In a year that has seen an unprecedented exodus of talented comedians leaving Milwaukee in search of increased opportunities in more established comedy communities, it’s refreshing to see a stand-up comedian come back to Milwaukee’s comedy scene. To be clear, Liza Marie didn’t move away, but the Ragtime Variety Hour co-producer wouldn’t dispute the assertion that 2015 was probably the slowest of her seven years in Milwaukee’s comedy scene. After taking some time away, though, Marie has returned with new material, a newfound confidence, and every intention to perform as often as possible in 2016. Before performing at Cactus Club on Friday night and Riverwest Public House on Sunday afternoon, the local veteran discussed what prompted her hiatus from humor, the joys of dating a fellow comedian, and the state of Milwaukee comedy compared to recent years.
Milwaukee Record: I know I saw you at the Midwest Gaming Classic back in April, but it seems like you haven’t been doing as many shows as usual this year. Why is that? Is it due to other factors in your life or were you trying to write new material?
Liza Marie: It was both. My life was a little bit in shambles, and I was pretty sick of my old material. Actually, I was really sick of my old material. I didn’t really have any inspiration. Nothing was hitting for me to write anything new. Then within the past four or five months, shit has been happening. My sister got engaged, so I have new bits about that, then it leads into my current relationship. I know this might sound stereotypical, but I’ve always done jokes about my life, and that’s what’s going on in my life.
MR: Yeah, speaking of the relationship, you’re dating Matty Field. In what ways has dating another local stand-up affected your material? Do you workshop eachother’s jokes and do you feel safe to say anything about him on stage because you know he’d do the same about you?
LM: Yeah, and he has. I actually do have a joke about him being racist. I like dating a comic because it’s fun to workshop ideas off of eachother, but that also comes with being friends with comics. I’ll literally be having a conversation with Greg Bach or Lisan [Wood] and I can tell they’re working out a bit on me, and I do the same thing. And they offer constructive criticism and they’re not going to kiss your ass about it. If something sucks, they’re going to tell you, and I never take it personally.
MR: Yeah, because it’s all for the greater good of developing and refining your material. It might hurt your feelings once, but make the joke that much better or at least help you look at it in a different way.
LM: Exactly. And with Matty, I have a joke about how my boyfriend is going through a divorce. I did it off the cuff at one of the Var Gallery shows and saw him in the audience laughing. Of course I asked him about adding it [to my set] after and he said, “Fuck yeah! If it gets a laugh, it gets a laugh!” He didn’t care.
MR: So you’re back with some new material. I took a month or so away from covering shows and when I got back, I was like, “Whoa! Who are any of these people?” Once you started going up again, was it like that for you?
LM: What I like about the Milwaukee scene is that it never dies. New people are coming in all the time. Yes, who are all of these young people? I have been in and out of the scene for seven years now, and new people never cease to come out.
MR: Overall, though, is there anyone from the new crop that you see promise in or whose material you’ve liked early on?
LM: Addie Blanchard. I think she’s hilarious. I think she’s super fresh. She’s got a really good voice. I like her stage presence and her jokes just really crack me up. I saw her at the last Sorry Not Sorry like a month ago. She’s definitely a standout and she’s really gungho about putting on shows. She has like three shows that she produces or co-produces with Marisa [Lange]. I think that’s awesome.
MR: In your seven-plus years in this scene, what’s the state of it now compared to other years? I know this year saw a mass exodus of some great people, but are you encouraged by what you see or, compared to recent iterations, is local comedy in kind of a rebuilding stage?
LM: Well, we definitely lost some really strong people: Liz [Ziner], Allison [Dunne], Sammy [Arechar], and Josh [Ballew], but I don’t think that the scene is lacking. I think it’s still going. Even though we lost strong people, we’ve gained a lot of talented, ambitious people. I don’t mean to be sucking her dick, but Addie is definitely among them.
MR: Speaking of people that have left, though, a lot of them make sure to come back enough to perform. Liz and Allison will be on the show with you Friday. Are you excited to see them again?
LM: I haven’t seen Liz and Allison in a while and I’m anxious to see if they’ve got anything new. Allison has always cracked me up. I mean, they’re both really funny, but Allison is my favorite of the two. Print that.
MR: With new material and your amplified workload, what are your plans going forward? Are you going to perform more shows, resume your [Ragtime] showcase?
LM: Stacy Pawlowski had approached me about collaborating on a show with Ragtime. She does Dynamo Kickstand with Ryan Lowe and Greg Bach. It’s just a matter of getting together. Now that I have new material, I want to perform as much as possible because I feel confident now, and I feel like the material that I have is more me. Before, I had jokes and they were relevant to my life, but now I feel the material I have is better.