With a little more than a year of true stage time to his credit, comedian Dylan Payne is part of an encouraging young crop of comics pushing Milwaukee stand-up onward after the city said goodbye to a handful of promising comics in 2015. With no shortage of stage time and a desire to continually improve, the young comic has made marked strides in recent months, and has seen his heady and observational material improve greatly as a result.
Thursday night, Payne will continue his upward ascent in the transitional comedy scene by lending local support to the Show Us Your Pokeballs, a showcase “For nerds, by nerds” at 42 Lounge. Before he takes the stage, the up-and-coming Milwaukee comic told Milwaukee Record about his stand-up origin, the importance of weeding out old material, and about his goal to “write the smartest fart joke ever told.”
Milwaukee Record: Just for a little background on you, when did you start doing stand-up?
Dylan Payne: I started doing stand-up around December of 2014. I had gone out to open mics a few times in college, mostly because a friend was there and around the end [of college] I decided I’d start doing it too, but nothing ever really came of that.
MR: What was the thing that eventually led you back to it?
DP: It was a pretty similar circumstance. A friend of mine was starting to do mics and was like, “Hey, come see me at Bremen [Cafe].” I had just moved back to Milwaukee and I wanted to see her and be supportive. The next week I went up, and then I started going up every other week, and eventually I just sort of started doing it.
MR: It seemed like within your first six months you got off to a pretty strong start. You got a few opportunities in showcases and seemed to be a regular around the open mics. Were the longer-tenured comics receptive to you or was there kind of competition?
DP: There’s more perceived opposition than there’s opposition. Sometimes veterans can seem indifferent, but it’s just that they’ve been doing it for years. I don’t think people started paying attention until I just started hanging out with them after mics. Some were like, “Oh, by the way, this is how you can make that joke you told better” or “This is what I like about it.” It really came from building personal relationships rather than just being there every week and waiting for a ticket to the club.
MR: And who were a few of the people who were especially helpful in getting you going?
DP: Gary Zajackowski is always super helpful, Patrick Tomlinson was very supportive, and you have Sammy Arechar who could just get everyone together to hang out at Y-Not II until two in the morning, and that’s how you get to know everybody.
MR: You mentioned Sammy. Around the time when you were getting some footing, he and Allison [Dunne] and Liz [Ziner], and a handful of other people were pretty much on their way out. Other than their absence itself, how have you seen the local comedy scene change? Do you feel like you and a few of the other newer people like Mike Berg and Addie [Blanchard] are injecting some new life into local comedy?
DP: It did open up a lot of opportunities. There’s still enough veterans and the Caste Of Killers are still out there, but, yeah, there are a lot more opportunities. There are shows every week that need people on them, and promoters who are always looking for new voices, and Milwaukee voices. They built the structure. We just had to adapt.
MR: It seems like with the relative ease of getting stage time, it’s a baptism by fire. You’re getting a lot of your licks out of the way early. Looking back to your start, are there any things you can’t believe you did?
DP: Oh yeah, there are a bunch of those. The second time up after seeing a Richard Pryor on PBS, that’s where you learn it’s more important to be funny than to be right. He was in comedy for 10 years before he did social commentary, so learn how to write a knock knock joke, you hack. It’s weird how quickly you make those jumps in the first year, then you kind of his this wall. A lot of people drop out about a year in if they don’t grow. I would never do what I started out doing again. It’s so embarrassing, so terrible, and now it’s the long and hard slog of how to get better at writing, perfecting a stage persona, and figure out how to work a crowd.
MR: But it seems as if you’re growing and you’re getting opportunities—including the one Thursday at 42 Lounge. If I’m not wrong, that features Iowa-based comics here for the anime convention.
DP: Yeah, they just threw something on the Milwaukee comedy board and asked for videos. Finally, after many attempts, I found a video I was okay with and I sent that in and they asked me and Jon Kuderer to be a part of it.
MR: Do you peg yourself to be a—quote—nerd comic, meaning do you feel your material is a good fit or did you write a new set specifically for this?
DP: It’s not entirely new stuff. Like, I have a bit about how ewoks aren’t cute, so obviously there’s some nerd humor mixed with the high brow. I guess my goal in comedy is to write the smartest fart joke ever told. I lot of stuff i do is more nerd than anything else. I don’t know if I’d call myself a nerd comic, but more of an observational comic who tries to sound smart but clearly isn’t.
Dylan Payne will perform as part of the Show Us Your Pokeballs comedy showcase at 42 Lounge on Thursday, March 10. The free show begins at 9 p.m.