Over the last 20 years, Stacy Pawlowski has been making Milwaukee laugh in a variety of ways. Though she cut her teeth in the city’s once-formidable sketch comedy scene, she’s also transitioned into stand-up comedy, improv, podcasting, and acting. Last year, Pawlowski added “one-woman show producer and star” to her impressive rundown of comic ventures. Since that mixture of stand-up, storytelling, and (apparently) pyrotechnics was met with a favorable response, she thought she’d try it again.
Friday night, the veteran humorist take the stage alone once again, this time joined by hilarious anecdotes, moving and intensely personal stories from her childhood, and hand-drawn illustrations to offer an extended look into what makes one of Milwaukee funniest performers tick. Before tomorrow’s “Stacy Pawlowski Live 2: Even Livelier” show, Milwaukee Record asked the one-woman show’s namesake why she took on such a difficult and vulnerable project, and what’s in store for those in attendance.
Milwaukee Record: This is your second one-woman show. Will this be a reprisal of the first one or will it be entirely new material?
Stacy Pawlowski: It’s all going to be new. Nothing will be the same as what I did last time, but some of it will be a continuation of it. I was talking about events in my life a little bit. It was kind of personal.
MR: The event listing says there will be stories from your childhood, art, and other kinds of randomness. That sounds like a lot of stuff at once. Would you like to get more into what we can expect?
SP: It is [a lot of stuff], but it will be split up as a show with a silent art auction after because I have a lot of art I’ve made that’s clogging up my house. I’ll also have some cartoons showing overhead, so there will be some stimulation before I actually speak.
MR: It’s a very personal thing to get up in front of people and tell stories from your youth. I mean, it’s already hard enough for a lot of people to get up in front of others. And being a one-woman show, you’re alone and you’re saying this vulnerable stuff. Why did you feel the need to do this, not just one, but twice? What do you get out of this that you don’t from stand-up, improv, and sketch?
SP: When you do stand-up, it’s punchline after punchline and it doesn’t matter if the story is true at all. You just need to get a laugh. The first [show] had all these stories that I wanted to use for stand-up, but I either didn’t have the time or it wasn’t super punchline-heavy. They were just good stories I wanted to share. It was more like David Sedaris as opposed to a Mitch Hedberg. It wasn’t just straight jokes.
MR: Though it’s not like other stuff you’ve done, are there any ways you use your experience in stand-up or improv to make this work, or are you hoping to venture somewhere new?
SP: Both. The last time, I did some magic out of nowhere and some pyrotechnics. I shot a fireball at the audience. I come from sketch comedy, and that’s what I really wanted to do, but it’s hard to get actors to rehearsals. That’s why I started doing stand-up in the first place. My original idea was hoping this could be kind of a one-person sketch and variety show. It was mostly me talking, but I threw in these unexpected things. This time, I’ll have a little musical stuff, some art stuff, and a little bit of wackiness in there, along with stories about my family and growing up.
MR: Will they be more serious in scope or will it be a mixture of funny ones and heart-wrenching ones?
SP: It’ll be mostly humorous. There will be some stories about family members who have passed, and those might be more serious, but the theme is finding the humor in the serious situations. So it will be mostly humor, but my mom will probably cry.
MR:You mentioned that you identify as a sketch performer more than anything, but you’re also involved in stand-up and improv. Why are you so varied with your focus? Do you get bored?
SP: Yeah, that’s me. I don’t like to be stagnant. But I also like to learn as much as I can about things. If I’m working with a sketch group and we’re not going anywhere new, I’ll probably be the first person to pull the plug. With improv, I’ve sort of just dabbled in it. It’s certainly not my forte, but it helps with the other things.
MR: Beyond working in all these different mediums, you’re also one of the longer-tenured performers in the city. You’ve had a really good view of the transition of local comedy. What have you observed over the years, and what’s the current state of Milwaukee comedy?
SP: When I started, there were so many different sketch groups, and now there are hardly any left anymore. I this last Milwaukee Comedy Festival, there were very few sketch groups from Milwaukee, which is a big change. There’s a lot more improv. The only improv I was seeing was ComedySportz improv. I wasn’t seeing very many fringe groups doing there own thing, but now that’s all over.
MR: With this being the second such show, and with you continually gathering new experiences in your life, do you this will be an annual thing you can work toward to get out new material?
SP: I’m hoping it can be something I do a couple times a year, but expecting once a year seems fair. The promotion is the hard part. Coming up with the material…I just have to organize it. I’m always working on some kind of show.
Stacy Pawlowski Live 2: Even Livelier takes place Friday, August 26 at ComedySportz. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. and costs $10. A silent auction for Pawlowski’s paintings will take place after the show.