With the Milwaukee Comedy Festival starting this week, we thought what better way to welcome it then by interviewing some of the top talent that is performing at the festival! Today we talk to 3 members / production staff of the sketch comedy group LIVE! From LaCrosse! Steven Walker who is creator, director and cast member, Rhys Wolff the producer and cast member and Nick Peterson who is Head Writer and cast member.
When: 6th August
Where: Underground Collaborative
Price: $15 online
Hello Guys Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Steve: I’m a space cowboy AND a gangster of love
Rhys: I’m an independent theatrical producer that also moonlights as a water and fire damage restoration technician…the group is an ensemble of almost 30 actors, singers, writers and musicians. Each singular episode utilizes 12 to 14 on stage and another 3 to 5 doing technical duties.
Nick: I’m a middle school special education teacher and part-time professor of educational studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I’ve been performing comedy for 8 years, and been part of Live! since its inception 5 years ago.
How did you all get into Sketch comedy?
Steve: Being a latch key kid TV helped raise me. Late Saturday night’s were the best because I got SNL and Kid’s In The Hall. It was like magic to me. I fell in love right away.
Rhys: I’ve always been a fan of watching it, but didn’t actively participate in it until LIVE! was created in 2013. Before that, all my performance experience was from musicals and plays.
Nick: Before Live!, I performed stand-up comedy as a musical comedian, but I felt restricted with the craft. When I joined Live!, I quickly realized that there were far fewer limitations for writing sketch comedy (especially when you write for other people), which was decidedly more appealing and challenging.
How did you come up with the name Live from La Crosse?
Steve: I wanted to ensure our audience knew what they getting right away. So, tweaking that famous SNL opening…”Live, from New York… it’s Saturday Night!” Made sense to me.
Tell us all about the show that you are bringing to the Milwaukee Comedy Festival?
Steve: This will kind off be a slice of the pie that was our last season. The best part, to me, is giving some cast members who haven’t gotten the opportunity to do the festivals this chance.
What are your favourite things about performing to an audience and why?
Steve: There is no energy like the energy an audience gives you.
Rhys: The best part of performing to an audience is the instant response to what you’re doing, whether that reaction is a hushed murmur, a roar of hysterical laughter or the audible gasp of shock when a joke pushes just a bit too far for someone.
Nick: My favorite part of performing is when we “nail a bit” perfectly (pacing, timing, casting, characterizations, staging, etc) and have the LONG laugh break where we are forced to wait for the audience to relax so we can continue. You get to take a second and enjoy the spoils of your work while still in the moment.
What have been the highlights of the shows you have performed previously?
Steve: The crowd reaction to revealing me as Barbara Bush. Palpable. Fantastic. Incredible.
Rhys: Each of the 13 previous episodes of LIVE! have had their highlights. I enjoy when the audience reacts to a character they’ve seen before, like “Hot Dog and the Pope” or “Gordon Lightfoot’s Secret Diaries”
Nick: Personal highlight: The first time we performed a sketch called Hot Dog and The Pope as an 80s buddy-cop duo. It was such an odd sketch full of (purposefully) stereotypical characters, terrible one-liners, ridiculous gun play/fight scenes, cheesy 80s music… even an emotional death scene. I was worried the audience would be more confused than entertained, but it absolutely destroyed.
What other sketch comedy groups do you find inspiring and why?
Steve: all of them. Every single one. From the ones on tv to the ones we met at the Chicago Sketchfest to ones we stumble upon on the internet.
Rhys: I don’t think there’s a better answer than Steve’s.
Nick: Actually, I identify chapters of my life by the sketch comedy groups I was into at the time. As a kid, I loved the irreverence of The Flying Circus, the energy of The Carol Burnett Show, and the brilliant parody on In Living Color. As a teenager, I was drawn to the eccentric characters of MAD TV and the fast-paced, witty wordplay of A Bit of Fry and Laurie. In college, Chappelle’s Show tackled intricate cultural topics that challenged my thinking. Most recently, I think Key and Peele is pure brilliance. Their Insult Comic sketch is perfect… horrifyingly perfect.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at Milwaukee Comedy Festival and Why?
Rhys: As many as I can.
Nick: I’m excited to see Matt Griffo headline (musical comedy) our Sunday session. I would also love to see the Milwaukee-based sketch group Sketch Marks. They look like a group who truly enjoys the craft. I would love to sit down with them and pick their brains about sketch.
You loosely base yourself on the television show Saturday Night Live – who are your favourite cast members / sketches from the show and why?
Steve: Chris Farley will always be a personal hero. I think about him daily. I miss him even though I never had an opportunity to know him. The first Matt Foley stretch will always stick out to me. However, that’s one of thousands of sketches that I talk about to Nick.
Rhys: There are so many to choose from. My favorites were when great duos would form, like Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtain on the newsdesk. They were so familiar and comfortable with one another that you couldn’t stop watching them. The SNL news was a highlight for me every time I caught an episode and I love the chance to emulate a news sketch for LIVE! In each show as a way to tip our hat to SNL.
Nick: Wow. Choosing a favorite cast member/sketch from 42 years of SNL is like choosing your favorite piece of art at the Louvre. Personally, I think the reason we even have SNL right now is Eddie Murphy. When he joined in 1980, the first round of now-immortal players had quit, leaving enormous shoes to fill. The show was only in its 6th year and, with a relatively forgettable cast, was far from impervious to cancellation.
Then a 19-year-old Murphy put the show on his shoulders and performed timely AND timeless sketches in an in-your-face, unapologetic way: Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood, White Like Me, Broadway Gumby Rose, James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party, Buckwheat, Velvet Jones… he was a beast. Even 35 years later, I think he casts a shadow for current cast members. To me, he is the most prominent face on the Mount Rushmore of SNL.
If anyone cannot make the Milwaukee Comedy Festival, when are your next shows?
Rhys: Our next full show is scheduled for Nov. 3rd and 4th at the Cavalier Theatre in LaCrosse Wisconsin. That will kick off our fifth season. Two more all new shows will follow on the first weekends of February and May.
Nick: We perform a new show (12 new sketches, approximately 90 minutes) the first Friday and Saturday of November, February, and May. Tickets are $15 and are performed at the Cavalier Theater in La Crosse. This November will be our 14th show, and the start of our 5th season. Like SNL, each show features a local band and local celebrity which has included Shane Mauss (nationally touring comic: Conan, Jimmy Kimmel, Bob and Tom Show, WTF), Michael Von Muchow (2010 Grammy-award winning producer of Bill Miller album Spirit Wind North), and Rob Jones (star of the VH1 reality show Off Pitch).
And Finally – in three words, why should people come and see you at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival?
Steve: everyone gets laid
Rhys: because we’re funny
Nick: We don’t follow rules.
If you want to find out more about LIVE! From Lacross, then you can follow them on Twitter @LivefromLacross like them on Facebook by clicking here or search Youtube for “Live from La Crosse sketch comedy”