Ever since we spoke to Dana Ehrmann last year, the young Milwaukee comedian’s stand-up career has been on the rise. On top of anchoring countless local shows, and earning spots on comedy festivals in Milwaukee and around the Midwest, Ehrmann has also gotten an opportunity to tour the state and perform for massive audiences as the go-to opener for Charlie Berens (of “Manitowoc Minute” fame).
Though she’s far busier than ever, Ehrmann found time to begin a new comedy showcase at a sandwich shop in her native West Allis. Before the first “Live From The Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli” show on Thursday, November 1 and in advance of her pair of Pabst Theater performances in support of Berens on Saturday, November 3, Milwaukee Record spoke to Ehrmann about her newfound stand-up successes, the unfair criticism her hometown receives, and what to expect from her new showcase.
Milwaukee Record: Not even counting our Roast Of Milwaukee event, I’ve seen your name on a lot more lineups, and you’ve racked up some great opening credits—including a bunch of shows with Charlie Berens. How have things been building for you since the last time we spoke?
Dana Ehrmann: Things have been really great and I’ve been having a lot of fun with comedy. The summer was crazy busy with shows, and now I feel like I’ve branched out more into doing out-of-state shows and festivals, and also working to get in some clubs. I feel like I’m going in the right direction.
MR: Back to Berens for a bit, opening for him has brought you to way bigger rooms and has taken you all around the state. Has that been a crash course in comedy for you? Do you think it’s helped speed up your development?
DE: I think, no doubt, getting to do shows with him has accelerated my progress. Any show I’ve ever done with Charlie has had an audience minimum of 600, all the way up to 1,300. Doing well in a room like that is confidence-building and has pretty much eliminated a lot of the anxiety I used to have doing shows in front of 20 people in a dive bar, you know? And then to be able to tell a booker that I’ve done shows with him successfully, and even show a clip from it, is a huge plus that moves me forward. I’m very grateful.
MR: Are you opening for him any time soon? Will you be performing at this weekend’s Pabst shows?
DE: I am! I just got done opening for him in Manitowoc. This weekend, we’ll do Platteville on Friday, and then we’ll come back to Milwaukee to do two shows at the Pabst Theater Saturday night. It’s insane to me that I’m gonna get to do that. The Pabst is where I saw my first concert ever, so it’ll definitely be special.
MR: Okay, I’m done asking you about the “Manitowoc Minute” guy now. Onto you, as a West Allis native, why was it important to bring stand-up to the city? I don’t really know of much else happening in regard to stand-up there.
DE: That’s kind of just it. When I figured out that I wanted to produce a show, I wanted to do it in West Allis because there’s no comedy going on there. The first open mic I ever went to was at what used to be The Painted Parrot. But that’s long gone. There are so many great shows in Milwaukee proper, and hopefully we can bring a little of that into the suburbs, and entertain people in a way they might not get too often.
MR: Do you think West Allis gets a bad rap? What are some stigmas or stereotypes you’d like to either confirm or correct about the community?
DE: It does, for sure. It’s blue collar, working class—a.k.a. not rich—and that’s the extent of it. There’s nothing wrong with that. My mom is also a native, and it had the same stigma even when she was growing up. I think that’s part of it. It’s just so hard to change a reputation, and I know they’re working hard on that. It’s passed down. You hear other people talk down on West Allis, so you internalize it and you start doing it, too. When I went to college, new people I’d meet would make fun of West Allis, and then I’d dig deeper and find out they’d never even been there. Get off your high horse, theater major from Kaukauna.
MR: And what brought about “Live From The Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli” showcase of all things? Why did you feel a West Alis deli is a conducive site for a comedy show?
DE: Well, whether a deli is conducive for a comedy show remains to be seen. But I think it’s a cool place, and that’s the appeal. Hopefully people will say, “not only do I want to laugh, but I also want to see what the PB&J Deli is like,” since there’s nothing like it. Plus, the ownership is really supportive and excited about the idea.
MR: What can people expect at this first show? And how often will these be happening?
DE: Audiences can expect good food and drinks along with some of the best comics in the area. From 7 to 8 p.m. before the show, there’s a beer tasting, and you can order sandwiches. Then when the show starts at 8, you can still buy alcohol, and you’ll get a good hour or hour and a half of laughs. As long as nothing goes seriously amiss, we’d like to do this on the first Thursday night of every month.
MR: After that show and the weekend with Charlie, what’s next for you? Any other appearances or notable opening slots we can look forward to?
DE: I’m doing the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival in Madison on November 8, featuring on the new Dells Game Show December 21-22, and opening up for Adam Grabowski at my alma mater, Carthage College, in January. There’s lots to look forward to.
MR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DE: Bucks in six.
Dana Ehrmann will host “Live From The Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli” on Thursday, November 1. She’ll also open for Charlie Berens at Pabst Theater (two shows) on Saturday, November 3.