years on TV that might look dated in a few years. I was always fine not doing one. 

Over the years, the only available option to comedians before HBO and Showtime was Comedy Central, who I didn’t want to work with because I don’t believe in editing or having commercial breaks in comedy. I think it’s not a good way to present it. So I was fine not having a comedy special, but then when Netflix started doing them, I thought that seemed like a good place to do it. I knew this woman who worked there and she made it kind of known that she’d like to do one with me. We just kept pursuing it. It was actually in the works for like a year before I was able to film it. So I was really excited, but I couldn’t say anything. 

During your Netflix special, rather than cutting away to the audience every few minutes for reaction shots, the camera stays on you while you go from topic to topic, making it more like you’re ranting to a group of friends about topics that are both hilarious and relatable. Was this something that you were always comfortable with from the get-go? 

It’s funny because I get called a storyteller comedian, which I don’t totally think is true because real storytellers are doing off-Broadway shows and there aren’t laughs for 10 minutes. I’ve always thought what I’ve been doing is normal comedy like anybody else. I think the way I perform it makes it look like I’m talking off the top of my head or telling a story, which I think is a skill I’ve honed over the years. I feel like if you measure out my laughs per minute, even to a one-liner comic, it’d be the same. 

I purposely chose not to have any cutaway shuts and the person who directed my special, Lance Bangs, I believe he really doesn’t like that either. I feel like you can edit without having to cut to the audience. You can cut to a different camera angle on a person. I also don’t think the audience at home needs to be told when they should laugh because you can decide that for yourself. Not every joke is going to hit home with everybody, so laugh when you want. When they cut to a group of people going, “Ah ha ha!”, it’s like, “Don’t tell me when to laugh.” (laughs) When you go see a comedy show, you’re just looking at the person. I don’t know anybody who would want to turn on the TV and see the audience. It never looks real, either. It looks like it’s inserted from a different show. 

What’s really funny, though, is some people who have hated my special … have commented that I put a laugh track in because … no one was laughing. I thought that was kind of funny that people have noticed that and people thought it was for tragic reasons (laughs). 

What is the inspiration behind the title? You don’t actually feel like you’re going to die alone, do you? 

I think everybody does. People have taken it to mean it’s about dating, which is really weird because obviously I’ve been single, I’ve been married, I’ve been engaged, I’ve been divorced, I’ve been in a relationship and I’ve been with friends with benefits. I’ve had every iteration of dating in my life, and always will probably, but the special was not about being single. It’s actually what I’ve wanted to call my first book. It’s things people have said to me about not having kids. It’s what people said to me: “You’re going to die alone if you don’t have kids.” My answer to them is, “Fine. I’m going to die alone and I’ll be fine.” 

… If you die, you die alone anyways, even if you’re in a bed next to someone. It’s your own journey. We all really do die alone. You can be as suited up as you want. You can be married with kids and think, “Oh, look at how great my life is going to be when I’m older.” But you really don’t know if anybody is still going to be around. Unfortunately, most people take it to mean I’m lamenting some kind of not-being-married thing. I usually get people consoling me and I’m like, “It is a comedy title.” When I said what the name of the special was, a few people on Twitter were like, “Aw, you won’t die alone. You’re cute.” I’m like, “Ugh. Forget it.” 

From show to show, do you strive to bring new material that audiences haven’t heard before to the stage? 

This tour is not material from the special because the special was stuff that I’ve done on the road for three years. The cities I’ve been to, where people have seen me over the past three years, they’ve already seen that stuff. For them, watching the special was a repeat of what they’ve seen live. There’s no getting away with doing old stuff anymore. This tour is all new stuff, with one or two bits from the special because I do think that one of the bits from the special was pretty new. The joke is about a gray pubic hair. So I’ll keep growing and growing with that premise, as I get older and things continue to break down in my body or change (laughs). That one will probably live on. 

There is one joke about a woman who marries a cat that has become sort of relevant again, now that we have marriage equality but (there are) senators who are still saying the bestiality thing, so I’ll keep that in. I think people do remember that from the special, but for some reason I think it’s such a silly, dumb bit that I think people like it and I’ve actually had people say, “I came to your show and I brought my friend who didn’t know you and I was telling her about your stuff and I’m glad you did some of the jokes that I told her.” 

For the most part, I don’t think people want to see what they’ve already seen because it’s hard to laugh when you know it’s coming. Halfway through my tour, I just changed the name of it to “An Evening with Jen Kirkman” and not the name of the special because people were telling me, “If it’s your special, then I’m not going to come because I’ve already seen it.” Which is stupid anyway, because even if it’s the exact same thing, it’s always different live. 

I’ve read recently that you’re working on your second book. Will this be a direct follow-up to I Can Barely Take Care of Myself or will this be something entirely different?

It’s pretty similar. I mean, it’s not similar, but it’s a pretty direct follow-up. I kind of knew when I was writing the first one that I wanted to write a second one. I knew some of the stuff that I wanted to write about and as the years went by, I lived a little and had more experiences so it’s the same thing, like a memoir-style, comedic essays, but it jumps around topics a lot more than I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, which was really about not wanting kids and all that stuff. This is all different kind of things about traveling, family, divorcing, work and stupid things like my neighbor who won’t stop knocking on my door. 

That’s coming out in April of next year. It’s pretty much written. There’s just a couple of edits here and there that have to be done. I think people will like it because it does cover so many different topics, so there’s something for everyone. A lot of the stuff in the podcast will be in the book, but better with a lot less rambling. There’ll be complete sentences. 

When it comes to shows about comedians on television, all the rage right now is about Louie C.K. and Marc Maron (who star in and produce their own shows). I’d personally love to see you have your own show where you’re not only the star, but you’re also the writer, producer, director, etc. Do you think the chances are high of seeing such a thing happen? Better yet, would you want such a thing to happen? 

I tried. It was passed on by over 20 networks. FX bought a show called Jen that was going to be like a Maron or a Louie. They bought it, I wrote the pilot, and they paid me to write the script but it just didn’t get picked up into a pilot. 

Most comedians that you know or like, our agents would dump us if we didn’t try to pitch a show about our lives because that’s how they make their money if we get a TV gig. That’s part of being a comedian on the road. You pitch TV shows. All of us pitch multiple shows a year and all the different levels you can get to are: someone pays you to write a script, and then after that they could pick it up and make a pilot, but the pilot doesn’t go to series. There’s like six levels of all that crap. We do it all the time under the radar; nobody knows. The odds are just so insanely crazy. 

It’s nothing that like breaks our hearts because we always have stand-up, which is what we want to do first and foremost. I think most of us would say that the only reason we’d want a TV show is so that more people can come see us on the road. I tried, but I’m glad it didn’t get made for many reasons that are boring. I wasn’t working on it with the right people and I don’t like the show that I wrote anymore so I’m fine with that. 

I’ve worked in TV shows my whole life and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of politics. There’s a lot of crap you don’t have to deal with in stand-up. 

So, I was Twitter-stalking you earlier, and I read your prediction of an Uber Horse being the next big thing in transportation. Can you please elaborate? 

I’ve gotten picked up in an Uber in Canada with a huge dent on the side, and I was like, “Hmm, that doesn’t make me feel that confident.” It’s like you’re hitchhiking. I’m really just getting into a stranger’s car. … Uber Horse was just a joke, but it’s getting to the point where it went from nice SUV to someone’s car that has a dent, so probably what’s next is someone bringing their horse to pick you up. I think it will happen someday. It should.

Matt Kemple’s 10 reasons to see the 10th annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival

Ten years ago, no one would have thought of Milwaukee as a comedy hub. One of the reasons that’s slowly changing is the Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

First produced in 2006 as the Sketch and Improv Comedy Festival, this annual event now draws talented artists from across the country to perform with their equally talented peers from the Badger State. In celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary, WiG sat down with Matt Kemple, founder and producer of the festival and its parent organization, Milwaukee Comedy, to pin down the top 10 reasons you should attend.

1. There’s a ton of people making you laugh

It’s actually a little crazy for Kemple to think about how big the festival’s gotten. This year’s event, running Aug. 6 to 9, will feature 26 acts spread across seven shows — one Thursday at 8 p.m., two Friday at 8 and 10 p.m., three Saturday at 6, 8 and 10 p.m. and a Sunday night finale at Turner Hall Ballroom at 8 p.m., with nationally acclaimed comic Brian Posehn wrapping it all up. 

Those comedians — about 120 in total — come from improv, stand-up and sketch comedy disciplines, and represent some of the best independent groups working in the United States. Kemple is fond of saying that each year’s festival is the “biggest and best yet,” and it helps his case that every year he’s right.

 2. And a lot of them are from Wisconsin

From the very beginning, Kemple says, the Milwaukee Comedy Festival has been as much about supporting local acts as bringing in performers from out of town. But doing so could have caused an imbalance if those local acts weren’t as good as their fellow comedians.

If anything, Kemple’s had the opposite problem. “(Wisconsin) people actually compare to the acts we’re getting from New York, Chicago, LA — these major comedy cities,” he says.

This year’s festival roster is nearly split down the middle, with 12 acts from Milwaukee, Madison or Green Bay, and every one of the festival’s seven shows features at least one local comedian or group. Among this year’s biggest draws: John Egan, a comedian from Green Bay who’s opened for major acts at Appleton’s Skyline Cafe and will be hosting Friday’s 10 p.m. show, and Sammy Arechar and Christopher Schmidt, stand-up artists on the rise who’ll close the 8 and 10 p.m. shows on Saturday, respectively.

3. It all starts with beer

Kemple says the festival has had a small kickoff event for the past several years, but Lakefront Brewing is helping step it up a notch. On Wednesday, Lakefront will host a brewery tour at 7 p.m. followed by an all-local stand-up show, with music by Milwaukee bluegrass band The Grasping at Straws.

Partnering with Lakefront allows Kemple to solve the conundrum he’s always faced with these kickoff events: how to make them a big deal without overshadowing the festival. “To have it at a different venue, you can make it its own thing,” he says. “It’s a perfect combination.”

4. This year, there are extra laughs for the taking

Milwaukee Comedy is partnering with Milwaukee Record for bonus shows that double as pre- and post-festival parties. These “Extra Laughs” shows will take place at four Milwaukee venues — Bremen Cafe in Riverwest; Club Garibaldi in Bay View; Var Gallery in Walker’s Point; and 42 Lounge in downtown Milwaukee.

Kemple says these gigs are a formal execution of informal afterparties organizers have tried to assemble in previous years, but also can be an opportunity for comedy-lovers who can’t make it to a particular show to still see some of their favorite local comedians in their own neighborhood. They’re also cheaper than a regular show — Bremen and 42 Lounge’s sets are free, while Garibaldi and Var Gallery will charge a $5 cover unless you’ve already bought a festival ticket.

5. You can watch your “Whormones” rage

Kemple says he’s been hoping to schedule a live comedy podcast taping at the festival for several years, and his inaugural guests are certainly attention-getters. “Whormones,” a self-described “anti-feminist, feminist podcast,” is hosted by Jaqi Furback and former Milwaukeean/porn star Alia Janine, and features the duo discussing their different points of view on sexuality, feminism and life. They’ll record the Milwaukee Comedy episode at Next Act at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Before she left the city, Janine hosted a podcast for OnMilwaukee and interviewed Kemple in advance of last year’s festival. That’s when they started talking about collaborating this year. “(Janine) just has no filter and she will talk about anything. … Jaqi is very reserved — so their dynamic is great.”

6. Learning is funny-damental

Local comedians hoping to up their game shouldn’t need a push to pay attention to the festival this year, but if you’re looking for one anyway, consider this: Milwaukee Comedy will be hosting improv workshops led by two of the country’s most talented artists. On Saturday, Cleveland’s Missy Whitis will help students develop better instincts for long-form improv. And Sunday will feature TJ Shanoff, a director with almost two decades’ experience in musical improvisation.

They’re more targeted and challenging workshops than the festival’s featured in the past, but Kemple says as the festival has grown, he’s found beginners’ workshops aren’t as good a fit anymore. The caliber of visiting performers has gone up and local artists have more than enough opportunities to take their first comedy steps in the rest of the calendar year.

7. There’s fun swag!

If getting to see a bunch of awesome comedy isn’t incentive enough, you’ll be pleased to learn Milwaukee Comedy’s sponsors have supplied them with lots of goodies to give away. But you’ll have to be willing to play along, because Kemple isn’t interested in just handing out prizes to random patrons: “It’s a Comedy Festival; it shouldn’t just be something boring.”

So if you want nerdy prizes like a Big Bang Theory Clue board game, come prepared to answer nerdy questions. Or “Name That Song” to pick up 88Nine passes. Or win an Irish dance-off for Irish Fest tickets. Or just come ready for anything — because Kemple has a bunch of other swag he’s not quite sure how to give away yet, but if you want it, you’ll have to earn it.

8. Did we mention Brian Posehn?

For the first time, this year’s Comedy Festival will feature a major national headliner to wrap up the weekend: Brian Posehn, a stand-up comedian also known for his roles on The Sarah Silverman Program and a variety of films. Posehn was one of a few acts Kemple says he brought to Turner Hall for consideration and he discovered that they’d already been trying to book him. The Sunday night slot turned out to be a perfect fit for everyone.

“(Posehn’s) not just a really funny guy,” Kemple says. “His level of humor really fits what our audience is looking for. He’s smart, kind of nerdy, but also can be pretty disgusting sometimes.”

Opening for Posehn are two of Wisconsin’s top stand-up artists. Hosting is Ryan Mason, a Milwaukeean who moved to Madison a few years ago and has since returned — better than ever, according to Kemple. Then there’s Geoffrey Asmus, an eccentric Madisonian who’s already delighted a Turner Hall crowd opening for Kyle Dunnigan this year. “It was very important to us to make sure those slots were filled by people that were from Wisconsin. We wanted to give a local comic an opportunity to open for somebody different.”

9. It’s cheaper than ever

OK, OK, reducing advance tickets from $15 to $14 and door tickets from $20 to $18 doesn’t sound like much, but if anything, they should be higher. A $14/$18 price point means the festival costs the same as any other show produced by Milwaukee Comedy during the year (excepting the Posehn show, $20 before fees), an incentive for people to get out and see a show.

“We feel like it’s the right price for the right value. …I would rather have a lower ticket price and be able to have more people come and fill the seats more,” he says.

The biggest comedy junkies can get an even better deal on the festival’s all-access passes — for $50, you can get into any show in the festival (including Sunday and the special events) and receive first-choice seats, along with other goodies.

10.  And you’re helping a community blossom

Kemple says it’s hard to overstate how much of an impact the festival has had on the local comedy community. A decade ago, there weren’t any local clubs that would put on performers; now it’s the norm that businesses will seek out local comedians, largely through the network Kemple and Milwaukee Comedy has been able to create.

More and more, that makes the festival not just about being a single weekend of good comedy. It’s a sampling of what audiences can find throughout the year in their own backyard, and a way to help fund Milwaukee Comedy’s efforts to support it and grow even further.

Kemple isn’t sure what the Milwaukee Comedy Festival will look like in another 10 years, or even next year. But if his audience keeps growing the way it has, there’s only one way it can go: bigger and better.

On Stage 

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival runs Aug. 6 to 9, with a kickoff event Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at Lakefront Brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St. Mainstage shows are at Next Act Theatre, 255 N. Water St., while Sunday’s 8 p.m. show is at Turner Hall, 1040 N. Fourth St. Tickets are $18, $14 in advance. For a full schedule or to purchase tickets, visit festival.milwaukeecomedy.com.

Kelly Mantle from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ to headline LGBT comedy in Madison

“Alphabet Soup,” Madison’s first LGBT stand-up comedy show, will bring Kelly Mantle of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to the stage in December.

Mantle also has been featured on Logo TV’s “One Night Stand Up.”

“Alphabet Soup” runs monthly at Plan B, 924 Williamson St., Madison.

The show set for Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. will feature Mantle, Trannika Rex from Chicago and local comics La Bomba Waters and Gregg Potter.

Dina Nina Martinez, the producer, is the host.

Martinez is a transgender standup comic and actor from Los Angeles who resides in Madison. A news release said “her signature blend of disarming sass and charm has been featured in comedy festivals and multiple world-class comedy venues.” Those venues include LA Pride, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, LA’s The Comedy Store and Chicago’s Zannie’s Comedy Club. She is the creator of “Alphabet Soup” and was named one of the “40 Hot Queer Women in Comedy” on AfterEllen.com.

The show is free to attend, but organizers are asking for a $10 donation to benefit AIDS Network.

Milwaukee Comedy Festival

It’s time to laugh: The Milwaukee Comedy Festival has returned. This annual celebration of stand-up, sketch and improv comedy has delighted  comedy lovers for nine years, and each gets bigger and better. This year’s features two dozen performers or groups from around town and across the country, spread across eight different performance slots that include a teen comedy show on Sunday afternoon.

At Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St. Tickets are $20, $15 in advance, or $50 for an all-access pass. For showtimes or to order tickets, visit festival.milwaukeecomedy.com.

Aug. 7 to 10

To find out about MORE upcoming events – follow us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER or check out our full calendar at www.WisconsinGazette.com

Milwaukee Comedy Festival returns, bigger than ever

What’s the funniest event in Milwaukee?

Most comedy aficionados would say that’s an easy question to answer: the Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

The success of this four-day celebration of laughs and the comedians who inspire them has been a long time coming. Festival founder Matt Kemple is marking his ninth year running the show. He says the last two years’ events remained slightly under the radar. But he senses that things are different this time around, with interest among performers and audiences skyrocketing.

“This year it feels like we’ve broken through,” he says.

Kemple appears to have found a formula that works. The festival is arranged into groups of shows, most with three different artists or groups performing. Each artist specializes in a different style of comedy, so a show might open with a stand-up comedian, who’s followed by a sketch comedy group and then an improv troupe.

Kemple says that juxtaposing comedic styles in that way has multiple benefits. On a practical level, comedy doesn’t lend itself to “binge watching,” so offering different styles in a tight 90-minute show keeps audiences engaged. It also allows people to see genres they might not think they’d enjoy.

“I want people to be exposed to all kinds of comedy,” he says. “Some people say they just don’t like stand-up, for example, but they’ll come to the festival and see a stand-up comedian that they love.”

About half of this year’s scheduled performers are from Milwaukee, but there’s also an impressive array of talent from further afield, from comedy centers as near as Chicago and as far flung as Los Angeles and Toronto.

Kemple says there are a few performers he’s especially elated to have attending this year. One is stand-up comic Rob Christensen, an up-and-coming artist who’s appeared on Comedy Central and NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He’ll perform Saturday at 8 p.m.

“It’s exciting to have someone on his level want to be in the festival,” Kemple says.

Kemple is also happy to present the Chicago improv troupe Three to Turn the Stool, a supergroup composed of improvisers Ed Ferman (who recently snagged a writing gig on an untitled sketch comedy show in production by NBC), Beth Melewski (former host of Cash Cab Chicago) and TJ Jagodowski (half of TJ & Dave, the acclaimed improv duo that recently announced plans to open their own theater within iO’s space).

One show that’s a little different from the rest is Sunday’s teen comedy showcase, featuring young performers from the Milwaukee area. It’s the only Sunday show this year, a decision made due to low Sunday attendance in years past. But the teen show has always drawn a packed house, and it provides a great way to close out the weekend.

New to the festival this year is an expansion in food and drink options. Partnerships with Great Lakes Distillery and Sprecher will provide the latter, while food trucks will offer dining options for patrons between shows.

The addition of food-and-beverage service shows the increasing scale of the festival as it closes in on its 10tth anniversary. Kemple says he and other organizers are considering adding more venues and recruiting bigger headliners in the future, but there are no specific plans yet.

Those decisions will be made in the weeks and months to come — after everyone has recovered from this year’s laughter.

On stage

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival runs Aug. 7 to 10 at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee. Shows are at 6 and 8 p.m. on Thursday; 8 and 10 p.m. on Friday; 6, 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $20 at the door or $15 in advance. Go to festival.milwaukeecomedy.com.

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival begins a day early this year — at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 6, with a kick-off party featuring three comedy groups with strong local ties: After School Special (former students of co-producer Patrick Schmitz), Crouch Comedy (a new sketch group) and The Goodnight Milwaukee Show (a mock-talk show starring Jake Kornely and Tyler Menz). Tickets are $10 on performance day and $8 in advance.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Lesbian comic Tig Notaro coming to Wisconsin

Out comedian Tig Notaro is wickedly funny. She has a sense of humor so dry you want to offer her a glass of water. On her aptly named debut comedy disc “Good One,” Notaro touches on a variety of topics, ranging from Chaz Bono and Taylor Dayne to artificial insemination and babies taking showers.

I spoke with Notaro just prior to the August release of her album.

Gregg Shapiro: Have you ever performed on an Olivia Cruise or at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival?

Tig Notaro: I have not done the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I did an Olivia show once, years ago. It was a little bizarre to be secluded and traveling with your audience for an entire week.

What was the best part of your “Last Comic Standing” experience?

I wasn’t on for very long, maybe two or three episodes. To me it was kind of a ridiculous thing. There were so many comedians who took it very seriously. I guess it’s a good opportunity for people to burst onto the scene out of nowhere. I enjoyed that I just made it to the semi-final round. When you get to that level, you’re just on for three minutes, just doing a set. It’s kind of like doing a late-night talk-show set. That was the best thing. And I made some good friends out of it. I’m doing this podcast now with David Huntsberger, who I met on “Last Comic Standing.” In general, it’s kind of a blur to me. It happened so quickly. I kind of forget that I was on it.

Who do you consider to be your comedy inspirations?

Before I got into stand-up, I was really into Richard Pryor and Joan Rivers and Paula Poundstone and Steve Martin, people like that. Then it changed when I got into stand-up. I really started to be inspired by my peers that I was coming up with – Maria Bamford, Zach Galifiniakis and Sarah Silverman.

How does it feel to be the first comedian to release a comedy album on uber-hipster indie label Secretly Canadian?

I’m thrilled. I feel so honored and lucky. They’ve been so supportive and helpful. They’ve carried out every part of what they’ve promised. It’s just cool.

How did you decide what material to include on your debut album?

I wanted to mix in some things that I had written in the past year. But then I also wanted to put in some less popular, older bits of mine. I was just in Philadelphia last week, and for my whole show, this woman kept saying “No moleste,” which I guess is my signature bit. She kept turning to her husband saying, “When is she going to do it? I can’t wait until she does ‘No moleste.’” I was like, “Lady! Shut your trap!” That’s how all my shows are – new stuff, old stuff, right on the spot.

Would you say that “No moleste” is your “Free Bird”?

[Laughs.] I guess so. But I feel like my Taylor Dayne story that I wrote in the past year is creeping up on that popularity.

Do you know if Taylor Dayne is aware of being the subject of a comedy routine?

Yeah, her agent told my manager that Taylor wanted me to know that she heard through the grapevine that I was telling this story about her and that she’s a fan of mine and that she’d like to work with me one day (laughs). I don’t know what on Earth we would do together (laughs).

The deluxe edition includes the “Have Tig at Your Party” DVD, described as the “human equivalent to the ‘burning log’ DVD.” What was the inspiration for the concept?

Touring so much, I missed so many parties and get-togethers. This friend of mine, years ago, was having a party. And I was sitting in my hotel room thinking, what if I videotaped myself in my hotel room and I just mailed that to her and she could just play it at her party. I didn’t do it, but it inspired the idea of me making that DVD. And every time I mentioned it to people, they would laugh and say, “You have to do that!” So I did and hopefully people will enjoy it. It’s me standing there and I say very little every now and then.