9 Comedy Movies with a Wisconsin Connection

Comedy-movies-WI

There is plenty of comedy to be found in Wisconsin as well as in the lives of Wisconsinites.

I’ve interviewed comedians who are from Wisconsin and always ask if there is a specific “Wisconsin-style sense of humor.” They almost always say “No, not really.” So perhaps we don’t have a particular style of funny – but we’re definitely funny. Or at least there’s something funny about us.

These nine films are pretty solid proof…

Some of these movies poke fun at Wisconsin. Others use the state to create a “fish-out-of-water” scenario. That could be someone feeling out-of-place in Wisconsin, or a Wisconsinite feeling out-of-place somewhere else.

Check out our list including romantic comedies, sophomoric satire, SNL alumni and a whole bunch more.

1. Bridesmaids

BridesmaidsDirected by Paul Feig and produce by Judd Apatow, this hilarious and raunchy film featured a cast full of funny females.

It starred Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the screenplay) and Maya Rudolph. It was also a bit of a break-out role for Melissa McCarthy. In fact, McCarthy was even nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay as well.

Bridesmaids follows the tale of two best friends as one of them prepares to get married. Kristen Wiig’s character, Annie Walker, tries desperately to avoid getting upstaged by “the new friend” in the bridal party, while attempting to keep her life from falling apart at the same time.

Annie basically goes through a disastrous battle for maid of honor duties with another bridesmaid – who happens to be from Chicago.

This film earns points because it used Milwaukee as a setting, but it didn’t play into Wisconsin stereotypes. That is unless you count Melissa McCarthy’s roughneck future sister-in-law bridesmaid.  While most of the movie was shot in Hollywood, there is a decent amount of Milwaukee skyline shots.

2. Wayne’s World

Wayne's_WorldParty on Wisconsin! Milwaukee plays a role in this Saturday Night Live sketch inspired comedy too. In fact, I once incorrectly assumed that Wayne and Garth lived in the Brew City.

It’s a shame they don’t – because there are plenty of mullets surviving in the Badger state. I can totally picture Wayne and Garth as metal-head Wisconsinites.

The guys actually record their public access TV show from a basement in Aurora, Illinois. But the rock-and-roll-loving pals take an important trip to go see an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee. They even have backstage passes.

This results in a classic scene in which Wayne and Garth get to meet Alice Cooper, and the rockstar explains the origin of the city’s name. But just as memorable is an amazing Laverne & Shirley opening spoof.

Watch Wayne & Garth Do Their Version of Laverne & Shirley

3. The Great Outdoors

The_Great_OutdoorsYet another classic comedy that uses Wisconsin as a backdrop is The Great Outdoors, written and produced by the legendary John Hughes.

While it takes place in Wisconsin, it’s actually a movie about FIBS. That’s an acronym for “F@$^ing Illinois Bastards” for those of you who aren’t in the know. But they are fairly likeable FIBs.

John Candy plays a man from Chicago who takes his family on vacation in northern Wisconsin only to have his obnoxious brother-in-law (played by Dan Akroyd) crash the trip with his wife and kids. And the crazy hijinks begin!

Wisconsin never looked so striking as it does in this comedy. That might be because most of it was filmed near Yosemite National Park. Come on – we have beautiful bluffs in Northwestern Wisconsin – but not majestic mountains.

Still this movie did manage to capture the essence of what it’s like to spend some time at a rustic Wisconsin cabin. It’s a place where you make memories, and have great conversations while staring out at the lake.

Watch Two Different Visions of the Great Lakes – from The Great Outdoors

4. Mr. 3000

Mr._3000Mr. 3000 probably won’t ever be considered a comedy classic, but its star, Bernie Mac, certainly was. And this movie is about the Milwaukee Brewers, so what’s not to love?

Bernie Mac plays a retired major league ballplayer who goes back to the game to try and reach 3,000 hits – even though he is 47 years old. Mac’s character, Stan Ross, isn’t exactly beloved by his former team or teammates.

At a ceremony to retire his number, Ross finds out someone messed up the record books, and he actually only had 2,997 hits. That’s why he comes out of retirement. But he also learns valuable lessons along the way.

Unlike some other posers on this list, much of Mr. 3000 was actually shot in Milwaukee – including Marquette High School and Miller Park.

This film also stars actor Chris Noth (Sex in the City, The Good Wife) as a Brewers executive. Noth is from Madison and is one of our 40 Famous People from Wisconsin.

I’m sure there are baseball fans out there who’d want me to mention that another baseball comedy, Major League, was filmed at County Stadium – the Brewers’ old ballpark.

5. BASEketball

BaseketballThere are Wisconsin connections aplenty in this raunchy satire from David Zucker – who happens to be part of our 14 Famous Filmmakers from Wisconsin article.

Zucker wrote and directed BASEketball, and it stars South Park co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. They portray two guys who accidentally invent the next hot sport, which combines elements of baseball and basketball as well as taunting and psyche-outs.

This eventually leads to the National Baseketball League (NBL). Parker and Stones’ characters play for the Milwaukee Beers. Fans of the team even wear foam Beerheads – a nod to the Cheeseheads.

While there is plenty of sophomoric humor in this movie it can also be intelligent. (Although I did see it when I was a sophomore in high school) There’s a message here. Or as the guys in the South Park gang might say “I learned something today.” I think BASEketball cleverly satirizes some of the things that end up ruining professional sports.

South Park Meets BASEketball in this Clip

6. Away We Go

Away_we_goOkay, now for a more serious, heartwarming comedy about expectant parents. Away We Go comes from the Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes – who also directed movies like American Beauty, The Road to Perdition and the James Bond film Skyfall.

Away We Go stars John Krasinzki of The Office, and SNL’s Maya Rudolph – who makes here second appearance on this list.

When the couple learns their parents are moving out of the country, they feel like nothing is keeping them where they are. So they take a road trip to look at other places to raise a family.

One of those places is Madison, Wisconsin – where an old friend played by Maggie Gyllenhaal lives with her own young family. These Madisonians have some unconventional views on parenting. For instance, they are against strollers because it signifies pushing the baby away from you. Too bad the main characters brought them a stroller as a gift. The Madison couple also shares a bed with their children  – even while making love. And they breast-feed well past the traditional age.

All of that would be fine if these friends weren’t so judgmental!

What makes this portrayal of Wisconsin pretty funny is that we all know Madison would be the most likely place to find people like that in this state. It could be one example of why Wisconsin band PHOX calls Madison “The Portland of the Midwest.”

Watch a Breastfeeding Scene from Away We Go

7. Definitely, Maybe

Definitely_MaybeNot every depiction of people from Madison is so…um…overly progressive?

The 2008 romantic-comedy Definitely, Maybe is about a political consultant named Will Hayes who comes from Madison and graduated from UW before working on the Clinton campaign.

Ryan Reynolds portrays the main character – and coincidentally – he also happens to be one of our celebrity Green Bay Packers fans.

In the film, Hayes is going through a divorce and his daughter, played by Abigail Breslin (aka Little Miss Sunshine) asks how her parents first met. So he tells her – and there’s your movie.

But wait! During the process of telling the story, the daughter figures out who Daddy is really in love with! This movie is actually pretty cute. It comes from the makers of Love Actually and Notting Hill – but it has less British people in it.

8. Cedar Rapids

Cedar_rapidsYes, it’s called Cedar Rapids…but this comedy is more about people from Wisconsin – not Iowa. It’s kind of like how Fargo is actually about Minnesota and not North Dakota.

The movie stars Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover), as Tim Lippe – an underachieving insurance agent from fictional Brown Valley, Wisconsin – which is just north of Rhinelander…fictionally.

His work gets him sent to an insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. While he’s there he finds himself is under pressure to win a special award, which his boss thinks might keep the Brown Valley insurance company from closing.

One extra-cool thing about his movie is that Neenah, Wisconsin native Phil Johnston wrote the screenplay.

The script was also part of  the so-called Black List in 2009. The Black List is a Hollywood ranking of the most popular un-produced screenplays. Johnston was also one of the main screenwriters for Wreck-it Ralph.

So however you might feel about the way Wisconsinites are portrayed in this film, keep in mind, it came from a real Wisconsinite. Find out more about Phil Johnston’s thoughts on  his screenplay in this interview with FilmIndependent.org.

Watch the Official Trailer for Cedar Rapids

9. The Godfather of Green Bay

Godfather_of_green_bayHere’s another independent comedy that comes from a Wisconsin screenwriter. Marinette native Pete Schwaba wrote and directed The Godfather of Green Bay. Oh! And he stars in it too.

Schwaba’s other credits include writing A Guy Thing starring Jason Lee and Julia Stiles. Plus, he’s also been hosting the Wisconsin Public Television program Director’s Cut.

In The Godfather of Green Bay, Schwaba plays a burned out standup comic named Joe Keegan who goes to Northern Wisconsin to try and audition in front of a Tonight Show talent scout. While he’s there – he falls for a girl, gets entangled with Wisconsin-style gangsters, and witnesses people doing the Macarena.

Schwaba recruited some great talent to appear in his film. Stars include Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 and the Odd Couple reboot for CBS, as well as female lead, Lauren Holly, who also played a Wisconsinite on the show Picket Fences. Plus, there are many other familiar faces.

Tony Goldwyn plays Jake – and is the actual Godfather of Green Bay. He’s former high school football star turned drug dealer from the “big city” of Green Bay. Things get messy when Joe Keegan and Jake end up going after the same girl.

Most of this film was shot in Schwaba’s hometown of Marinette as well as nearby Menominee, Michigan. In addition to those recognizable stars Schwaba also used friends from Wisconsin. That includes my own friend and Eagle Herald reporter, Mike Desotell, who you can see taking a dump in the woods while deer hunting.

Watch the Official Trailer for Godfather of Green Bay

Got Any More Wisconsin Laughs?

Did we forget anything? Did we mess something up? Leave us a comment and let us know! We love the abuse, what can we say?

But first check out our other Wisconsin movie posts:

We also want to hear about other Wisconsin movie connection you know about!

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Comments

  1. How could you forget Back to School?!?!?

    • Man! I can’t get no respect I tell ya!

      Actually, we did look into that one, but I chose not to use it – now I’m regretting it. I knew they filmed it at UW Madison, but I couldn’t remember if they referenced Wisconsin in the movie. Did they? I see it was Grand Lakes University.

      Blues Brothers is another one that shot some of the cool chase scenes in Milwaukee even though it was a Chicago movie.

  2. Julia Stiles starred in a 2004 rom com called The Prince and Me that was set at the University of Wisconsin

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0337697/

  3. Albert Brooks’ mockumentary MOVIE, REAL PEOPLE. laughs about Wisconsin when telling which family is chosen to follow around 24/7.
    “Our research was so thorough the computers actually coughed up two perfect families. If I were a liar, I could tell you that we chose one over the other for complicated psychological reasons. But I’m a comedian, not a liar. I can afford the luxury of honesty. The Feltons lived in Wisconsin; the Yeagers lived in Arizona. YOU spend the winter in Wisconsin…”
    [Albert and the researchers all laugh]

    In the movie STRIPES, with Bill Murray as John Winger:
    “C’mon, it’s Czechoslovakia. We zip in, we pick ’em up, we zip right out again. We’re not going to Moscow. It’s Czechoslovakia. It’s like going into Wisconsin.
    Russell Ziskey: Well I got the shit kicked out of me in Wisconsin once. Forget it!”

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