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Local comedy club celebrates 35 years of laughs

Comedy City is the longest-running improv troupe in Northeast Wisconsin
Posted at 8:14 AM, Feb 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-18 09:14:22-05

DE PERE — After 35 years, the name of the game remains the same, getting laughs and putting smiles on faces in the audience. As a veteran of more than 30 years in the industry, Comedy City owner Mike Eserkaln knows they've been around for so long because they've adapted to their audience.

"The improv hasn't changed, but the audiences and the way we perform it has. We're far less prop heavy, we used to use funny hats and rely on funny hats for our comedy. Now we rely on ourselves to be funny," said Eserkaln.

He says one of the things that remains the same about working in improv for decades is that it's much more team-oriented than other forms of comedy.

A sentiment that Nick Hendel says is a main reason why he was drawn to Comedy City Theatre in De Dere.

"You really have to rely on your teammates. They're there to support you just as much as you're there to support them. So say a joke's not landing when your teammate could swing in, land something great, and then you're back on your feet," said Hendel.

Hendel is one of the newer players with Comedy City Theatre and says the last three years have been a steep learning curve.

"At first it was hard when, you know, when you say a joke, no one laughs, but the people that are here all want you to succeed and they really want you to do your best and to do well. So there's a lot of learning moments from those mistakes," said Hendel.

One of Hendel's mentors is creative director Nick Wallander. In his 12th year with the troupe, Wallander says that besides the tight-knit community on and off the stage, one of the most impressive things about the group is how they've adapted including during the pandemic.

"They're dedicated, they're loyal, they're motivated, and they care about entertaining this community as much as anything else," said Wallander.

A quality that Eserkaln says gives him confidence in the troupe for decades to come.

"So the future, I'm not concerned about what will happen, I'm just kind of interested in how we're gonna adjust to it," said Eserkaln.