If live, interactive entertainment trumps screen watching any day in your book, you might want to try a ComedySportz show with your kids.
ComedySportz, 420 S. 1st St., bills itself as appropriate for all ages at any time, but also does a kid-focused matinee on Saturdays at 3 p.m. The show is recommended for children at least 8 – although younger kids were in the audience during our recent visit – and the cost is $7.50 per person.
Explaining the concept of ComedySportz to the kids before the show was a bit confusing, but they quickly got it once the show began.
ComedySportz is an all-improv, suggestion-based comedy show. There are two teams – called "actletes" – and a referee who keeps the show moving and calls fouls if a joke is too racy (this is a "brown bag" foul) or too cheesy (this is called a "groaner" foul).
There are hundreds of possible ComedySportz games, and team captains take turns choosing which game they want to challenge the other team to. Then, after each team performs, the audience picks which team was funnier.
Audience participation is a large part of the show. Audience members choose much of the scenarios that are acted out by the actletes. The ref is constantly asking the audience to yell out a profession or location or sport.
Nothing is rehearsed in a ComedySportz competition – everything is made up on the spot based on the audience suggestions. An average of seven to 12 games are played during a match, drawn from a repertoire of over a hundred improv games.
"There are so many different games, every kid identifies with something," says founding member Richard Chudnow.
For example, in "Shakespeare" a team will improvise a scene inspired by an audience suggestion in Shakespearian style. In "What You Got?" players create a rap on the spot, trading off each other's phrases, getting thrown out if they fall off the meter or fail to rhyme. In "Moving Bodies" two audience members physically move the actletes bodies based on what they are saying.
Overall, the concept translates well into kid humor. During our show, there were enough unicorn fart jokes and zombie references to get the 10-year-olds snickering. Parts of it, however, were too fast-paced and went over their heads. The games move very quickly and the ref speaks very fast, so whereas the grown ups would often guffaw at comments, kids seem to respond mostly to the more obvious stuff.
It would be nice if the show could be, somehow, slowed down just a little bit so the kids could get more out of it.
Food and drink are available before and during the show. The menu features plenty of kid-friendly food from burgers and wings and french fries and also dips to the decadent with deep fried Twinkies and candy bars. The prices are affordable; nothing's over $7.
ComedySportz also offers a half-day, afternoon summer camp for kids ages 8-15. There are week sessions all summer long and the cost is $180.
"ComedySportz is analogous to sports, valuing team work over the individual," says Chudnow. "Kids learn how to have each other's backs. Improv is about working together."
Chudnow says he's witnessed kids overcome shyness and autistic kids make breakthroughs through ComedySportz camp. All kids learn through the camp that everyone wants to win, but it's OK to lose.
Birthday parties are popular during the 3 p.m. matinee show. The cost is $7.50 per kid or $15 if food is included. Every birthday child's name appears on the jumbo-tron screen before the show and he or she is prioritized to participate on stage.
"It's a risk to step on the stage, but every kid gets a warm applause from the audience, and kids need that. It's great for self esteem," says Chudnow. "We have a lot of fun with the kids because kids are a lot of fun."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.