Jessie Mahne does it all. Since first taking the stage in 2007, the Swiss Army Knife of Milwaukee comedy has done stand-up, sketch, improv, musical comedy, and character acting. Off stage, the versatile humorist also has a podcast, works on a Web series, and even gives an impressive collection of local comedians haircuts. The multi-faceted Milwaukee comic will showcase some of her many comedic qualifications Friday night, as two shorts in which she’s featured will screen during a show…where she will be performing with her sketch troupe and, if all goes to planned, playing a song or two. Somehow, Mahne stopped performing for long enough to sit down with Milwaukee Record and discuss her well-rounded approach to making people laugh.
Milwaukee Record: You’re in both of the shorts that will be screening at Friday’s RagTime show. One was a Ryan Lowe and Lisan Wood project where I think there was one member of the cast that wasn’t involved in stand-up. Did that show on set? Was everyone fun and easy-going?
Jessie Mahne: I thought it was really fun. It was a really chill film set. You know, you’re doing one location and a handful of takes. I thought it was pretty quiet on set the whole time. People were just respecting the process. For me, it was really cool to see some of the stand-ups in town doing a little bit of acting, and it was all character acting, which is a lot easier. It’s a lot more comfortable to do character acting. For me, straight man acting is hard because you can’t be kooky, and usually stand-up comedians have a kooky side.
MR: With the other short, This Is How Girls Have Fun, you’re playing Mo, who I assume is a friend of the main character.
JM: Yeah, Mo is the maid of honor and I do the voiceover throughout the whole film. It’s kind of a film through my perspective of the bachelorette party. I haven’t seen the final cut, so I don’t know how it’s edited, but I know it’s a very fast-paced and colorful film. Lisan was in that, too, and she played another one of the bridesmaids. The people on that set, I’ve been working with them for about three years. We have a web series called Instant Show Repair, so doing films with them was awesome. The writer and director, Jackie Poeschl, was the brains behind everything. She’s a MIAD graduate getting her masters in fine arts. We’ve been best friends since we were nine years old, and we’ve been doing little film projects together since then.
MR: Without having seen the final cut, where do you feel the film lands in terms of genre? Is it a comedy? Or was it funny people playing outside their comfort zones?
JM: Definitely outside of the comfort zone. I think it ended up being a dramatic comedy because there is a plot, there’s a climax and, I mean, it’s funny how obnoxious the characters are. There’s stereotypes. Mo is the maid of honor, so she thinks she knows best and everything that’s going on is sort of bullshit. Lisan plays the typical lesbian bridesmaid. Then Rae [Buth] and Amanda [Sinko] where the insufferable bridesmaids that were already married, so they know everything about bachelorette parties, and Selena [Milewski]—she plays the bride—was the straight man, basically. So all of us all had our specific characters. In real life, I wouldn’t be that aggressive. In real life, Lisan is not a lesbian. In real life, Amanda and Rae aren’t assholes. There’s a lot of shenanigans that happen and props. There’s a lot of dildos in it.
MR: You have experience in acting, in stand-up, in sketch, and I watched you do some music at the fire benefit at Boone & Crockett. Of all that stuff, how do you identify yourself as a comic?
JM: I just figured that out. I think I am into sketch comedy character acting and musical comedy. In fact, I want to start changing my stand-up to 60 percent music and 40 percent talking. I actually just joined two groups that will help me in those areas. I’m in the Variety Hour Happy Hour. That’s with Nick Firer and Brian Beyer, who are just ridiculously talented. I’ll be doing character acting in that. They also asked me to be in the Uncle Fergus Magic Whiskey Band. We use modern music and turn it into Irish drinking songs. I’m not going to stop doing stand-up, but if I’m going to do it, it’ll be musical.
MR: You’re basically the unofficial barber of the Milwaukee comedy scene. Is that going to be something you’ll turn into something, like a podcast where you ask questions while cutting people’s hair?
JM: Yeah. I ripped off Jerry Seinfeld. It’s “Comedians In Kitchens Getting Haircuts.” I want to film it. I’m planning to make the podcast that, since I do the haircuts a lot more often.
MR: You should call it “Shave Time” instead of “Stage Time” then. It’s already hard enough to ask interesting interview questions and keep the conversation rolling. Is it extra pressure knowing you hold the fate of whether or not a person leaves the house wearing a hat for the next month?
JM: I love it. I’m pretty stoked that I found a creative outlet that I can eventually make money at. When I first started doing comedy and music, I was like, “How sweet would it be if I made a living doing this?” But barbering is super creative as well and hopefully I’ll be making a living doing that with comedy as well. It’s exciting and awesome that these guys let me practice on them. I see Matt Werner every month, Greg Bach every month. I see Jason Hillman pretty often. I see James Boland every single month. They trust me enough to have me show up in their kitchen and cut their hair when there’s plenty of really good barber shops in town.
Jessie Mahne will be featured in two shorts—This Is How Girls Have Fun and It’s A Birthday, Charlie Brown!—and will perform sketches with Variety Hour Happy Hour at RagTime and Lone Wolf Comedy’s Comedic Double Feature at The Underground Collaborative on Friday, April 24. The show begins at 8 p.m. and costs $10 at the door (or $7 advance).