If Milwaukee’s comedy scene was a baseball team, Christopher Schmidt would be the trusty utility man—able to be slotted anywhere in the batting order, moved virtually everywhere on the diamond, brought in cold during most any situation, and still be able to perform at a high level. Local stand-up’s version of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers’ Jerry Hairston Jr. writes for and performs as “Chris The Intern” in late night TV-inspired sketch show, The Goodnight Milwaukee Show. He hosts the Duck & Cover comedy open mic at Frank’s Power Plant every Tuesday night, and he regularly performs his own material in comedy showcases in Milwaukee and other stages around the state.
Before Schmidt takes the stage as part of Friday’s Cactus Club Comedy & Music Show, we spoke to the versatile humorist about the significance of taking on new comedic opportunities, the importance of writing jokes daily, and the somehow-still-growing list of new comedy avenues he hopes to explore in the coming months.
Milwaukee Record: It seems like you wear a lot of hats in Milwaukee’s comedy scene. You write and perform sketches with The Goodnight Milwaukee Show. You host the open mic every week, and you perform your own stand-up sets at other people’s events. Why is it important to have the versatility and how does that help you develop?
Christopher Schmidt: I remember one of the first pieces of advice I got, this older comedian I did the ComedySportz workshops with said, “Just get as much stage time as possible.” This was even before I started doing stand-up, but it stuck with me. That’s why I go to as many open mics as possible and started taking whatever came my way. When Tyler [Menz] and Jake [Kornely] asked if I wanted to do Goodnight Milwaukee, it was a chance to develop my writing and take a different approach to what I do on stage. Then Tom [Grimm] asked if I wanted to host Down & Over [open mic] with him before it turned over to Frank’s. Hosting is a different skill. Whatever you do on stage is going to get you more comfortable in different ways, and that’s going to add to your performance.
MR: I know the back story about the move to Frank’s. We’ve written about it before, but what has it been like so far compared to Down & Over?
CS: It’s been cool. I think the room is a lot better suited to stand-up comedy, and especially to an open mic. Down & Over was just so notoriously cavernous. It’s such a big room, so if 15 people turned out, they were scattered across this big space. You kind of need people to be closer together to get that contagious laughter effect. Being at Frank’s, the room is more intimate, people are closer to the stage, and I just think it looks cooler. Also, I like that the bar is separated from the room. You might get some incidental traffic from people who come to the bar and just drift into the back room.
MR: What are some interesting incidents that have happened during your hosting experience?
CS: The Joke Thief nights have been great, especially in the tighter room. It was genuinely full and had a really good energy to it. I think that’s going to be kind of the signature event of this mic.
MR: You’re bringing it back then? Quarterly?
CS: Yeah, I’m thinking every three months or so.
MR: Beyond the open mic hosting and The Goodnight Milwaukee Show, what are some of the goals or aspirations you have in terms of your own stand-up?
CS: My personal motivation is just to keep getting better. I don’t have career goals, so much as I just want to get as good as this as I can. Whatever I can do, I think is going to add up to me getting a better stage presence, bettering my delivery, and bettering my writing. Right now, I write every single day. Every day, I’d like to put a page [of material] in my notebook at least because the more you write, the more you’ll develop. Hopefully, growing as a comedian will help me grow to be able to perform outside the city, and get out to perform in different places. This year I’m going to start applying to more festivals. I’d like to get to Chicago and Madison more.
MR: You’ve written, you’ve done sketch, you’ve done hosting, and other people’s shows to this point. Are there any other formats that you’d eventually like to delve into?
CS: I was just talking to somebody today about how I would like—and this sounds awful now—to try podcasting at some point. I’d like to do more video sketches and just try different forms of media. I would like to try to eventually produce my own showcase.
MR: As far as the Cactus Club showcase this weekend, have you ever done one before?
CS: I haven’t, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve gone to a few and they’re cool. It’s going to be cool to try Cactus Club as a comedian this time because I’ve played there a couple times before in bands. It’ll be interesting to take the stage for a different reason. I thought the Cactus Club stage was out of my reach.
Christopher Schmidt will perform at the Cactus Club Comedy & Music Show Friday, October 10 as part of a lineup that also includes Liz Ziner, Ramie Makhlouf, Stephen Sellers, Lisan Wood, Jeff Wheatley-Heckman, Ryan Holman, and music from The Cavewives. The show begins at 9:30 p.m. and costs $7.