Tyler Menz has opened for the likes of Todd Barry, Andy Kindler, Darryl Lenox, Neil Hamburger, and Steve-O. As the Milwaukee comic learned his way, developed his style, and produced a variety of stand-up shows, he made ends meet as a teacher. Though his comedy aspirations and on-stage accomplishments have brought on a career change, the ex-teacher hasn’t lost his passion for education.
On Friday, the former teacher will introduce an impressive class of comedians to Urban Harvest Brewing Company for an extra special showcase. The second edition of Book Club will bring some of Milwaukee’s finest comedians (and WC Tank) to the stage to perform stand-up sets inspired by literature to benefit the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation. Before a night of laughs taken from the pages of Hatchet, The Da Vinci Code, The Lorax, and more, Milwaukee Record asked Menz about the basis of his unorthodox show, the process of finding performers to take part in it, and why promoting literacy is important.
Milwaukee Record: On top of all the other shows you’re producing and performing in, why did you decide to start the “Book Club” showcase? What did you role as a former educator play in the formation of the show?
Tyler Menz: At the start of 2017, I sat down to write a list of comedy goals for the year. I was honestly pretty bummed. The recent election was weighing heavy on my mind. I had just turned 30. A lot of big changes happening. I wanted to give back in some way. In writing these goals and looking at my schedule, I noticed that I was either producing or performing in multiple benefit shows already. I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to keep this streak alive and try to do a benefit show a month.”
After a few months, I noticed that I didn’t have any on the books. So I decided to start my own.
As a former educator, the idea of a book report-style comedy show really intrigued me. Also, supporting literacy in the community is something that everyone can get behind. So I took the idea and ran with it. Now we have Book Club.
MR: Can you explain the concept?
TM: Each performer chooses a book to speak on. Comics then spend five to eight minutes essentially giving comedic book reports.
MR: How did the first show go? Obviously, it must’ve gone well if you’re doing a second one, but what were some of the highlights?
TM: Our first show was a success. We raised about $400 for SHARP Literacy. Highlights included an intense direction of Goodnight Moon, a reaction to The Raven as reported on by Edgar Allen Poe’s neighbor, and Dracula giving a book report on a trashy romance novel. It was very fun and super silly.
MR: How do you go about selecting the performers and how do they select literary works? Have you been surprised by the choices some comedians have made?
TM: Once the idea was made public, I had lucky enough to have some very funny performers approach me about performing. I always encourage comics to bring an idea to the table. I’ve been super surprised and impressed to all of the ideas so far. It’s really exciting to see comics engage in this type of show with their own unique ideas and view points.
MR: In addition to traditional comedians, you’re bringing in some outsiders. How did Wes Tank get involved?
TM: Yeah! So, Wes approached me about doing a spot on his show, The Bounceback. It’s a music show, but he wanted to somehow incorporate comedy. I’ll be performing on that August 23 show, by the way. We got to talking about comedy, and I mentioned this show. Wes told me that he had been working on rapping some Dr. Suess books and I was immediately on board. That is the exact type of thing Book Club is about. I’m very excited to see it performed.
MR: On top of entertainment, the show also benefits local literacy programs. Talk about the beneficiaries and why it’s important to give funds to these organizations?
TM: I think its really important to give back to the community. I feel very privileged to be able to do comedy as much as I do. Being able to give back to worthwhile causes is 100 percent my pleasure. I choose literacy groups because it fits with the show. As a former educator, I can’t think of many things more fundamental than reading. There isn’t any reason why illiteracy should exist in America.
MR: Anything else you’d like to add?
TM: Read books!
Tyler Menz hosts Book Club at Urban Harvest Brewing Company on Friday, August 18. The show begins 7:30 p.m. and costs $10. Proceeds will benefit the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation.