Conversation: Brian Green and An­ton John­son on

Milwaukee Magazine - - Culture -

Brian Green, a vet­eran of im­prov and stand-up, is an orig­i­nal cast mem­ber of Mil­wau­kee’s own Com­e­dyS­portz, founded in 1984.

An­ton John­son has been per­form­ing stand-up since around 2011. Both have lived and worked in Mil­wau­kee long enough to weigh in on the city’s sense of hu­mor. Like much else in the city, it seems to be split along racial lines.

BG: Mil­wau­kee crowds are sur­pris­ingly hip at times and sur­pris­ingly dumb at times. Maybe that’s the way it is ev­ery­where. It’s a pretty so­phis­ti­cated crowd. You can’t just run any old thing by them.

AJ: Peo­ple come to a com­edy club with the in­tent of laugh­ing. You can get away with more bull­shit at a com­edy club than any other show set­ting. But it can come back to bite you. You’ll def­i­nitely get crowds with higher tastes in that same space.

BG: As far as crowd size goes, the smaller crowds have a ten­dency to be more judg­men­tal than the large crowds.

AJ: It’s true. There are also two very dis­tinct sides of the city that you’re do­ing com­edy on. You’re do­ing the al­ter­na­tive rooms down here – Walker’s Point, the East Side, the South Side. But it’s a whole dif­fer­ent type of crowd and scene on the North Side. The jokes I would tell at Jok­erz are not the same jokes I would do at the Com­edy Cafe. The jokes I do at Laugh­ing Lib­er­ally here at Com­e­dyS­portz are not the same jokes I’m gonna do at Lux Lounge. It’s two to­tally dif­fer­ent things. You have the same num­ber of peo­ple in the crowd and have vastly dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. BG: I guess you could just say black and white crowds.

AJ: They ran a com­edy club out of the Bam­boo Lounge, off Sec­ond and Mitchell. It was prob­a­bly the only ma­jor­ity Latino room I’ve done. I did well, but a guy from out of town, half his set was in Span­ish – peo­ple were feel­ing what he was talk­ing about.

BG: I get that. You gotta do well for your own first. I started out do­ing black clubs. They had clubs that weren’t pre­dom­i­nately white or black – just the nights that I was there they’d have a pre­dom­i­nately black au­di­ence and that’s where you start out.

AJ: It’s a real thing. The com­edy scene is seg­re­gated. Not a lot of comics go be­tween both scenes.

BG: Not a lot of comics can.

AJ: I go be­tween both. I’m lucky to be able to and it took me a long time to learn how. It’s not easy; it can be done.

BG: I only care about one thing – whether I’m laugh­ing or not. AJ: What’s funny is funny.

An­ton John­son (left) and Brian Green at Com­e­dyS­portz.

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