Stand-up comedy is widely considered to be among the most difficult forms of entertainment to master. Like anything, the earlier one starts, the more lumps he or she can incur on the way to developing a set that’s both seasoned and special. If the “10,000 hours” theory of artistic expertise is accurate, Milwaukee comic Greg Bach, 36, is behind much of his comedic brood. However, with fewer than three years of stand-up experience to his credit, the once-aspiring lawyer with improv origins is piling on the sets, and plowing through growing pains in an effort to play comic catch-up. This weekend finds Bach performing in two notable comedy happenings. Prior to setting the stage for Los Angeles’ Vanessa Fraction and co-launching his “Dynamo Kickstand” sketch show, Bach told us of his late arrival to his “all-consuming part of comedy,” and the still-unseen tipping point of Milwaukee comedy.
Milwaukee Record: What was your introduction to doing comedy?
Greg Bach: I went to school with the intention of being a lawyer, and I grew up watching ComedySportz. One night, I went to see a show and I thought “Improv would probably really help with the courtroom—just thinking on your toes,” so I started taking ComedySportz classes in 2006, and I started just growing into the scene. I was doing sketch and improv.
MR: You were pretty late to stand-up. What was the ultimate moment that you realized you wanted to do it? Was there a mental wall in your way?
GB: Yeah, it was fear, actually. I had a bunch of friends who were trying stand-up, and I was one of those improvisers who said, “I’ll never do stand-up” over and over again. A lot of improvisers do that, but it became more attractive to me. At 29, I said “I’m doing it before I’m 30,” then “Before I’m 31,” and “33! This is the year.” What happened is I took a class at Milwaukee Comedy with Erik Koconis teaching stand-up comedy, and I said “Why not?” I took it and I loved it. It became the all-consuming part of comedy that I like to do. But with my age being a factor, I have to hustle.
MR: I constantly see you doing showcases, and you’re involved in a lot of different camps. You do everything from 42 Lounge “nerd shows” to—for lack of a better word in this supportive scene—the harder rooms like Karma. It seems like you’re everywhere. Is that a conscious effort on your part to get your shit together and make up for lost time?
GB: Absolutely. I have to get shows, meet comedians, meet bookers, and learn how to do shows. For me, it’s all about work. I work a lot, and I try to do as much as possible with the time I have. I have a lot going against me with my age because I don’t have as much time. Luckily, I’m in a scene that’s so supportive.
GB: He’s a workhorse. His creative mind is amazing. He not only has ideas—a lot of us have ideas and we file them away or put them on the back burner—but he does them. He sees it to fruition. I’ve worked with him on many projects. He’s encouraging, but he knows what he wants. I watch him, and he doesn’t look to anyone for approval, and that helps me with pursing what I want to do.
MR: Outside the cast, what’s the background of the show?
GB: Stacy Pawlowski, Ryan, and myself wrote a sketch for Sketch 22 this summer. Ryan and I have been kicking around the idea for a sketch show. After that, I said “This is really good and really fun. We should do this.” We got together and discussed, then Dynamo Kickstand came about.
MR: By working with some grizzled vets, but still being relatively new to stand-up, what do you feel the state of the scene is? It seems like it’s ballooning, but there’s still room for growth. There’s no tipping point in sight yet.
GB: I think you’re right. There’s a comedy boom all over the world, and there’s definitely a comedy boom in Milwaukee. You had a lot of comedians who had nowhere to go, and it got to the point where people said, “We need more rooms.” Then one breeds another, which begats another, which begats another and—boom—you have all these great people showing up. Every six months you have a whole new crop of people. Something about this scene is everyone is blue collar. They have jobs, families, and they support themselves. We have precious time and we use it well.
MR: I saw that you have end-of-year goals of certain cities and festivals you’d like to do shows in. What do you feel you have to do in order to get to that point? Being older, but newer in the art form, what do you think you have to do to shorten the path?
GB: To do it, it’s just about getting the shows and meeting comedians. I do shows in Chicago three or four times a month, and I’ve never gotten paid there, and I don’t care. I’m getting shows off it, and I’m getting better shows. The only roadblock is myself. I could sit there and say, “I’m 36. Why am I working so hard? Because in four years, who knows…” If someone’s not giving you a show, look for another show. If someone’s not giving you that show, start your own show.
Greg Bach will perform as part of Caste Of Killers’ semi-monthly showcase (featuring L.A.-based headliner Vanessa Fraction) Friday, October 17 at Karma Bar & Grill. October 18, his Dynamo Kickstand sketch show will premiere at The Underground Collaborative.