Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012

Milwaukee Comedy Fest Day Two

Milwaukee's Largest Comedy Event Hits Its Second Day

By Russ Bickerstaff
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The Early Show


The Milwaukee Comedy Fest of 2012 rolled into its second evening with its single longest evening on the fest. The first show started at 7:30 pm. The last show started at midnight. As with the previous evening, the distinctively stylish sound of house band Philtharmonic welcomed attendees. 

 

 

The evening started with the surrealistic comedy of Chicago-based group The Comic Thread. Even in the smaller, less commercial theaters, it's so completely rare that you end up seeing a show that is truly surreal bending the edges of logic in any particular direction, The beautiful thing about a Comic Thread show is that it does that with enough grace that you truly don't know what's coming next. And you really don't care because there's a 90% chance that it'll be exceptionally funny. 

 

There's a definite feel of Monty Python in theComic Thread,  but there is something more. Bits of the comedy field off into a direction that transforms stage and audience in really powerful ways that are completely irrational. One sketch has the group offering members of the audience chocolate truffles, then denying them. The precise experience of seeing this happen two or three times ends up being involving audience participation on the very primal and illogical level. Everyone is chanting but no one knows why. And it's very, very funny. Later on there is a scene which involves an actress playing a woman unaware that she is on stage as the rest of the group behaves disturbingly theatrical towards her. (Think "Find the Fish," in Monty Python' the Meaning of Life.) Tt transforms into something so much more when member of the audience is brought on stage. The person in question (last night it was a charming and exceedingly gracious young woman named Amy) becomes the only one onstage. The comedy troupe isn't onstage but they're in total control as one of them directs the audience member through an impromptu audition from her seat in the audience. The show continues for a good five minutes like that. For a few brief moments reality melts and you don't know quite why you're laughing but it's deeply, deeply funny stuff. 

 

 

The early show continued with former members of Patrick Schmitz's Organized Chaos group. These were people who had worked together in improv classes that Schmitz teaches for First Stage.  These kids had grown-up and moved along to college. Improv is weird . . . a good portion of the  humor comes from the fact that everyone present knows that the group onstage hasn't planned anything specific and they are trying to be funny. The best improv comes from a place of well-orchestrated familiarity between the improv comics. The members of the Organized Chaos Alumni started doing long-form improve while still in primary  school. This was an opportunity to see them get together onstage again . . . and the dynamic between them still feels really kinetic, but things have expanded in different ways since they started working together, College kids played kids in high school with a rather strange social pecking order which for some reason involved a lot of crouching. Continuing off the energy of The Comic Thread, it was strange, but in a way that had genuine and genuinely mutated emotion behind it. 

 

The first program on the second evening he ended with competent, well-recieved standup comedy invite Johnny Beehner.

 

The 10 pm Show


The later show opened with stand-up by Milwaukee-based Lara Beitz. Beitz has a very sweet way of delivering comedy that got kind of dark in places. A soft voice and a pleasant stage presence combined with a charmingly tilted perspective for an enjoyable performance. 

 

The improv group on the 10 pm show was Strippers' Picnic. There's a really strong sense of characterization in the work of the Picnic. It's a long-form improv group that seems focussed on the comedy of character development .The characters themselves are pretty deeply rendered for improv. It was just a simple family drama that they were parodying, but they really spent a lot of time developing the characters, which was kind of refreshing for long-form improv. 

 

The 10 pm show ended with a performance by Drew's Tumbler--a three-woman sketch group that came out on roller skates doing physical humor and ended up doing some really solidly concieved and executed sketch comedy. 

 

The Milwaukee Comedy Fest continues through August 11th. For more infomation, visit the Comedy Fest online. 

 

 

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