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In Arts & Entertainment

Broads behind bars. (PHOTO: Katherine Schleicher)

Broads to celebrate "Jerks"

Broadminded is Milwaukee's only all-female sketch comedy group. The four members – Stacy Babl, Anne Graf LaDisa, Melissa Kingston and Megan McGee – have been performing as a group since 2006.

The shows are a mix of live sketches and video performances that are inspired by every day life.

The next show, "Jerks," explores the "people you love to hate," from d-bags to a-holes. "Jerks" runs on Nov. 22-23 and 29-30 at the Arcade Theatre in the Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12. The event is BYOB. recently caught up with the broads and asked them about their comedy, the upcoming show and if they hate men. (Guess what? They totally don't!) How did you come together/ find one another?

Megan McGee: We first ran into each other at Comedy Sportz, back in 2004 or so when we were part of the Minor League there. A handful of people there talked about starting a sketch comedy group, and in 2006, seven women joined up to have dinner and start writing a show. After our first show - and we all realized that it was both lots of fun but also tons of work – the four of us committed to a second show.

OMC: How often do you perform shows?

Stacy Babl: Each year we write and perform two all new sketch shows which run for four or five shows each. Back before husbands and children and when some of us were still nobodies in our jobs, we did three shows a year with one being a seven-night run. We also intermittently perform at private events. We have participated in sketch comedy festivals from Milwaukee to Austin, Texas.

OMC: Are they always sketch comedies? Are they written by the group?

Anne Graff LaDisa: Although our shows are always sketch comedy shows, we do sometimes rely on our improv training to develop a sketch. Sometimes the author of a sketch just puts a basic framework, or beats, down on paper and then we come together as a group and will improvise dialogue until we find something we like that sticks.

OMC: Is there anything else like your group in the city?

SB: Unfortunately, there is not anything else like us in the city. I mean, yes, it's cool to be the only all-female sketch group in town and one of the longest running sketch groups of any gender in Milwaukee, but more sketch groups mean more Milwaukee patrons that know how fun a sketch show can be to watch, which means more potential audience members for us. Plus, it would just be fun to see others having as great of a time as we have with one another – onstage that is. Off stage we absolutely hate each other.

OMC: Who or what inspired your group?

Melissa Kingston: I would say that our group was somewhat inspired by "The Gentleman's Hour" written and performed by Johnny Behner, Patrick Schmitz, Tyler Kroll and Mike Kauth.

When Broadminded was formed they were the most active sketch group in town and there was a feeling that there needed to be more sketch in Milwaukee. Why not a female counterpart to the gents? Also, the two ladies who spear-headed the group had been influenced by the sketch and improv scene in Chicago.

OMC: Where have you performed shows before?

MM: We've performed locally at the Alchemist Theatre, Carte Blanche Theatre and Tenth Street Theatre – where our spring 2014 show will be. We've also appeared at the Chicago Comedy Festival, the Austin Sketch Comedy Festival, and we've done several private shows – including a holiday party up in Fond Du Lac, an all-girls high school in Cincinnati and a conference held at the Harley Museum. And finally, we perform at all of Melissa's family functions. 60th birthday? Check. Baptism? Check. She even made us perform at her wedding.

OMC: Are your shows mostly for women? Will men appreciate the shows, too?

MM: We frequently use the phrase "By Women. For Everyone."

AGD: We have lots of Broadminded fans who are male. Our fathers, husbands and boyfriends love our shows.

MK: It's important to us that our comedy is smart enough to be appreciated by a "broad" spectrum of comedy palates. Not every sketch with resonate with every person but we usually appeal to a good chunk of the audience.

OMC: What do you hope people "get" from your shows or take away from them?

AGL: I hope that people enjoy the live performance, laugh a lot,and note that you don't need to drive to Chicago to see a great comedy show – there is plenty of quality comedy right here in Milwaukee.

OMC: Can you tell us a bit more about "Jerks" and the group's writing process?

MM: We all contribute sketches to every show. Whoever writes a sketch also casts and directs it, but we all add bits of our own personal style as we rehearse the piece. Our humor tends to be intelligent and layered, so we thought it'd be fun to pick a theme that's a bit more base. Plus, it's fun to play villains, mean girls, clueless idiots and the like. So here we are!

AGL: "Jerks" is really about that person you love to hate. I think people are really into anti-heroes right now. Sometimes I think it's because you know someone like that, or maybe because these types of characters just make us feel better about ourselves.

OMC: Why should someone consider attending this show?

MM: Because we're normally hilarious, but Anne will be 9 months pregnant which will make things extra hilarious!

AGL: Yeah, watch my ankles puff up and me become short of breath during the duration of the show. I will also play some male characters who will, coincidentally, all have a "beer gut."

OMC: Anything else you want to share?

MM: Thanks for not being a jerk!


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