Movie buffs can confirm that Back To The Future finished five whole weeks of filming before Eric Stoltz was ultimately replaced by Michael J. Fox in the role of Marty McFly, forever altering the timeline of the cinematic classic and the careers of both actors. Almost 30 years later, Milwaukee comic Ryan Lowe and a host of other local comedians will take a crack at augmenting the beloved 1985 picture to make room for elements of stand-up, sketch, visuals, and live commentary. Rest assured, Fox remains in the movie. But like those reels of film that show Stoltz in the DeLorean—likely buried beside some Jar Jar Binks pogs in some distant desert—the Stand-Up Cinema screening of Back To The Future will be a different version than you’ve ever seen.
Lowe, a near-10-year veteran of the Milwaukee stand-up scene, developed the construct of Stand-Up Cinema as an occasional feature at Times Cinema after his feature length puppet version of Moby-Dick earned a favorable response at Rosebud Cinema (a Times affiliate) in 2012. Originally intended to be a sketch show to accompany screenings, the concept quickly came to cull from all corners of the comic spectrum.
“Before I even started of thinking of stand-up, I was very vaudevillian in my mindset,” Lowe says. “I’d fantasize about these shows, pretty much just a vaudeville show, where all this different stuff happens on the same stage. I love doing straight stand-up shows, but this is kind of fun because [Stand-Up Cinema] is sketches, and improv, and stand-up, and all kinds of crap happening in one shot.”
Over the winter, in the first session of the unconventional viewing experience, Lowe and company used The Goonies as the cinematic centerpiece with which to surround between-scene sketches and stand-up performances, self-shot video vignettes regarding referenced movie topics (sometimes presented as deleted scenes, other times spin-offs or trailers for sequels), and an abundance of Mystery Science Theater 3000-style live commentary. However, unlike MST3K and Cinematic Titanic, the potshots aren’t being directed at forgotten, low-budget movie disasters in the public domain.
“I thought ‘How about not do a bad movie, but do a movie that people love?’” Lowe says. “I’ll watch The Karate Kid with my brother, and we’ll rip it to pieces, but we love the movie. It’s just this philosophy of seeing the poster of The Goonies and Back To The Future and wanting to watch it on the big screen. Hopefully you don’t mind all this other shit.”
The film choice for the second installment was easy for Lowe. At this point, he’s avoiding recent works in favor of widely known and highly regarded mainstream movies from the ’80s.
“You can do an instant classic, but to me, with Back To The Future, if I say ‘Think McFly!’ that’s part of the lexicon now,” Lowe says. “I’m not opposed to new movies, but I want stuff that’s so ingrained in pop culture that everybody is going to get what we’re talking about.”
Milwaukee comic Steve Breese provided commentary for The Goonies installment. This time around, he’s portraying McFly in film extras that will be spliced into the existing movie. Lowe’s long track record of fashioning funny output made the decision to collaborate on the new venture an easy one.
“Ryan has really been one of the more influential people in the comedy scene. He’s always doing something different,” Breese says. “He has a great mind for comedy, and developing new and unique ways to bring comedy to the scene. He’s been able to develop these and execute them very well.”
Along with Breese, the second session of Stand-Up Cinema was (or will be) bolstered by a cast of local funnymen that includes Tyler Menz, Greg Bach, Christopher Schmidt, Jason Hillman, and more. While area comics were quick to lend a hand in helping Lowe pull this off, Breese feels that participation is just as beneficial to helping the comedians further hone their craft and to bring a collaborative element to what he calls an “over-saturated” local stand-up scene.
“It’s bringing more of a variety,” Breese says. “It’s nice seeing people branch out and using these different comedy methods to show their talent. It’s making them better comedians. It’s nice seeing people do different things than just stand-up.”
Though both he and Breese are quick to admit the idea of people talking over movies is something everyone has done at some point in their life, Lowe feels the combination of comedic components such as video renderings and live-action skits intertwined with the films helps make Stand-Up Cinema unique and special.
“As long as I’ve been around, there were shows that would come and go that were gimmicky to some degree. I embrace that,” Lowe says. “The bottom line is to make people laugh. I like to try to push the boundaries of comedy. Some people are seeing how many times they can say ‘fuck’ or whatever, but I want to actually push the art form and see if you can drive it forward and see if we can do something that hasn’t been done.”