Comedian Charlie Berens comes to Schofield Auditorium for “Keep ‘er Movin’ Live”

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May 9, 2018

Photo by Lindsey Ambrosius

Charlie Berens said he tried to get a Britney Spears-style headset for his show but instead ended up with the Culver’s drive-thru style.

Last Friday night, Schofield Auditorium was packed — all 600 seats filled. Workers for the University Activities Commission (UAC) even pulled out folding chairs for audience members who couldn’t find a place to sit. When tickets went on sale in December, they were sold out in a matter of hours.

These people had come to see Charlie Berens, Wisconsin native and the host of a mini comedic newscast called the Manitowoc Minute. He was here for the Eau Claire leg of his “Keep ‘er Movin’ Live” comedy tour, hosted by Clearwater Comedy and the UAC.

“This time a year ago, that certainly wasn’t happening,” Berens said of his show selling out. “This time six months ago that wasn’t happening. So, it’s just crazy to me that it happened like that so fast.”

Berens is a comedian, actor, Emmy-winning journalist and kite-flying enthusiast, according to his website.

Before he took the stage Friday, three different comedians opened for him. The first was Clearwater Comedy’s Jordan Duroe, who hosted the show. He walked the audience through practice laughter, saying he wanted the crowd to sound more sophisticated than the one at Sheboygan, Wisconsin’s show. After all, this was Berens’ first visit to Eau Claire.

Duroe made way for Hannah Kabelitz, a junior at UW-Eau Claire who told jokes about winter in the community, naming and demonstrating the ways people slip on ice.

The last opener was comedian Dana Ehrmann, Berens’ friend from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ehrmann told self-deprecating jokes about her hair, skin-care routine and fashion sense and said she was disappointed to find out she could die from a lack of hugs.

Berens came on stage, wearing his signature camouflage jacket, to roaring applause. He sat down at the table and presented the news like he would on the Manitowoc Minute.

This comedic shtick, which includes an over-the-top, stereotypical Midwestern accent, came about because Berens said he noticed comedians in general were not doing it in their routines.

“For a long time, I had the idea to do a character with a strong Midwest point of view just because I felt like that was sort of lacking,” Berens said.

After using this bit in his stand-up comedy for a while, Berens said he noticed it went over well with audiences no matter where he was in the country. This, he said, led to the decision to create a video series based on the Midwestern character he had already been developing.

It wasn’t as straightforward as that, though, because Berens said he tried a lot of different content before coming to this, and he wasn’t completely sure about going through with it.

“I almost didn’t publish the first Manitowoc Minute because I thought that, even though the character is based on me, I just didn’t want people to think I was making fun of them … I was kind of self-conscious before releasing it,” Berens said.

During the show Berens incorporated plenty of surprises.

Berens sang a love ballad to the letter H, popped up in the balcony and even hosted an impromptu auction, through which he sold a pair of $6 “snowshorts” found on Eau Claire’s Craigslist page for $70 to a woman in the audience. He said at the start of the bidding that all proceeds would benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

Kathy Brice said she came to the show because her son, owner of Eau Claire’s Ambient Ink — the company that makes all of Berens’ merchandise — was good friends with the comedian. She and her husband, she said, were fans of his work.

“I loved it,” Brice said of the show. “I absolutely loved it. We’ve been following him all along,”

Despite his experience with comedy and infotainment, Berens has covered more serious topics. In fact, his Emmy win came from a 2013 TV news package called “The Cost of Water,” which aired on Nightcap News, a Dallas, Texas alternative news program Berens used to host.

For now, Berens will continue to focus on the Manitowoc Minute, for which he said he has new ideas. Some of these goals will aim to expand the segment beyond Wisconsin audiences. He also said he has a few other creative endeavors up his sleeve.