Establishing Sustainable Milwaukee Comedy
The 4th annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival closed yesterday. By all accounts, it was a successful fest . . . it continues to grow in prominence year after year . . . things change from year to year as well, which is always welcome. The last day of this yearâ€™s festival feature three full programs of Teen comedy. The all teen comedy day is kind of an interesting way to end the festival, as it displays in a really specific way the fact that comedy culture in Milwaukee seems to be growing.
There have always been comics and comedy type indigenous to Milwaukee, but I donâ€™t recall there ever being any kind of significant structure in place to maintain a local comedy scene. Yes, there have been comedy clubs around for years, at least one of them is quite old by now . . . and even with an international establishment founded in Milwaukee (Comedysportz) spawning nearly-successful groups like the late Dead Alewives, there hadnâ€™t really been any sustainable growth in local improv, sketch and suchlike until only recently (as far as I know.)
The early Sunday show featured no less than two local groups of young improv comics: Falcon Improvâ€”a group of kids from Brown Deer High School under the guidance of Meanwhileâ€™s Alex Grindeland and Organized Chaos--First Stageâ€™s improv group organized by Patrick Schmitz of the Gentlemenâ€™s Hour. With established comedy training programs in the city, thereâ€™s a kind of a renewed sustainability in the cityâ€™s comedy . . . and particularly as there areÂ all kinds of applicable skills learned through improv, thereâ€™s a good chance that the success of Falcon and O.C. could establish other programs . . . which would make for all kinds of interesting growth in the theatrical sub-genre . . .
And then thereâ€™s the inevitable question . . . yes, it sounds like a cool program for teachers, students and parents, but thereâ€™s very little of interest here to the casual observer, right? Well . . . kind of. With a general overall lack of experience, there tends to be a lot of dead time in teen improv, but thereâ€™s some real talent in the younger groups that occasionally makes it to the stage. The problem with so much improv is that itâ€™s coming from people who have learned a specific set of techniques that get an audience laughing. When new people make it to the stage . . . people who are learning to connect with the stage for the first time, they can come up with some remarkably fresh comedy . . .stuff that ends up blowing the work of established improv groups out of the water . . .