During a six-month stint of comedic mass exodus that saw four of the city’s strongest stand-up comics relocating to Chicago, another four funnymen heading to L.A., and one comedian even moving to Washington D.C., we wouldn’t blame you if you were worried about the state of Milwaukee stand-up. Though the comic climate was arguably never better than it was before this recent wave of departures, an encouraging crop of new humorists have picked up some of the slack and, along with the help of the impressive base already installed, are keeping the flame of local stand-up ignited.
Among this batch of fresh faces who are keeping the laughs rolling, Addie Blanchard is off to an especially strong start. Despite being just 10 months in, she’s piled as much stage time as she can into the limited window. She co-hosts and co-founded the No Vacancy Open Mic at Hotel Foster. She co-hosts and co-produces the monthly Sorry Not Sorry showcase at Riverwest Public House, and nabs any guest hosting gig she can. At this point, it’s almost surprising to see a local showcase without her name in the lineup. Before hosting three shows this weekend, Milwaukee Record asked Blanchard about her fast start, how she’s developed through experience, and how she approaches her various comedy ventures.
Milwaukee Record: You quickly went from being a person I had zero awareness of to someone whose name it was impossible not to see. It seems like you’ve hit the ground running. When did you start and when did you really begin to amplify the workload?
Addie Blanchard: I started in January. From January to April, I was doing one [open] mic a week. I was just dabbling. In April, I really decided that I wanted to do shows and I new that the only way I could do that was to put in more time to get more comfortable on stage. I saw so many good things happening and I just decided I wanted to be a part of that and I wanted to do the work that’s necessary to get there. So I started doing two to three open mics a week, and that’s kind of been the pace that I’ve been at, plus weekends where I get to do shows.
MR: It also seems like you really started getting more serious around the same time that there were a lot of people leaving, so it seems that you’ve also made the most of the sudden vacancies on a lot of these showcases. Not only that, you and Marisa [Lange] made your own showcase, Sorry Not Sorry. How did you meet and why did you know this was a person you wanted to work with?
AB: I love Marisa so much. I met Marisa because she took ComedySportz with my boyfriend, Jake. Jake told Marisa that I sometimes did stand-up and she was like, “I’ve been thinking about doing stand-up too” and we started talking. What I liked in Marisa is that she’s a take-no-nonsense feminist who was also really funny, so I automatically gravitated to her. What I really like about working with her now is it’s a true partnership. There are some things that I really enjoy doing that I take to—the posters, the Lisa Frank posters. That’s something goofy that we both enjoy. I’m very intense and she’s laid back, big picture…like, “We got this.”
MR: With being only six months into seriously doing stand-up, you’ve already had some great opportunities like being able to host other shows and you recently opened for Chris Thayer, right? And just that fact that you’re already starting to make a name for yourself.
AB: I’m trying and I’m putting in the time. I’d like to be known as somebody who works really hard and I want to continue that. I know that I’ve only been helped by the people that came before me. Josh Ballew gave Chris Thayer my name. Chris Thayer saw my video and was like, “She’s all right” and a show [opportunity] was born.
MR: In what ways do you feel that you’ve developed or that your material has changed over these more intense months?
AB: I think I’ve just gotten more comfortable on stage. There are still obvious hiccups. Sometimes my wheels spin a little bit with transitions and openings, which is great if you’re a host, right!
MR: Speaking of that, I’ve noticed you in the hosting slot a lot more often lately. This early on, do you worry about either burning through material too fast when you’re expected to write new stuff each time or falling into patterns if you do the same set a few times each week? Does it force you to write more?
AB: I really need to write more. I’m definitely burning through stuff, and I find myself—because I’m hosting—revisiting old things that have promise but weren’t jokes and premises I wasn’t super confident about. I have found a few things in my huge pile of notes from months ago where there’s something there. I do feel like I need to be more creative.
MR: Even though the Film Festival forced it out of [Hotel] Foster two times, how has the No Vacancy Open Mic been going so far in its relative infancy?
AB: Turnout has been about 14 to 18 people, so it’s not the city’s most well-attended mic by any means, but the people that come out seem to like Caron [Leet] and me and want to play around. By the good will of the scene, we have a pretty good list. The Hotel Foster spot is really convenient for people who may not be able to get to other mics. Chastity Washington came to one of them and I was like, “Okay, we’re blessed. We’re good!”
MR: You’re nearing the end of your first full year in comedy. At 10 months in, what are you hopes for the next 10 months? Do you have any specific goals in the short term? Then what are your long-term goals as well?
AB: In the short term, I really want to become a good host. I’m not saying I’m a bad one now, but I want to be known as someone who can run a room. I would like that. I want to consistently draw bigger crowds for Sorry Not Sorry. And I really want to get better at joke writing. Right now, I’m an observer. “This is a funny thing that happened to me” and I can word it in a cleaver way, but jokes are different. I could be a way better joke writer. For the long-term, I would really like to make comedy happen here. I really want to develop Milwaukee comedy roots with the people who are already working really hard to do that. I want to be one of the people you think about when you think about comedy in Milwaukee.
Addie Blanchard co-hosts this week’s No Vacancy Open Mic at Hotel Foster at 8 p.m. Thursday. Friday night, she’ll host the Caffeinated Comedy Hour at Sherman Perk at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Blanchard will co-host and co-produce a special 1 p.m. (free) matinee Sorry Not Sorry showcase at Riverwest Public House.