Say what you will about the station’s music rotation that pretty much ranges from The Offspring to Pearl Jam to that song where the dude yells “SAIL!” and back to The Offspring again, but FM102.1—and, more specifically, morning DJ Jon Adler—can be counted among the shockingly few sources of comedic support in Milwaukee media. On-air personalities are known to interview touring comedians on their way to town to perform. Alder will discuss stand-up comics between dated “independent” and “alternative” songs, and for a few years, Adler and his former partner Brian Kramp brought such coveted comic commodities has Marc Maron, Kristen Schaal, and Eugene Mirman to Turner Hall for their yearly “Kramp & Adler’s Comedy Festival.”
After Kramp was made a casualty of a struggling medium back in 2013, the comedy show was put on the shelf. However, it returned to Turner Hall on Friday, when a litany of laughsmiths took the stage for the inaugural Adler’s Fall Comedy Classic. An especially odd way to begin the show, the eponymous emcee came out to introduce the performers—the Sklar Brothers, Nikki Glaser, and Jon Dore—by repeatedly stressing how reasonable the lineup was. “I wasn’t asking for Louis CK or Chris Rock,” he said before rattling off a few other names of more successful comics than the four he’d booked. Now left to expect a night of perfectly average comedy from an admittedly attainable cast of comics, the packed ballroom first welcomed last-minute opener Jon Dore, who was filling in for Brody Stevens.
The Canadian comic wasted little time winning over the room with a heft of crowdwork (including a mid-set leap off the stage to follow a woman to the bathroom and tearing into a man wearing a Ninja Turtles tank top), some covert crassness, and spoilers from The Wire. Dore went past his allotted time and offered the other comics warnings about sound issues. In all, Dore had the most memorable set of the night, and at more than 45 minutes, also the longest one.
With a starring role in a forthcoming Comedy Central show and increased notoriety from her regular @midnight and podcast appearances, feature act Nikki Glaser is a comedian destined for bigger things. Her airtight and fearless material about things like “reluctant” porn, being most attracted to her boyfriend when he held a baby—”Is there a way he could fuck me holding a baby? If you know a blind baby, all the better.”—and wanting to use a surrogate because she suffers from “tight pussy syndrome” only served to justify the budding comic’s upward trajectory. On a minute-by-minute basis, Glaser turned in the night’s best set. Unfortunately, it was only 25 minutes. If things keep progressing as they seem to be, hopefully she’ll have an hour of material when she comes back to headline at Turner next year.
After Adler repeated his bit about his “reasonable list” of comedians he requested for the show, followed by rattling off more names of other (more famous) comedians he didn’t try to book, veteran twin brother comedy team Randy and Jason Sklar quickly ingratiated themselves to the ballroom with some localized humor about being force fed sausages by Clay Matthews. That was the first sports salvo is what turned out to be a 45-minute set heavy in athlete acknowledgements. They used a report of NFLer Bryant McKinnie’s $300k debt for unpaid lap dances to begin a bit about strip clubs. They combined on a back and forth impersonation of Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on the NBA on TNT set and squeezed the remaining dregs of relevance from a well-worn Donald Sterling routine.
The fathers took a few timeouts from sports jokes to take on domestic issues like fatherhood, a debate about cat people and dog people, and one of their sons being interested in Pokemon. (“Turns out it’s just futuristic anime cockfighting.”) Their well-rehearsed two-pronged routine saw them trading rapid fire punchlines about “hipster ghosts” haunting homes and judging record collections. They also donned southern accents for especially satisfying material about liberal hillbillies. However, the night neared its conclusion with a semi-sports-related story about the twins pestering their dad to take them to Hall Of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith’s restaurant so they could meet him, bringing the evening of eclectic humor to a close.
Adler was right in suggesting there were better options out there, but the subtle and “realistic” relaunching of the best thing the station’s name is attached to all year was a pretty good way to pick up where “Kramp & Adler’s Comedy Festival” left off.