comedy

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When you think of catching some good improv comedy, your first thought might be Chicago's famed Second City where John Belushi and Bill Murray graced the stage.

But there's a thriving improv comedy scene in the Detroit area.

PJ Jacokes, co-founder of Go Comedy Improv Theatre of Ferndale, and Margaret Edwartowski, executive director of Arts at the Y and a board member of Planet Ant in Hamtramck, explain why Detroit is poised to be the next big thing in comedy.

You can listen to our conversation with PJ Jacokes and Margaret Edwartowski below:


dwaynegill.com/comedy / dwaynegill.com/comedy

Michigan State Police Sgt. Dwayne Gill uses his day job as a reference pool for his stand-up sets.

Gill said that comedy came first for him, but open-mic nights did not bring in enough money, so he became a police officer.

“They knew that I was doing stand-up in the academy and I was called 'Recruit Joker,'” Gill said.

Gill started his comedic journey in 1989. He signed up for an Apollo Night contest in April 1995. After getting booed off the stage, he decided to quit comedy and focus on his police work.

Seven years later, he went to a retirement party for a trooper at the Ann Arbor Showcase, and said that gave him the itch to try comedy again.

He read books, took a class in New York, and learned more about comedy. September 11, 2002 he was back on stage, and started getting paid for his jokes in 2004.

Now he has opened up for celebrities like Tim Allen, and recently for Aretha Franklin.  

Gill has been working in law enforcement for 21 years. He is now the Michigan State Police liaison to the Legislature, and he still continues to do stand-up work.

*Listen to our full interview with Dwayne Gill above. 

Heywood Banks

One of Michigan's big contributions to the world of comedy is Heywood Banks.

Whether he's playing his guitar or his trusty toaster, he's made audiences laugh all over the country.

He's appeared on A&E, MTV, and Entertainment Tonight. And he was the MC for both nights of the 2012 Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

He'll be playing at The Ark on March 15; he joined us today on Stateside.

Listen to the full interview above.

When it comes to support for emergency care services, the U.S. just barely squeaked by with a passing grade, at least according to a new state-by-state report card put out by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

And how did Michigan measure up, you might ask? Well, it turns out we're failing in access to emergency health care. We heard some recommendations about ways to move forward.

Then, we met a woman who’s trying to help people come together to have some uncomfortable, but enlightening, conversations about race, class and more.

And, we spoke with Daniel Howes about Tom Lewand, Detroit’s job czar.

Also, “Saturday Night Live” just hired its first black female cast member in five years. Will this bring more attention to other black comedians?

And, a Michigan historian gave us a closer look at how Michigan milkweed helped us in World War II.

Also, the Michigan Human Society has a new way to find homes for their animals: social media.

First on the show, how do you best measure the progress of students in Michigan's classrooms and, by extension, the effectiveness of their teachers?

It's one of the thorniest challenges being debated in Michigan education.

For years, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Examination (MME) have been the assessment tools. Now, with the move to the Common Core Standards, it's out with the MEAP and MME and in with the what?

Districts around Michigan are gearing up for an online adaptive assessment test in the spring of 2015.

The Michigan Department of Education says the state has only one option for testing students on the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

And that option is the Smarter Balanced Assessment – the SBA.

But state lawmakers haven't made that official.

We wondered how districts  are preparing for the SBA or whatever test they're told to administer next year.

William Heath is the superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School located in Shiawassee County. He joined us today.

Twitter

A new face recently joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" and made plenty of headlines when she did.

Comic Sasheer Zamata became the first black female cast member of SNL in five years, since the departure of Maya Rudolph. She was discovered through a talent search that focused strictly on black female comedians.

What does this extra attention mean for other black women who want to make us laugh?

One of those women is Detroiter Satori Shakoor, actor, writer, comedian and creator of "The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers." She joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

A new festival will feature comedians from Arab-American and other minority backgrounds. 

The 1001 Laughs Dearborn Comedy Festival happens September 27 and 28 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

Amer Zahr is the festival's producer and he'll also be performing a few sets.

Liz Mackinder / The Moth

A Detroit comedian is featured in this week’s episode of The Moth Radio Hour.

Back when he was 12, Horace H.B. Sanders, a stand-up comic from the Motor City, showed up to a costume party in his homemade ninja costume.

Turns out, he was the only one who dressed up for the party.

Listen to Sander’s hilarious story, recorded at a Grand Slam in Detroit.

user: anyjazz65 / Flickr

Gilda's Club is an organization that consists of groups across the country which provide laughter and support to cancer patients.

The organization is named after Gilda Radner. She was one of the brightest faces in comedy. The University of Michigan alum was in the original cast of Saturday Night Live. She passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989. 

One of her close friends and partner in comedy, Allen Zweibel, spoke with Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty about Radner.

Paula Poundstone is one of the funniest people in Public Radio. You can hear her test her knowledge of the news, and throw in a few quips on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. This Friday, she’ll be performing at the Ford Community Performing Arts Center.

About thirteen years ago, when Poundstone started with Wait Wait, the show was produced mostly in-studio.

“The show was still really, really fun to do. But it definitely and obviously took on a stronger energy by virtue of having a responsive crowd in from of us, which is really, really fun,” she said.

Poundstone draws comical inspiration from the crowd during her stand-up as well.

“My favorite part of the night is, I do a time honored, ‘where are you from, what do you do for a living?’ And little biographies emerge, and I kind of use that to set my sails for what to talk about,” she said.

Go here to find out more this Friday's event.

Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

Things don't seem to be going all that well in U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's (R-Livonia) political career. His bid for the Republican presidential nomination sputtered out last year, and more recently, he was forced to give up his Congressional re-election campaign over falsified petition signatures.

But perhaps he has a future in show business.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids smashed the former world record for rubber chicken chucking set last April in a town near Boston. They got 265 people to toss rubber chickens at once. Last night Grand Rapids tossed an impressive 925.

The world record title marked the beginning of LaughFest. An event that'll take over much of Grand Rapids over the next 9 days. Those little yellow smiley faces representing the festival dot billboards, bar windows, churches; people even wear them as lapel pins.