Though he got his start in stand-up when he was growing up in the Twin Cities, KC Michelson says Milwaukee shaped him as a comedian. After taking time off to study film, Michelson returned to stage in 2013. Since then, Milwaukee comedy has grown and developed immensely and Michelson was indisputably a part of that. Beyond performing regularly and hosting Caste Of Killers’ weekly open mic, the comic is a co-host of Levity Radio on Riverwest Radio, and he puts his degree to use with his hilariously boozy-fueled “Having A Few” Web series.
Next month, Michelson will take his versatility, work ethic, and Milwaukee made material to Los Angeles in the latest instance of the ongoing comedic exodus. Before he packs his bags and puts Levity Radio to bed on Tuesday, Milwaukee Record caught up with Michelson to revisit his origin into Milwaukee comedy, discuss his experience hosting a weekly radio show, and get insight on his decision to take his talents out west.
Milwaukee Record: Since you got back to stand-up, how has local comedy developed over the two years you’ve been doing comedy here? What are some changes and improvements you’ve noticed?
KC Michelson: When I was starting, the open mics seemed like they were getting decent turnout as it were, but as far as how many shows were going on, I only really knew about the Comedy Café and the Caste Of Killers showcase at Karma Bar And Grill. Now, there are so many different shows going on. Milwaukee Comedy is a whole section of the comedy scene. They have Brian Posehn headlining their festival, which gives it more notoriety. More big names are coming than before and there’s a rise of local comics putting on their own shows independently. A lot motivated people have come into the scene around the same time I did.
MR: Of all the people that you’ve met and have come up with here, who are some of the comics you’ve bonded with the most. I know you host the Karma open mic on Wednesday, and you have Levity Radio with Allison [Dunne] and Josh [Ballew] for another week.
KM: Yeah, Allison and Josh, we’re kind of in the same group of comics—me, them, Sammy [Arechar], Liz [Ziner]—we’re all kind of the same age, and we all came up around the same time. We’re in that “Frat Pack” or whatever you want to call it. Mario Robinson, who is one of the initial fathers of Caste Of Killers, he maybe doesn’t realize it, but kind of my mentor. He kind of took me under his wing when I first started showing up. He’s a veteran, experience comic who has been doing it for, like, nine years. Yeah, I’ll go on the road with him. I’ll do shows with him all around Wisconsin. He taught me a lot of stuff, not just the art itself, but about the business and how to get paid, things like that. And then Jason Hillman, of course, gave me a lot of opportunities.
MR: Well, you’re leaving and a lot of the other names you mentioned will be leaving soon. But unlike them, you’ll be leaving with a dual reason because you graduated with a film degree. What led to wanting to move at this point? Do you feel that you’re ready or do you just want something new because you’ve hit the ceiling here?
KM: Stand-up was one of the last branches of comedy that I reached out to. I had the Union Sketch Show with the guys that I’m moving to L.A. with. We did two seasons of it in college. We’ve always been writers. I mean, we acted in it, but we’ve always been writers and we like to write episodic TV [format] and we have degrees in film. There are so many other facets to what I want to do that I feel that L.A. is a good place. Stand-up is the newest thing that I’ve lurched into.
MR: An unfortunate byproduct of you moving and the other hosts moving is that Levity [Radio] will be ending. What has the experience of having a weekly radio show that you need to prepare for and do like? Will it be something that you miss?
KM: I like doing Levity on Tuesday nights. It’s kind of a gleaming light at the end of the tunnel for what’s mostly a mundane, average day of the week. We started with me, Nate Seek, and Josh as Killer Radio, then rebranded to Levity after two episodes. When Allison came in, we started free-forming it based on what the guests say and the bands we have on say. Actually, our funniest episodes were when we had bands come on, not comedians, because we can riff off whatever they say and they’re the straight guys the whole time. It’s an exercise of off-the-cuff material in a radio format. The great thing about it is we’ve had almost everybody in the scene or anybody related to the scene on over the two years and 100-some episodes.
MR: Another series you do is the “Having A Few” web show. Are you bringing that idea with you to Los Angeles?
KM: Yeah, I’ll be releasing a few more episodes while I’m out there. Me and Josh haven’t set any plans to film any new ones because we already have five in the chamber.
MR: What has it been like to see people you know from comedy getting absolutely shitfaced?
KM: Filming it is fun because it’s us and a group of friends having a small party and then filming people. We get comedians just piss-faced hammered, beyond the capacity of good judgment. Then we get them in what we call the hot seat, which is the chair in front of the camera. Then me and Josh kind of provoke the comedian’s strengths. We know what they like to talk about and subjects they know about. I want it to be very loose and in the moment. The low budget aspect is kind of the aesthetic. Comedians love to riff, but when you get them drunk it facilitates things people usually wouldn’t. We just catch 30 to 60 seconds of that. It’s just another documentation of the scene and its history.