A Milwaukee-based production company is rolling out a new comedy club in Walker's Point as local demand for live comedy grows.
The Laughing Tap is slated for a mid-January opening at 706 S. 5th St., the former Brenner Brewing site. The space most recently housed Sprecher Brewing Co.'s taproom, which closed in August after operating for less than a year.
Milwaukee Comedy LLC has taken over the venue with plans to create "Milwaukee's home for comedy." The business currently puts on live shows at about nine different venues, bringing both local and national acts to the area. It's also the organizer of Milwaukee Comedy Festival, which is the largest multi-day comedy event in Wisconsin.
Founder and co-owner Matt Kemple has been producing comedy in Milwaukee for almost 15 years, but he and co-owners Kaitlin McCarthy and Greg Bach have been extra busy lately.
Kemple said Milwaukee Comedy produced 10 to 12 shows per month this year, boosting last year's monthly show count by almost 50%.
"We've had our shows selling out over and over again -- and not just us, but other people who produce comedy in town have seen similar things," Kemple said. "So for us, opening a club was just a natural progression because we need to keep growing and comedy just seems like one of those things that has become more and more popular."
The Laughing Tap will eventually house two separate performance halls, but initially, shows will take place in the building's 100-person taproom. That space is already equipped with a full bar area, which will serve local and Wisconsin-made craft beer from its 24 tap lines.
A second 200-person performance space will eventually open in the back portion of the building where the brewing equipment used to be.
"We'll have the option of two shows going on at once, or since we have a smaller room and a larger room, we plan to have things like a local showcase and open mic nights in the smaller room and then for larger shows, we want more capacity," Kemple said.
He said the taproom space could also function as a more casual environment with opening entertainment before a headliner or ticketed show begins in the back space.
"A lot of the bigger names that we’re bringing have been special events, but we're looking to make that more of a staple on weekends at the new club," he said.
Starting in January, The Laughing Tap will be open Wednesday through Sunday with open mic nights and local showcase events taking place during the week and bigger shows taking place on weekends.
The Laughing Tap will host a handful of invite-only test shows before it officially opens to the public. Its official lineup will likely be announced around the holidays, said Kemple.
Milwaukee Comedy plans to continue hosting its remote events around the city, but a permanent venue makes more sense for the business and for the area's comedy scene.
"We want to create something that everyone is welcome to come out and laugh," said Kemple.