A community of comedy

Every Tuesday night Pizza Plus is home to Eau Claire’s circle of comics


JOKE’S ON YOU: Justin Schenck closes an evening of comedy at Pizza Plus on Tuesday. He is one of several comedians who regularly performs at Tuesday open-mic nights. – Photo by Sam Martinez

Story by Sam Martinez, Staff Writer

A group of comedians huddle around the table near the stage, laughing amongst themselves while scribbling into their notebooks.

It’s Tuesday night at Pizza Plus, and many of the faces of Eau Claire comedy show up early to pitch jokes to each other before they go on stage.

“I’ll come here just about every week with two or three joke ideas, and by the time I hit the stage, they’re jokes,” comedian Ryan Kahl said.

Kahl, a Chippewa Falls High School graduate, now lives in Minneapolis, but he makes the drive to Eau Claire every Tuesday to perform. He said one thing that makes Eau Claire comedy special is the sense of community and family among the comedians.

Veteran Eau Claire comedian Cullen Ryan said Pizza Plus is his favorite open-mic night because in Eau Claire, the circle of comedians want to see each other succeed.

“I promise it’s better than Minneapolis open-mics,” Ryan said. “At Minneapolis open-mics, there is a competitive edge to it, and it doesn’t feel like that at all here.”

Comedy at Pizza Plus started about two and a half years ago when Ryan started performing stand-up at the Tuesday open-mic night. After trying out other open-mics at places like the Mousetrap and Stone’s Throw, Ryan found the support and comfort he was looking for at the Pizza Plus open-mic, which Sean Jones hosts.

Jones said once the Haas family took over and redesigned Pizza Plus, he began pushing for an open-mic night that showcased a “culmination of the arts”, which included some stand-up.

“I wanted a variety, and comedy was always a part of that from the beginning,” Jones said. “When (he) came down, for the first few months he was the only comedian, and I thought it was amazing.”

For six months, Ryan was the only comedian at open-mic night. But other comedians like Ryan Kahl and Justin Schenck gradually accompanied him. Ryan said the event has gone from one comedian performing to a crowd of maybe six people at the end of the night, to over ten people performing to crowds of about 100 people.

“(Open-Mic night) attracts a good crowd and it’s great free comedy,” said audience member Adam Swenson, who is a senior at UW-Eau Claire. “It’s definitely the best thing to do in Eau Claire on a Tuesday night.”

Kahl said he is amazed by the support the comedians have received on Tuesday nights, noting there are some people who come every week just to see the comedians.

“We have a great community, not just with the comedians but with the crowd,” Kahl said.

Kahl and Ryan both said anybody interested in comedy should come on a Tuesday night and see what Eau Claire comedy is all about.

Anyone wishing to see some Eau Claire comedy this weekend can head to the Mousetrap Tavern on Friday night for the event “Comedians in Bars getting Cocktails.” The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and is 21-plus only.