Last night, Milwaukee Record held the 3rd annual Roast Of Milwaukee at Club Garibaldi. In addition to giving local media personalities and comedians a chance to rib the city they love and collecting donations for Milwaukee Women’s Center, the event functioned as an informal way to kickoff the Milwaukee Comedy Festival. Entering its 12th installment, the festival has grown, expanded, and improved mightily through the years to become a juggernaut of sketch, stand-up, and improv that includes 12 shows at five locations over the course of six days.
Given all the shows, locations, and performers involved in this year’s festivities, figuring out the show(s) for you could be a daunting task. Fortunately, we’ve assembled this useful guide to help ease any comedic quandaries. Here’s a few details about what you can expect between tonight’s pre-kickoff event at 88Nine headquarters, all the way through Sunday’s finale that features Michael Ian Black. (All shows listed in order of host to headliner.)
Single-day passes (for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday shows) cost $15 in advance or $20 at doors. Weekend passes are $50, which includes the Turner Hall finale.
Tuesday, August 1 – 7:30 p.m. (88Nine Studios)
The festival starts strong with an especially great display of locals. Relative newcomer Dana Ehrmann has quickly made a name for herself in town after memorable Cream City Comedy and PrideFest sets. Nate Seek has hit his stride since moving back from upstate New York. Milwaukee comedy stalwarts Tyler Menz and Greg Bach can always be counted upon for quality material, and Wisconsin ex-pat Nate Craig returns to his home state shortly after a run of U.S. and Canadian shows, including some opening slots for Bill Burr. Best yet, this show is free!
Wednesday, August 2 – 7 p.m. (Lakefront Brewery)
The fun continues Wednesday night with a rare weekday version of Milwaukee Comedy’s popular Keg Stand Up showcase. This particular show features a smattering of Midwestern comedians, topped by musician-turned tour manager-turned comedian Mat Alano-Martin from Indiana. As another pre-festival kickoff event and not an official show, it should be noted the show’s cover is $7 in advance or $10 the night of the show.
Thursday, August 3 – 7:30 p.m. (The Underground Collaborative)
Though they sit on polar opposite ends of the comic spectrum, Ton Johnson and Mike Berg are two of the city’s most unique and all-around best comic voices. Before they provide the main course, Variety Hour happy hour and Elijah Holbrook will be satisfying appetizer.
Variety Hour Happy Hour (Sketch)
Friday, August 4 – 7:30 p.m. (The Underground Collaborative)
Christopher Schmidt is the reigning Milwaukee’s Funniest Stand-Up Comedian titleholder, and he’s only gotten better since claiming the honor in 2015. His set alone warrants attendance, but he’s just one of four comics on Friday’s early show. You’re in for a treat.
Friday, August 4 – 10 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Milwaukee-based comedian (and mimosa policy changer) Josh Ballew hosts a rock solid late show that’s anchored by sidesplitting Chicago comic Prateek Srivastava.
Saturday, August 5 – 4 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Milwaukee funnyman Matt Werner’s winning material has earned him ample club work throughout the state, as well as a spot on this early showcase on Saturday. If he’s the host, you can only imagine what’s in store after he gives way to Two, Too’s improv, Funeral Twins, and Jake West.
Two, Too (Improv)
Saturday, August 5 – 6 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Not to be confused with the other David Roth, the non-musical Roth will host an early evening grab bag of stand-up and improv.
Last Action Movie (Improv)
Saturday, August 5 – 8 p.m. (Shank Hall)
Had Michael Ian Black not been booked for Sunday’s finale, this Shank Hall showcase would probably take the cake as far as the fest’s starpower is concerned. Actors Lahna Turner, Jill-Michele Melean, and Debra Wilson from the just-released film, This Is Meg, will treat festers to some stand-up. You might also know Wilson from her nine seasons as one of the bright spots on MadTV. Melean was in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and a few episodes of Reno 911!
Saturday, August 5 – 11 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Though Milwaukee Comedy Festival truly showcases national talent, the fest also celebrates some of the city’s best up-and-coming comic voices. Fresh off a memorable Roast Of Milwaukee performance, AJ Grill will begin the late show on a strong note. Later, notable local comic and international battle rapper Carter Deems will bring his hilarious absurdity to The UC.
Sunday, August 6 – 2 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Whether performing in her one-woman show, commanding sketches, or doing stand-up, Stacy Pawlowski is a force to be reckoned with. Leave brunch early to get a start on a Sunday Funny-day that headlined by her and hosted by Milwaukee’s own Joe Murphy. Improvised Jane Austen and Live from LaCrosse will add a dash of improv and sketch to the mix, respectively.
Improvised Jane Austen (Improv)
Live from LaCrosse (Sketch)
Sunday, August 6 – 4 p.m. (Underground Collaborative)
Ballew is back to host a mid-day affair in the Grand Ave’s basement before local sketch troupe Sketch Marks takes the stage, then gives way to Dan Marse-Kapr and Matt Griffo.
Sketch Marks (Sketch)
Matt Griffo (Musical Comedy)
Sunday, August 6 – 8 p.m. (Turner Hall)
The five-day laugh fest will culminate with an August 6 Turner Hall show headlined by actor, author, and comedian Michael Ian Black, who is making his Milwaukee return after more than three years. Prior to the Wet Hot American Summer, The State, and Stella star’s set, standout Milwaukee transplant David Louis and Green Bay’s John Egan will start things off.
Michael Ian Black