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Milwaukee Comedy Festival Launches Laughs

Aug. 9, 2012
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The seventh annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival opened at Next Act Theatre's space this past weekend. It continues through Aug. 11. The 2012 festival feels a bit more organized than previous festivals, as stand-up, sketch and improv comics, primarily from Milwaukee and Chicago, take turns on the cozy thrust stage on Water Street. House band Filtharmonic provides a stylish, jazzy blend of music to kick off each evening.

The festival's first program featured the highly polished piano comedy of Matt Griffo. A talented musician, Griffo was entertaining even when the comedy was kind of weak. Local improv group Meanwhile followed with memorable long-form improv. The members of Meanwhile have been working together for years now, lending them a rapport that leads to accomplished comic storytelling. Also notable from the first night was Chicago-based sketch comedy group The Nerdologues. The group's humor successfully plays off of the generally funny aspects of geeky interests. Their best material satirized the questionable value of Internet comments.

The most interesting sketch comedy came from Chicago's The Comic Thread. Even in independent theater, truly surreal and experimental work rarely makes it to the stage. Drawing on the comedy of the unexpected, their work can capture an audience with little more than a chocolate truffle. At one point, they thrust a random audience member into the spotlight and had her perform for a few minutes. None of the group members were onstage and yet they were in total control. Now that's brilliant sketch comedy.

The Milwaukee Comedy Festival continues through Aug. 11 at Next Act Theatre's space at 255 S. Water St. Each show is different. Upcoming acts include Will Durst, Broadminded and The Improvised Musical. For ticket reservations, visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/255295%5c.


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