Charlie Kojis Faces Fear with Comedy


For Charlie Kojis, being funny comes by facing his—and likely many of his audiences’—fears. “I think good comedy,the Madison-based comedian explains, “is usually going to come from a starting point of what you really care about, and I personally find more comedy in what I’m afraid of rather than what I’m excited about.” He adds, “I think it’s an easy entry point to having relatable comedy since we’re all afraid of the same things on some level: being embarrassed, failing, not having made the most of your life and then running out of time. When you start asking why something makes you uncomfortable and you uncover some funny realizations in that process.” 

Kojis is set to confront fears and wrestle foibles with engagingly low-key humor at Milwaukee’s hybrid antique shop and performance space, Dandy (5020 W. Vliet St.) on Thursday February 2 for a 7:30 p.m. show. The date will be recorded for his first album and special, A Normal Amount of Pain. Fear and pain from one comic?! Is Kojis some kind of masochist? No, he’s more of a realist. 

“That’s a line from my act that I just felt like summed up my point-of-view fairly well,” Kojis shares of his commercial recording debut’s title. “I liked it as a pull quote that’s a bit understated,” he offers. As for the understated approach he takes to garnering laughter, he states, “My comedy isn’t particularly intense. In my act there’s a fair amount of accepting that life is going to have plenty of moments of pain, but that’s mostly fine.”

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It’s likewise pretty fine to be named the funniest stand-up in one’s city, as Kojis was named his hometown’s most hilarious comic several years ago in a competition to determine that honor. As he recalls his victory, Kojis notes that it’s one of the few times when someone in his line of work can receive a distinction so physically palpable. 

“It’s stressful when you’re doing it, but it’s the only time in comedy that you’re going to do a show and then be handed a trophy and declared the winner,” Kojis remembers. In contradistinction, he relates, “You can have an amazing set on the road, but afterwards you just go back to your hotel room. There aren’t a lot of tangible moments like that in comedy, so it’s great in that sense. But ultimately, you’re getting a credit that doesn’t have a lot of meaning outside of Wisconsin.”

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That contest and resultant award were no laurels on which Kojis rested for long though. “It fills your calendar up for about a month and then it’s on you to kind of maintain that momentum and keep writing and building on that and trying to parlay it into longer sets and more opportunities.” On a smaller, scale, however, he was honing his artistry long before started making others chuckle from stage.  

“I definitely think my family put a premium on being funny,” Kojis recalls of his childhood. “Not as much hamming it up, but who could get the next line in and riff off what the last person said. I have three brothers so there was a lot of that.” Kojis’ humor may be more of a generational gift. “I like to think I have a unique comedic voice, but then if you talk to my dad, you probably realize I’m just ripping off the way he talks.” That pilfering of and expansion upon his father’s wit eventually led to trying out an open mic in Kojis’ junior year of college, leading up to his forthcoming recording. 

What will Kojis be doing after Madison-based production company Audio for the Arts records and director Jesse Chieffo captures the video for Pain? The prospect could daunt Kojis, but it’s doubtful it will.

“One of the most intimidating parts of recording an album is going to be starting over. I think I’ve put together a good representation of what I wanted to talk about age 21 to 30 and capturing that as a headlining set. 

“Now it’s, ‘OK, I’ve got that recorded, and I’ve told those jokes. Now what?’; I’m hoping it will motivate me creatively, and I’ll be able to build another unique hour that isn’t just hitting the same beat. The goal is to just keep getting better and be able to turn over material so that what I’m doing never feels stale.”

Here, in a tight five minutes, Kojis expounds on standing desks, dental care, favorite colors, haircuts, restaurant orders and more at an admirably high laughs-per minute rate …

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