​ComedyCity Grows Up

andrew kruse-ross | comedycity | feb. 2017

Improv shows at the Green Room Lounge are a high-energy affair, as evidenced by ComedyCity's Sean Yahn and C.J. Guzan. Photo by Nick Wallander. It's hard to believe, but in March, ComedyCity will celebrate its 30th year of bringing improv to the people of Brown County. The troupe, which once served up laughs in downtown Green Bay, now calls De Pere's Green Room Lounge home. In recent years, the troupe has hung its hat upon anchoring that venue's busy event schedule by offering two comedy shows on Friday and Saturday nights.

In case you're unfamiliar, ComedyCity shows are comprised of a number of improvisational “games" performed live on stage by the troupe's comedy performers. It's comedy without the net, so to speak, as the show is entirely unscripted and the performers are forced to process, adapt and act on a moment's notice to any number of comedy cues. Anything is possible and the result is a fast-paced, high-energy evening that — at a mere $10 for the early show and $12 for the late show — might just be the area's best entertainment value.

Those shows, which regularly take place at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., have historically been family-friendly, but that's no longer the case. While the early show will remain a family-friendly event, the late show is getting the grown-up treatment, and the result is decidedly funny.

One might be tempted to think this new “grown-up" version of the improv show is simply the family-friendly show with the addition of curse words, but that simply isn't the case.

“Having the filter removed and being able to swear is just part of it," says Green Room owner and ComedyCity troupe leader Mike Eserkaln. “We've got so many comedic tools to use during a show and swearing is just another one of those tools, but it isn't something we want to lean on."

Instead he points to the infinite number of settings and situations that the troupe has had to stay clear of when presenting a family-friendly show, some of which appeared during the “grown-up" show on January 20. Pregnancy, hangovers and personal hygiene all served as comedic topics at some point during that evening's performance and melded seamlessly with the evening's more absurd (and more family-friendly) moments, like apple picking with Aaron Rodgers and using dairy products for cranial protection.

The night also gave way to some satire, which appeared on stage. When the evening's MC asked the audience to suggest a few “worst-ever events" for the performers to act out, one quickly responded “worst-ever inauguration," forcing Eserkaln into his best Donald Trump impersonation, something this new “grown-up" show lends itself to readily.

“It's exciting to be open to satire like that," says Eserkaln. “Sure, you could pretend to be the President during the family-friendly show, but that's not going to be funny for kids. The grown-up show opens up that possibility for us and I'm excited for that idea."

Audience suggestion is just one of several factors that ensure no two ComedyCity shows are ever the same. No, ComedyCity won't drag unwilling participants up on stage and make fun of them, but audience interaction and suggestion flavors each show, and, in a way, tailors each performance to that audience. You never know what you're going to get, and that's part of the fun.

Adding to the unique character of each show are the dynamic interactions of the ComedyCity performers. The lineup (which may change from week to week) for the Jan. 20 performance included five performers — two female, three male — of multiple ages and experience levels.

Ariana Gibeault is the group's newest member, having joined less than five months ago. She's also the troupe's youngest and a high school senior. She's adjusting to the schedule of performing while in school, as well as adjusting her “filter" to the new “grown-up" show, which she says has been pleasing audiences.

“I'm so used to not saying anything I wouldn't say to my little sisters," says Gibeault, “[but] the response to the show has been great; the audiences appreciate the realness that comes with letting loose some swears or being able to say 'pole dancing' out loud."

Garth Zimmerman was 46 when he joined ComedyCity 15 years ago. The “grown-up" format has opened up performance possibilities for him as well.

“Because the show is played to a grown-up audience, there is more opportunity for innuendo," says Zimmerman. “As someone who is gay, it allows me to release my inner Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly."

ComedyCity performs every Friday and Saturday night at the Green Room Lounge, 353 Main St., De Pere. The family-friendly show begins at 7:30 p.m., admission is $10. The new grown-up show begins at 9:30 p.m., admission is $12.

All ages are welcome at both shows, but parental discretion is advised for the “grown-up show."

Can't make it to a show? Have ComedyCity come to you. ComedyCity is available for corporate and private parties. Shows can be tailored to suit any audience and are available with a G- through R-rating.

More than Improv

ComedyCity shows anchor Friday and Saturday nights at the Green Room, but there's much more to the venue than improv.

You'll find live music jam sessions hosted by Wild Irish Gerry on most Tuesdays. Live music also accompanies Sundays' build your own Bloody Mary Brunch Buffet, featuring food from Melts With You.

The first Thursday of every month is Piano Lounge Karaoke Sing-a-Long, which puts and interesting twist on karaoke, all other Thursdays the Green Room is home to Laugh Box stand-up comedy shows featuring both local and regional comics.

The third Tuesday of every month is home to Smarty Pants Trivia. And Pass the Paint, Pass the Wine is held on the fourth Sunday of the month (excluding February). Twenty dollars buys you a canvas, paint, brushes and a bottomless glass of wine. Painters work on their canvas for 15 minutes before switching canvases with another painter.

February at the Green Room

There's never a bad time to discover the Green Room, but a number of special events on the venue's schedule make February an especially good time to check things out.

ComedyCity Alumni Show – In honor of performer Gary Radke's birthday, as special alumni show has been scheduled for Feb. 4. This show will bring ComedyCity alumni to the Green Room stage, some from as far back as 20 years ago.

Valentine's Day Weekend – Couples making reservations for ComedyCity shows on Feb. 10 and 11 receive a complimentary box of chocolates with a reservation. Enjoy live entertainment in the intimate surroundings of the Green Room and stay after the show on Feb. 11 for Mike's Blue Valentine Piano Lounge.

Comedian Marz Timms – On Thurs., Feb. 16, special guest comedian Marz Timms will be up from Chicago to headline Laugh Box stand-up. Admission is only $5.

Oscar Night – Feb. 26 is Oscar Night. Come watch the Oscars on the big screen and enjoy Oscar-themed potluck dishes with the ComedyCity troupe.

For more information visit TheGreenRoomOnline.com or find them on Facebook (@TheGreenRoomDePere).

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