Between the true opening night of the Milwaukee Comedy Festival on Thursday, August 6 through Sunday night’s finale with beloved alt-comic Brian Posehn at Turner Hall, Milwaukee will be a very funny place. A combined 30 stand-up comics, sketch groups, and improv troupes hailing from all corners of the country will descend on the city for seven Fest shows taking place at the aforementioned venues. Additionally, six other shows of the kickoff, podcast recording, pre-show or post-show varieties (four of which are either produced or co-produced by Milwaukee Record) will spread the laughs (and local music) throughout Milwaukee, beginning tonight. To help comedy nuts better navigate their way through the vast wealth of talent taking a number of stages in a variety of settings this weekend, we’ve distilled the Milwaukee Comedy Festival lineup (and our affiliated “Extra Laughs” events that are free with the purchase of any MCF ticket) into this handy guide.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5
Comedy Fest Kick Off at Lakefront Brewery, 8 p.m.
Yeah, if you’ve lived anywhere near Milwaukee for at least a year or two, you’ve probably taken the Lakefront Brewery tour a dozen times. But how many of those tours have culminated with a free comedy showcase featuring some of the funniest comics in the region (and beyond) and a show by Grasping At Straws? We’re going to guess none. Unofficially kick off the Comedy Fest with an officially awesome post-tour variety show with stand-up by Sammy Arechar, Matty Field, Steve Breese, Jesse Mahne, and Damon Millard, followed by a bluegrass beer pairing compliments of Grasping At Straws. The show is free with the purchase of the 7 p.m. Lakefront Brewery tour or $5 sans tour. The tour is $8 and includes beer samples and a pint glass. Do the tour! More info.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 6
Comedy Fest Day 1 at Next Act Theatre, 8 p.m.
The Fest officially starts with Thursday night’s 8 p.m. show at Next Act Theatre (which is very close to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee studios and offers free parking on site). Helping to set the event’s 10th year into motion is host/Caste Of Killers co-founder Jason Hillman, local all-female sketch troupe Broadminded, improv by The Improvised Musical, and a stand-up set by Chicago-based comic Zach Peterson.
The Roast Of Milwaukee (with music from Piles) at Bremen Cafe, 9 p.m.
To mark the opening night of the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, Milwaukee Record has planned something special. Excuse us for touting our own comedy festival-affiliated event, but this is going to be awesome. After Piles play songs off their absolutely great Planet Skin and other material, eight outstanding comedians will take some verbal swings at dear old Milwaukee. Some still live here. Others have since moved to New York or Chicago. A few are getting ready to say goodbye. All of them got their start here and are hilarious. Roasters include: Ryan Mason, Allison Dunne, Sammy Arechar, Damon Millard, Liz Ziner, Dylan Payne, Mike Berg, and host Josh Ballew. There are going to be so many lion jokes. Here’s the full event info. Oh yeah, it’s free.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 7
Comedy Fest Day 2 (early show) at Next Act Theatre, 8 p.m.
The soiree gets into the full swing of things Friday with two Next Act shows. The first one finds Chicago comedians Shannon Noll (host) and Josh Johnson bookened improv and sketch performances by Milwaukee’s own Tall Boys and Atlanta-based Morgan Freeman Presents The Magic Negro and Other Blackness, respectively.
Comedy Fest Day 2 (late show) at Next Act Theatre, 10 p.m.
The laughs roll on at 10 o’clock as Green Bay stand-up John Egan sets the stage for a stacked show featuring year-old sketch troupe Dynamo Kickstand (composed of respect local comic veterans Ryan Lowe, Stacy Pawlowski, and Greg Bach), improv by Jack And The Wolf (Chicago) and stand-up by Alex Kumin (also Chicago).
Chuckle-Mania (with music by Crappy Dracula 2 and Soup Moat) at Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m. (comedy at 11 p.m.)
This is easily the weirdest show of our “Extra Laughs” series of pre- and post-2015 Milwaukee Comedy Festival showcases. At one point, eccentric area comedian Gary Zajackowski had an ultra-specific wrestling-themed showcase booked at Club G. Somewhere along the way, the event blew away to parts unknown. We couldn’t resist helping him revive this once-in-a-lifetime show to run in association with the Fest. Together, we rounded up a brawny and varied lineup of funnymen featuring traditional comedians, a poet, and an independent semi-pro wrestler. Then we did our best to bring the show to the next level with music from Crappy Dracula 2 and Soup Moat along with guest sets by a pair of visiting New York comics—one of whom is a former adult film actress (Milwaukee native Alia Janine). Name a better way to spent $5. You can’t. The show is free with the purchase of any day’s Comedy Festival ticket. Here’s the full event info.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 8
Whormones Podcast Live Podcast Recording at Next Act Theatre, 4 p.m.
If you miss seeing Ms. Janine and her comedy counterpart Jaqi Furback at Club Garibaldi on Friday night (or if you want to see/hear more of them), we recommend getting to Next Act the following afternoon to be an audience member for a live recording of the duo’s young-but-evocative Whormones Podcast.
Comedy Cocktail Hour (with music from Antler House) at Var Gallery, 4 p.m.
While we can’t argue against seeing a former adult film actress talking the trade, Milwaukee Record figured we’d create a more artistic offering before the Fest trio of showcases begin. Milwaukee comedian Greg Bach has outdone himself by “curating” (<-art term) a comedy cocktail hour at Var Gallery & Studios in Walker’s Point. Enjoy a beverage from the gallery’s fully functional bar, check out the ongoing exhibit, and enjoy some comedy from a (primarily) out-of-town cast of comedians. The Big Show‘s Ramie Makhlouf will parlay his drive time sports talk radio co-host abilities into hosting hilarity to get things started before visiting Fest participants Jim Zarling (Richmond, Virginia), Danny Lobell (Los Angeles), Sam Gordon (Chicago), and special guest Peter Lyrene (Lawrence, Kansas) perform. After the laughter subsides, local indie-folk purveyors Antler House will keep the happy hour going. More info here.
Comedy Fest Day 3 (early show) at Next Act Theatre, 6 p.m.
Zarling will take the stage for the second time in as many hours when he hosts the first of three (!) Next Act shows planned for Saturday. He’ll be followed by the aptly-named local sketch group called Sketch Marks, and stand-up comedy by Boston’s Sammy Ike.
Comedy Fest Day 3 (middle show) at Next Act Theatre, 8 p.m
Fresh off her Var appearance and about two months removed from PrideFest, a Sam of the female/Chicago-based variety (Sam Gordon) will follow Ike’s 6 p.m. show finale. Chicago improv troupe Chairs will return to the Fest for another year. Brooklyn-based King Quail will try their MTVU-tested material in Milwaukee before soon-to-be local legend Sammy Arechar brings this especially impressive show home.
Comedy Fest Day 3 (late show) at Next Act Theatre, 10 p.m.
As a guest on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast and This American Life, host Danny Lobell is probably the most accomplished Comedy Festival performer not named Brian Posehn. Local laughsmiths in Variety Hour Happy Hour will add some sketch to the mix before Los Angeles improv duo Fancy Football goes on. Reigning Caste Of Killers “Battle Royale” champion Christopher Schmidt will be the show home with his patented brand side-splitting self-hatred.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 9
Cthulhu’s Comedy Collective at 42 Lounge, 5 p.m.
With the Milwaukee Comedy Festival concluding its 10th year with noted nerd comic Brian Posehn at Turner Hall, it makes sense to preempt the finale with the city’s longest running and finest geek-tinged comedy showcase, Cthulhu’s Comedy Collective. The brainchild of science fiction author Patrick Tomlinson, the series has been running at 42 Lounge and at Midwest conventions since late 2013. Tomlinson has said this might be the showcase’s strongest lineup yet, and we’re inclined to agree. After the best opener imaginable (free Classic Slice pizza), fans can whet their respective appetites for Posehn’s Star Wars and heavy metal zingers with comedy by Tyler Menz, J.J. Harris, Gena Gephart (Madison), Toler Woulf (Madison), and Tomlinson. Here’s more info.
Brian Posehn + Geoffry Asmus, Brad Wenzel, and Ryan Mason at Turner Hall, 8 p.m.
The four-day fest will culminate with the biggest name that’s ever performed in the event’s 10-year run, as veteran alt-comic Brian Posehn will bring the festival home with an August 9 show at Turner Hall. The funnyman—who starred opposite Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, and Maria Bamford in The Comedians Of Comedy, hosts the Nerd Poker podcast and, ugh, is probably remembered by your parents from his recurring role on Just Shoot Me—will make his Turner Hall debut as part of the event. Hilarious Madison-based (for a few more days) comic Geoffrey Asmus will chuck books, recite world capitols, and bust guts beforehand, and beloved Milwaukee comic Ryan Mason will set things off with a blistering opening set. Tickets are still available.