In the unwritten rulebook for polite dinner conversations, the topics of politics, religion and sex are strictly forbidden. Bringing up any one of these can be a recipe for disaster, especially if you're, say, trying to impress future in-laws or your boss. All such propriety was thrown to the wind Tuesday night at the High Noon Saloon, as the Wisconsin Stand-Up Comedy Project (or WiSUC, pronounced "we suck") took the stage for an evening of gleeful rule-breaking.
Catered by Ingrid's Lunch Box, the evening was billed as an "unconventional dinner conversation" with stand-up comedy providing the color commentary. I had been expecting some form of entertainment during the dinner portion of the night, but attendees were left to their own devices and meals. No complaints here, though, as it seemed to give people a chance to fill their bellies and get comfortable before needing to focus on the action on stage.
Emcee Kendra Frank, a welcome staple of WiSUC and various open mikes around town, introduced the six comedians out to ply their trade for the evening. David Fisher kicked things off by mixing two of the taboo subjects: politics and sex. He noted that the term "compassionate conservative" was akin to "soft-core porn" in its pointlessness. "If you're voting Republican, you're doing it for the same reason you'd watch hard-core porn: you want to see someone get fucked."
No one danced around the issues or the naughty words. Even when the jokes fell flat, which the indulgent and upbeat audience rarely let happen, the comedians always put themselves out there.
KeaLynn Kees, dry wit and adorable sometimes Southern accent in hand, cracked wise about lesbianism and how sex is "just foreplay for telling guys your problems." She addressed the audience as "people" in the same way that Stephen Colbert addresses the camera as "nation." Mark Kump sang a song called "You're Eating Poop (What You're Eating Is Shit)," and Chris Waelti went to town with more porn and penis jokes, and one rather astute observation that, "There are no winners in a World of Warcraft... only losers."
Comedians can be both hilariously egotistical and painfully self-effacing. Adam Waldron summed it up in one joke. "I'm gonna be a big-shot comedian. I know this because it's the only thing God could have put on the table before I was born to convince me to come out looking like this."
Perhaps the gutsiest humor of the evening came from soon-to-be WiSUC alum Chris Woldt, who's moving to New York in a few weeks for greener stand-up pastures. At ease in front of the microphone, Woldt blazed through a series of bits that quickly had the audience laughing in appreciation.
Commenting on the seeming fruitlessness of the War on Terror, Woldt made the insightful and somewhat controversial observation that, "It's stupid to focus so much on killing Osama bin Laden. Rock and roll didn't die when someone shot John Lennon, it just got worse. Think about it."
I'll admit that I was apprehensive about the level of quality to expect out of my first Madison stand-up comedy show. Let's face it: When it's bad, it's really bad. Happily, Madison has grown quite a few promising young comedians, many of whom have found their way to the WISUC Project. I didn't squirm in my seat and, in fact, found myself laughing out loud and cheering with the best of them.
There's still a layer of polish to be applied, but the venue for practice and improvement and the enthusiasm for the craft all exist. It's a great addition to the arts community in town and one overdue for greater recognition. If these comedians keep doing what they're doing, it'll be hard for anyone to ignore.