Almost two weeks ago, approximately 30 comedians from Milwaukee (and a few from Madison) stacked their material against one another while participating in Caste Of Killers’ fourth annual Battle Royale. After three preliminary rounds and tons of smack talk, the final 12 gathered in the basement of Karma Bar & Grill Friday night to decide, once and for all, which of them would be “Milwaukee’s Funniest Comedian” for the next year. In the end, Christopher Schmidt would emerge victorious.
After a dozen comics performed seven-minute sets, at least six competitors could have easily advanced. With ballots and the judges (Packers great LeRoy Butler, COK members Eric Thorson and Jason Hillman, and yours truly) gridlocked, the field of three finalists expanded to four competitors performing eight-minute sets instead of 10 minutes. One of the favored comics, Sammy Arechar, came out wearing a Packers coat and eventually shed it to expose the Milwaukee Record shirt he was wearing underneath. However, the exaggerated gestures to appeal to the judges and his always hilarious beat-boxing closer wasn’t enough to take him to the promise land, as some of his best material seemed lost on the exhausted and largely-intoxicated audience that had just seen 84 straight minutes of stand-up. Darkhorse Liz Ziner easily earned a spot in the finals, having wisely saved her best material for her memorable, energetic, and fearless round for Karma. However, the relative newcomer was then left with a lighter set when the Final Four came around. Like the Gonzaga of Milwaukee comedy, she (the runner up) is now on people’s radar and will be in the conversation in coming years. Third place winner and radio personality Rammie Makhlouf—who crushed in his Club Garibaldi preliminary round—came strong with sparsely used material about owning a pitbull and self-deprecating bits about the state of his body after losing more than 100 pounds, but, like Ziner, his strongest material came during the combined 12 minutes that got him to the finals.
Schmidt, with his rapid-fire and intense arsenal of jokes about being unlovable, bits about his new-found mustache, and no shortage of groan-inducing puns echoed his sturdy, side-splitting set earlier in the evening with an even more formidable final eight minutes. While he wasn’t responsible for the biggest laughs of the night, he offered the greatest volume and preparation. He was the unanimous judge’s choice for the title. Congratulations to all the finalists for making the tournament a hilarious and highly-competitive event.