Locations of laughter

It was an opportunity most comics can only dream of. After a school talent show and a handful of open mic nights, Daniel Lattimore got a call from a friend of a friend, asking him to open for big-time comedian Bill Bellamy after someone had dropped out of the show. The then-University of South Florida student still felt good from his initial open mic experiences and couldn’t turn it down.

The Bellamy show was no open mic; it was a 300-person theater filled with paying audience members ready to see their headliner. Lattimore was given 10 minutes of stage time. Prepared or not, this was as good a chance as he was ever going to get.

And he blew it.

“They told me that a light would go off at nine minutes,” Lattimore said. “I was so nervous I didn’t even see the light. I was in the middle of one of my jokes, finally getting some laughs, and they played me off with music.”

After a nightmare performance, the immediate follow-up was even worse.

“I go backstage and (former NBA superstar) Tracy McGrady is there because he came to see the headliner,” Lattimore recalled. “I go to dap him up and he just looks at me.”

But Lattimore didn’t give up. His theater flop discouraged him from stand-up for a while, but, as he said, “There’s life after death.”

After moving to Milwaukee to pursue a master’s degree in counseling in the College of Education, Lattimore got involved in the local open mic scene. He is also a member of the Marquette student improv group the Fugees.

Stand-up comedy takes courage, and a little insanity. For those in need of a little practice, Milwaukee has ample opportunities to perform poetry, music, comedy or other talents on stage in front of strangers.

To anyone considering going up on stage, Lattimore said, “If you’ve been wanting to do it, do it when you’re ready. There’s no race to try it. But you’ll never know if you don’t go up there.”

Ivana Osmanovic, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of Live Poets Society, also frequents open mics at local coffee shops and other venues. She performs poetry at events on the East Side and in the Riverwest area, as well as at UWM’s Lyrical Sanctuary open mic night held the first Wednesday of each month.

“It can be a tad intimidating, but it’s a cool way to hear and see the voices of the people in the community,” Osmanovic said.

Laura Litwin, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, also got involved with open mics through Live Poets Society. She said the poetry community is great for providing a judgment free atmosphere.

“Slam poetry often gets the stigma for being too deep and kind of nerdy, but it really just provides a cool way of storytelling,” Litwin said.

Osmanovic agreed by describing the tight-knit open mic community as being very supportive, saying that everyone “empathizes with the inevitable stage fright it takes to tell your story on a stage.”

Spanning across the city, there are open mic events almost every night of the week at places such as Bremen Cafe, Lucky Chance, Karma Bar & Grill and Var Gallery and Studios. These places are known for good art, food and drinks, but what is not as well-known are their open mic opportunities.

In the words of Osmanovic, “If you want to have a good time, go to an open mic.”