People from Wisconsin are pretty funny. At least we like to think that about ourselves. Our collective sense of humor is a healthy mix of sarcasm, goofiness and self deprecation with a splash of raunchy to spice things up.
So when three comedy pros who all happen to be Fox Valley natives team up for a statewide stand-up tour, can you expect more than a few good laughs? Oh, you betcha!
The Cheeseball Comedy Tour featuring standup comics Mike Merryfield, Rob Brackenridge and Steve Hartman gets going this Thursday through Saturday (May 2-4) at the Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton followed by one night at The Green Room Lounge in De Pere (Sunday, May 5th). Then there will be stops all over the Badger State – from Door County to Milwaukee to Altoona.
However, the official kickoff to the tour came back in January. That’s when the three comedians put on a show at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. There was just one big problem. It ended up landing on the same night as the Green Bay Packers’ playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Mike Merryfield thinks attendance was probably cut in half because of the unfortunate circumstances.
Of course, it was the Packers who ended up bombing, and most fans would probably choose to head to the comedy show instead – if they could turn back the clock.
“Aaron Rodgers owes me a personal apology,” Merryfield says. “We still consider it a success to get anyone to come see us as opposed to watching Aaron blow it.”
Now it’s a new ballgame for Merryfield, Brackenridge and Hartman as well as a second chance for folks in Northeast Wisconsin who missed the January show.
But there will still be plenty of challenges ahead. It’s not easy for comics to get up in front of a hometown crowd. They know you, and they won’t go easy on you.
They remember you from when you first started (and maybe you weren’t so good). Most frustrating of all for stand up comedians…they’ve heard a lot of your material before.
“I think I speak for all three of us when I say this,” Merryfield explains. “The feeling that they have ‘heard all of this before’ never goes away when you are working your home club.”
The good news is, this trio of comics will be delivering routines that are sure to hit home with the audience.
You’re almost guaranteed to relate to the jokes you hear on The Cheeseball Comedy Tour. That’s because they’ll be about you: the things you say, the places you go, the kinds of people you know.
When Merryfield, Brackenridge and Hartman decided to set out on this venture, they did so because they wanted to pay tribute to the state and the people they love. They wanted to put on a show dedicated to the place they call home.
Mike Merryfield and Steve Hartman both graduated from Menasha High School while Rob Brackenridge attended Appleton East.
All three will have some specifically Wisconsin-inspired humor in their sets – but Merryfield says Brackenridge has made that sort of material his specialty.
“Rob is pretty much known as the ‘Wisconsin Guy’. He does his Wisconsin-based comedy everywhere he goes. I have gone away from that just because Rob already does that. Steve definitely has quite a bit of it as well. It’s surprising how different we all really are considering we come from the same place,” Merryfield says.
Despite those differences in personality and comedic style, Merryfield also says the three of them “get along like brothers.”
“I have always found that comedians are very loyal to each other. For a career where we are all in direct competition with each other its amazing we don’t butt heads more,” he adds.
Going to see The Cheeseball Comedy Tour might be a little like snacking on an amazing cheese platter with aged Sharp Cheddar, Gouda and Baby Swiss.
“I definitely talk about more serious topics than the other guys,” Merryfield says. “Rob is just plain goofy and Steve steals all of my old jokes – so there’s that. I have to say that was a joke because Steve is very sensitive.”
While Steve Hartman has been performing for less time then his two friends, he’s no stranger to the standup scene.
About five years ago, he left his job selling firetrucks for Pierce Manufacturing to focus on pursuing comedy. Hartman even started tending bar at Skyline so he could be around it as much as possible.
What you’ll get when you go to see The Cheeseball Comedy Tour won’t be just a few local guys who think they are funny. These are real comedians who chose to spend a month sharing laughs in the cities where they got started and in the state where they developed their senses of humor.
Mike Merryfield reassures us that even though they’ll be poking fun at Wisconsinites and many of the stereotypes associated with America’s Dairyland – no one should take offense – because “it’s all done with love.”
And if you’ve seen these guys before, there will certainly be new bits to look forward to as well. Merryfield, for example, has been pretty open about his recent divorce on Facebook. While it hasn’t been easy, it has led to more material.
“My act has grown a ton in the last year. I no longer have to worry if my wife is okay with my material anymore. But then again I live with my mom,” he says.
Catch a little of what you can expect from The Cheeseball Comedy Tour in the video clips of Steve Hartman, Rob Brackenridge and Mike Merryfield below. You can also check out Merryfield’s Irrelevant Podcast. Mike interviews lots of different standup comics and says something “really huge” is in the works for this fall. (Click Here to subscribe on iTunes)
Local Cheeseball Comedy Tour Dates
- May 2-4 – Skyline Comedy Cafe – Appleton
- May 5th – Green Room Lounge – De Pere
- May 9th – Landmark Resort – Egg Harbor
- May 12th – Lawrence University – Appleton
- May 29th – Spatz – Appleton
- May 30 – June 1st – Comedy Cafe – Milwaukee
Get the full list of statewide tour dates at the Cheeseball Comedy Tour website.
Find Out More About These Comedians
- Visit Mike Merryfield’s Website
- Visit Rob Brackenridge’s Website
- Visit Steve Hartman’s profile on Rooftop Comedy