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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The Laughing Tap: Stand-up comedy in Milwaukee

Photo by George Kane
Comedians make their debut at The Laughing Tap, a Milwaukee comedy club.

What do you call a graphic novel with legs?

A stand-up comic.

On a weekly basis, different venues around Milwaukee come together to offer free open mics. These events serve as an opportunity for comedians and customers to get together, have a good time and tell a few jokes.  

Matt Kemple, co-owner of Milwaukee’s only comedy club, The Laughing Tap, said that an open mic is helpful to comedians because stand-up is a difficult art form to master. Kemple said that these shows provide a way for comics to test their material in front of a live audience, which is essential to becoming a skilled comedian. 

“An open mic, in the simplest form, is rehearsal for comedy. Typically an open mic is a vein for comics to work on their material in whatever way that means,” Kemple said. 

Every Wednesday, The Laughing Tap hosts an open mic starting at 8 p.m. Upon the inception of their comedy club, Kemple said that he and his co-owners wanted to curate an atmosphere that was different from others. 

“We’re very comic-focused, so what that really means is that we put a lot of thought and effort into the kinds of lineups that we do, we’re not just throwing names together and putting shows on,” Kemple said.

At many comedy clubs, there is a two-drink minimum, so if customers would like to order a beverage, they have to purchase at least two. At The Laughing Tap, this is not something they enforce. Kemple said that the absence of this rule has made The Laughing Tap an inclusive atmosphere with comedy as its focal point.

“One, we’re in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, people are going to drink just fine. We didn’t want the emphasis to be on drinks first. A lot of that comedy club model across the country is they’re more interested in selling drinks and nachos,” Kemple said. 

One of The Laughing Tap’s goals is to be a place where stand-up comics want to perform their comedy. Kemple said that the way they construct their shows is designed to be both beneficial to the customer and performer, prioritizing the experience of everyone involved. 

“It feels really wonderful when all the local comics come out to the open mic and they want to be here and they want to perform here and they enjoy what this place has become,” Kemple said. 

A stand-up comic’s material can frequently involve taking the negative experiences from their lives and turning them into positives. Because of this, Kemple said that people are often drawn to stand-up because it provides an opportunity for them to deal with and confront personal issues.   

“There’s a lot of mental illness in this industry and I think it attracts a lot of people in that way because it is a way to take all of that from your world and make something positive out of it,” Kemple said.

A comic’s material can sometimes directly involve making jokes out of the worst things that have happened to them. Kemple said that it’s impressive to him when he sees people use comedy to move forward from their personal issues, and that comics using the stage to tackle these problems can be very inspiring.

“The metaphor of the sad clown is so true. There are so many comics that are dealing with things in their own lives, whether it was physical or mental abuse earlier in their life, whether it was poverty, whether it was drug or alcohol abuse … it’s incredible to see comics that have had incredibly horrible things or incredibly bad abuse that they have been able to overcome, and then they put that material onstage,” Kemple said.

Kemple stressed that anything could be turned into a joke and emphasized that time can cause something to be viewed in a different light. He said it’s important to not let bad experiences drag you down and to keep going regardless of what happens.

“Tragedy plus time equals comedy,” Kemple said.

This story was written by George Kane. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
George Kane
George Kane, Production Assistant
George Kane is a sophomore from Trumbull, Connecticut majoring in digital media. In his free time, he enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and watching movies. He is a production assistant for MUTV and incredibly excited to get to work and make some great stuff.

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