Technically speaking, Marisa Lange has been doing comedy since the mid-’90s. Though her teenage flirtation with stand-up didn’t last long, Lange eventually made her way back to the stage roughly two years ago after she tried improv and found support and similarities with others in the comedy scene that weren’t there the first time she tried. Wasting little time, Lange and new friend Addie Blanchard started the Sorry Not Sorry showcase to give fellow newcomers and established comedians another place to perform.
Saturday afternoon’s Riverwest Public House show doubles as the free monthly event’s one-year anniversary. Before the milestone show, Milwaukee Record asked Lange about her pre-millennial comedy origin, her path back to the stage, ways Milwaukee stand-up has improved, and why she and Blanchard started Sorry Not Sorry.
Milwaukee Record: You were involved in stand-up and improv years ago, and then you stopped for a number of years, right?
Marisa Lange: Yeah, for a very long time. I was doing stand-up in high school, which was…we’ll just say a long time ago. I was doing a lot of open mics and it was terrible, but I still managed to do a bunch of theater through high school and college, which involved some improv. Then I stopped and focused on art history and film history in college.
MR: What places did you perform back in high school?
ML: The Safe House was the open mic that I went to. Being 17 and trying to do stand-up in Milwaukee at that time was really difficult, and I feel like what I was missing was any sort of peer group, specifically women. At that time, it was just old dudes being creepy and a suburban audience. Honestly, I just feel I kind of got scared out of it and felt like there was no place for me, so I tried other things.
MR: So what brought you back?
ML: A friend of mine was like, “Let’s take this ComedySportz class.” And I thought it might be a little bit too wacky for me, but was told it was just improv. That was around two years ago that I started taking the 101 classes, 102, then 103 at ComedySportz, and I realized I really missed doing improv and theater stuff in general, which made me want to get back to doing stand-up because I felt like I’d never given it a fair shake. And I felt like I had a new support group. I had my girl gang, especially Alicia [Altstaetter] and Addie [Blanchard]. We became friends early on and we all started doing stand-up around the same time. It was just really nice having comedy peers.
MR: I know Alicia and you are about the same age and you’re both mothers. I know Addie is a lot younger, but you’re about the same experience level in stand-up.
ML: Same experience level, and I just feel like we found the same things funny and are seriously trying to get a point across that wasn’t happening.
MR: About six months into stand-up, you two decided to do your own showcase, Sorry Not Sorry, at the [Riverwest] Public House. Why did you start the show? You say you both had similar things you wanted to talk about on stage.
ML: I feel like we have a similar comedic viewpoint and I think we just wanted to be in control of a showcase, a little bit of giving up-and-comers more of an opportunity. It was an excuse to hang out more, and just to be ladies stepping up to the plate. Liz Ziner and Allison [Dunne] were moving around that time, and there were so few [women] left in the scene. There were a lot of new people, like Carly [Malison], and Carson [Leet], and Kaitlin [McCarthy]. So there were a lot of people coming up, and we just waned to have a place where we could pile our friends together on a show in the afternoon and see what happened.
MR: I really like the matinee aspect of it. It’s a free daytime show and you’re usually not up against another event.
ML: I always wanted it to be a matinee. This way we never have to compete with our other friends’ showcases, and it’s a chance for people who want extra stage time before they go to Chicago or Minneapolis or people who might be performing later. Now comics can maybe get two shows in instead of coming up and doing 20 minutes.
MR: And that support didn’t seem to be there when you were coming up in the ’90s. It was more competitive. Well, you know better than I do. What are some of the differences in Milwaukee comedy between then and now?
ML: I was a kid, so I feel like my view might be skewed. When I was doing it then, comedy was a lot more sexist, more racist, and generally more offensive—a lot of old dudes doing comedy. It was a weird scene. It wasn’t a scene that I liked, which is why I feel I backed out of it. It didn’t seem alternative or cutting edge.
MR: But it seems like now there are a lot more perspectives and varying styles, and I feel that’s reflected in Sorry Not Sorry’s lineups. All different experience levels, all different voices, black comics, white comics, male, female, it’s all over the place. The comics you get are all so different, but together it all makes sense. It’s that thing you watch in the afternoon and have a $1 doughnut.
ML: It’s the perfect way for people to support the local scene. It’s a free show. There are doughnuts. You can day drink, then you still have your whole Saturday night to do whatever else you’d like to do.
Marisa Lange co-hosts Sorry Not Sorry’s one-year anniversary show, which comes to Riverwest Public House Saturday, August 6. The free show begins at 1 p.m. and features Alecia Altstaetter, Christopher Schmidt, Sammy Arechar, Mike Berg, Damon Millard, Liz Ziner, Allison Dunne, and Phil Davidson.