As we’re learning with the ongoing hunt for Jon Stewart’s eventual Daily Show successor, witnessing James Corden enter his first week in a late night job once held by Craig Ferguson, and seeing David Letterman enter his final weeks behind the Late Show desk, it’s not easy for a show to lose its host. However, shaking things up at the top and rebuilding on a new foundation can sometimes be just what a show needs to reinvigorate itself and find a new, even better identity. Actually, both Stewart and Ferguson were replacement hosts in their own right (for Craig Kilborn in both cases, oddly enough). Though on a much smaller scale than any of those institutions, The Goodnight Milwaukee Show was faced with the same quandary of how (or whether) to move on in light of co-host Jake Kornely’s recent move to Los Angeles.
“Upon learning about Jake’s move, the writers got together and talked about the future,” Kornely’s longtime co-host Tyler Menz says. “It was unanimous. We all wanted to keep it going. We really like what we have built. It’s a show that we can all stand behind.”
Established in late 2013, the localized late night-themed live show put on eight shows worth of Milwaukee-centric monologues, appearances from regionally relevant characters (like a cooking lesson from El Rey himself), videos from special correspondents, and other bits of on-stage absurdity with Menz and Kornely both steering the operation. Kornely’s exit has now put Menz alone in the driver’s seat. Though it was decided Goodnight Milwaukee would be forging on with half as many anchors as usual, the rest of the writing and production team decided it would be best to revamp the existing format of the growing show instead of start something else from scratch.
“With every show, we were getting a little more pronounced with our style,” writer and occasional performer Greg Bach says. “When Jake left, we decided to take a look at that style and see if we could do a fresh approach without him.”
Part of that fresh approach will be brought by two new writers and correspondents, Milwaukee comics Liz Ziner and Josh Ballew. The pair will join a staff that also boasts reigning Battle Royale champion Christopher Schmidt, and Tall Boys improvisors Erik Koconis and Lee Rowley.
“The original crew knew we wanted to add a few faces to the mix. They were the first to come to mind. I’m so happy to have them working with us,” Menz says. “Josh is a great joke writer. Liz has a fresh perspective on things, and the energy that she brings to projects is second to none.”
Ziner, who says her ultimate dream job is to write for television, is relishing the opportunity to expand beyond stand-up into working with other comedians on one unified project.
“I really thrive on the creative energy that comes with collaborating with other writers,” Ziner says. “For me, sitting around a table pitching, and pushing jokes further and further, and figuring out the best way to do things is really exciting.”
In addition to writing, Ziner will also serve as the self-described Senior Arts And Entertainment Correspondent and will debut a video segment called “On The Town With Liz” at the new-look Goodnight Milwaukee Show’s return Saturday night at ComedySportz. Bach says the cast is ideally aiming to do a show on a monthly basis. Aside from new writers and performers, Menz hinted an increase in satire and political commentary with a comedic voice. Compared to the look, the format, and the makeup of the version that first took the stage approximately a year and a half ago, The Goodnight Milwaukee has changed immensely. The one man that’s been behind the desk through it all hopes all the changes are for the better.
“Having two hosts was a lot of fun,” Menz says. “Switching it up to one, I’ll have to do way more heavy lifting. On the other hand, I can’t say that I’m not excited. Hosting is definitely something that I love doing. I think hosting alone will be a lot of fun.
The Goodnight Milwaukee Show returns to ComedySportz on Saturday, March 28. The show begins at 8:30 and costs $8 online and $10 at the door.