Standups Greg Bach and J. Tyler Menz: The Visitor and The Aficiona-D’oh! of Milwaukee's 'Simpsons' Podcast
Krusty the Klown once made a wise speech on historical perspective, which we’ll repurpose for this article: “1969: Man walks on the moon. 1971: Man walks on the moon…uh, again. Then for a long time, nothing happened.” Until December 17th, 1989, when the first full episode of The Simpsons aired. Television, culture, and the world underwent a profound change. And the same change was felt by millions of budding comedic minds, including that of Milwaukee standup J. Tyler Menz, who introduced his friend and fellow funnyman Greg Bach to the show. On their iTunes podcast A Visitor’s Guide to Springfield, the fanatical Menz brings his newbie pal Bach along on a tour of America’s favorite animated city, one episode at a time.
Simpsons love is omnipresent in the Milwaukee comedy scene, where Menz and Bach have each staked their claims. Like the Brew City, The Simpsons has its moments of decadence, conflict, and the kind of Midwestern crankiness that stems from subzero winters--but in the end, both can be counted on for redemption. The comedians shared their insights into the city’s comedic landscape as well as their upcoming ACLU benefit “What a Joke”, which will take place in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. Plus! Menz and Bach even let some local hack jabber about the “Marge Be Not Proud,” aka “Bonestorm” episode for a recording of A Visitor’s Guide to Springfield.
When did your passion for comedy begin and when did you first start performing standup?
Menz: I got into comedy as a kid. I think everyone does. I remember my dad bringing home a VHS of Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy. And I also remember my aunt gave me a couple standup albums: A Place to Put My Stuff by George Carlin, an Adam Sandler album, and Ray Romano Live at Carnegie Hall. I’ve been performing now for about four or five years, about as long as Greg.
Bach: Since I was a kid, yeah, watching Monty Python. After about six years of sketch and improv. I started standup late, but I feel like I made up for it because I just had to hustle.
What are the thrills and challenges of doing standup in and around Milwaukee?
Menz: A bunch of big thrills for me have been getting the chance to perform at some of the bigger venues that Wisconsin and Milwaukee have to offer. Turner Hall, the Meyer Theater in Green Bay, the Barrymore in Madison. Challenges? It’s a smaller scene here, as opposed to New York or Chicago or L.A., where people go to consume and pursue comedy. We don’t have that as much.
Bach: As far as thrills, I’ve also had the chance to open for bigger names, which is great, and I’ve performed in places I never thought I was going to. I agree that we’re a smaller market. It can be hard to get people fired up for a comedy show. The biggest pitfall is generating the interest. It’s there, but it’s also good to get out of the city and do other work.
With experience, do the lows of bombing and the highs of killing start to level out?
Menz: Definitely. There are stories of Chris Rock going into the Comedy Cellar and just eating it. And then walking out, saying, “Whatever, just another day at work.” But I would say that the highs of doing a great show... There’s nothing that feels better than that. It’s fantastic.
Bach: I think your definitions of “bombing” and “killing” change as you go on. When you first start out and you eat it, it’s life-ending. It feels terrible. And then as you start to get into it, when you bomb, it can be funny. “Killing” also changes, because you can do a great show, but still feel like you could’ve done better—especially if the audience is good.
Tell me about A Visitor’s Guide to Springfield.
Bach: It’s a podcast we started in November of 2015 because I had never watched The Simpsons and Tyler is a huge fan, and someone I wanted to talk to about the show. Talking to a lot of fans, they can come across as jaded because it isn’t what they want it to be anymore. But Tyler’s always been someone who just loves The Simpsons. There’s a real positive energy there. When I asked him if he wanted to do the show, he said, “Absolutely!” And within a week, the show had started, and we started getting fans. I find it interesting to have these discussions because it helps expand my brain, and who I am as a comedian.
Menz: I just like The Simpsons, and Greg’s a buddy. It’s cool to expose a friend of mine to something they haven’t seen before that I love. That’s my favorite part.
Greg, as the visitor getting a belated introduction to Simpsons fanaticism, do you feel the all-encompassing magic, or is it still pretty casual for you?
Still pretty casual, much to Tyler’s dismay. I wouldn’t consider myself a super-fan. For me, it’s more about discussing the show as a cultural phenomenon. And using that to analyze who we are as a society, and where we are now as people. It’s an interesting way to start conversations.
Tyler, have you ever referenced the show so much that it has annoyed others who don’t get the references?
I try not do that. (Laughs.) That is a filter I’ve had to put on. Especially hanging out with Greg, I can’t reference it. They’ll go over his head. What’s funny, though, is that Greg makes references to The Simpsons that he doesn’t know are references—that are just in the cultural ethos. Like saying, “Sax-a-ma-phone.”
Tell me about “What a Joke” on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Greg: Tyler and I, along with local comedian Patrick Tomlinson, were approached to produce the Milwaukee satellite performance of this comedy festival called “What a Joke,” which is put on by Emily Winter. We are going to be doing a show at Puddler’s Hall in Bay View. All the money goes to ACLU. It’s ten dollars a ticket. It’s basically a response to the new administration, with shows all over the country. We’ll be raising some money, giving it to an organization that’s interested in defending freedom, and laughing in the process—because we need to do all those things in order to fight.
You can find more information about "What a Joke" here.