The Milwaukee Comedy Festival will officially kick off next Thursday. Going on its 11th year, the event pre-dates the city’s still-swelling comic boom, and certainly helped local comedy evolve, through shining a light on some of the excellent talent right here in town, bringing out-of-town humorists Milwaukee’s way, and letting both know that—at least for a few days in August—locals are ready to come out and laugh.

Last year’s Milwaukee Comedy Festival was the biggest and best yet, with more shows and performers than ever, including accomplished alt-comic Brian Posehn capping off the festivities at Turner Hall. This year’s festival (August 4-7) looks even better, including even more shows, increasingly diverse entertainment mediums at strange and exciting places, and established comedian and New York Times best-selling author Jen Kirkman headlining the whole thing. If you haven’t bought your tickets to some or all the fun, allow Milwaukee Record—a proud sponsor—to get you up to speed on everything you need to know about the 2016 Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

The laughs start early with pre-festival kickoff events
We say the festival will “officially kick off” next Thursday, but the fun actually starts next Tuesday night with Milwaukee Record‘s Roast Of Milwaukee at Club Garibaldi. There, nine local comedians and area movers and shakers will make fun of dear old Milwaukee, hopefully out of a place of love. The lineup includes Chastity Washington (a touring comic who has appeared on HBO and BET), Christopher Schmidt (reigning Milwaukee’s Funniest Comedian title holder), OnMilwaukee‘s Molly Snyder, and “The Big Show” radio host Ramie Makhlouf, among others, and music from Brat Sounds.

Wednesday, the pre-Fest funniness will move to Lakefront Brewery, where Milwaukee comics Phil Davidson, Ton Johnson, and Bekah Cosgrove will set the stage for Chicago (by way of the United Kingdom, by way of Australia) comedian Adam Burke. Both kickoff shows are free if you have a ticket to any Milwaukee Comedy Festival show. More info on both shows can be found HERE.

The Fest blends local and national talent, often on the same show
Being the Milwaukee Comedy Festival and all, it’s only fitting that some of the lineup has local ties. Some shows are composed entirely of area comedians. Others balance out touring talent from L.A., Chicago, New York, and Portland with local favorites and up-and-coming homegrown humorists. You’ll get to see a wealth of comic performers, with a high likelihood of seeing something you’ll be able to witness again locally if you enjoy it.

Shows offer a mix of stand-up, sketch, and improv
Though every show features at least one stand-up comedian, many performances also include improvisors, musical comedy acts, and sketch troupes to address every person’s preferred medium, while also adding an eclectic element to every show by exposing people to new formats before or after the thing they came to see.

They’ve added podcasts and other offbeat events
After dipping its toes into the world of live podcasts last year, Milwaukee Comedy Festival has upped the ante this year with two live podcast events, and one off-site variety show. On Saturday afternoon, Tyler Menz and Greg Bach‘s great Simpsons podcast, A Visitor’s Guide To Springfield, will start that day’s activity at Next Act Theatre (where the majority of shows will take place).

Sunday afternoon, the show will move to the basement of the Shops Of Grand Avenue, when Chicago-based showcase The Late Late Breakfast will start the final day of the festival off in The Underground Collaborative. After they clear the stage, Milwaukee Record‘s On The Record podcast will take over with a special live episode that will feature comedian/Comedy Festival co-producer Kaitlin McCarthy, veteran improviser and beer-throwing Old Milwaukee spokesperson Tim Higgins, and songs about butts during a special unplugged performance by The Blue Mooners. Games will be played, beer will be tossed, songs will be played, and fun will be had. After all that weirdness, the comedy will continue down the road to Turner Hall where…

Jen Kirkman headlines!
With her New York Times best-selling book, I Can Barely Take Care Of Myself: Tales From A Happy Life Without Kids, her self-flagellating Netflix special I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), and her Drunk History cameos that are equally unforgettable and unflattering, comedian Jen Kirkman has fashioned a veritable cottage industry from uproariously funny acknowledgements of her own alleged shortcomings. Since delighting Turner Hall last September, Kirkman’s star has grown even more. A few months after the release of her latest book, I Know What I’m Doing—And Other Lies I Tell Myself, hear material that’s bound to wind up on her next special. Before Kirkman brings the show home, Milwaukee native Allison Dunne will return from Chicago to open the show. Even if you can’t make it to the rest of the festival, this show is a can’t-miss.