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No More Milwaukee Nice

Dear Readers,

My Saturday was pretty good. The nice folks at CNN published my latest op-edon the Wisconsin Supreme Court race and promoted it online. Afterward, I picked up my wife, the Lovely Doreen from Waukesha, from church where she was singing and we went downtown for dinner and a show.

The comedian Jo Koy performed Saturday night at the Miller High Life Theatre. The Lovely Doreen bought us tickets last August to see him, row B, center, which is just six rows from the stage. They weren’t cheap tickets.

We were excited to see him. His specials on Netflix are hilarious, although I would not recommend them to more sensitive ears. Then we went to the theater and learned the hard way that it is getting impossible to enjoy live entertainment in Milwaukee because of the audience.

While we were able to find our seats without much difficulty, the same cannot be said for many of the people in our area. The ushers frequently interrupted the opening acts by checking tickets and moving people around. One couple was moved three times.

Meanwhile, the audience members kept coming and going to the bar or the bathroom, disrupting everyone in their areas again. I was up and down in my seat during the show so often I felt like I was at church.

The disruptions continued even when Koy took the stage.

The people in front of me talked during the whole show with one of them taking frequent breaks to go get more drinks from the bar. She was clearly over-served, hanging all over her friends and drunk whispering. “You wouldn’t believe what I f–king had to do to get this round,” she announced at one point, although it didn’t deter her from going back for more.

The people behind me kept talking throughout the show, too, complaining about Koy’s focus on a young couple in the front and debating about leaving. Seriously, you didn’t watch his Netflix specials where he does the same thing before you shelled out hundreds of dollars for seats?

And the lady in the center of our row finally returned. But then the lady in the middle of the row in front of us left again only to return minutes before the end of the show. A couple of rows in front of us, some guy was waving his beer in the air like a lighter during a ballad at a Motley Crue concert.

All of this while hecklers elsewhere in the audience were trying to attract attention to themselves rather than allowing everyone else to enjoy the show. Koy actually stopped his act after being distracted multiple times to tell the shouting idiots to knock it off (his language was more colorful). When the lesson didn’t sink in for one heckler, Koy stopped again.

But I bet the Miller High Life Theatre made plenty of money from the bar sales because they know Milwaukee audiences love being drunk and stupid. They kept the bar open the entire show.

When the show ended, Doreen and I made our way slowly through the crowd. Apparently not fast enough for the obnoxious drunk who sat in front of me during the show. She was pushing her friend in a wheelchair into my ankle.

I didn’t say anything because accidents happen and it was crowded – until the drunk slob made it clear that she hit me with the wheelchair intentionally because I was too slow. She called me a string of names, unprintable here, and said I was slow because I am fat. Judging from her Tammy Faye Baker starter kit makeup job, it’s clear she hasn’t looked in a mirror in a while. Otherwise she might think twice about calling someone else fat.

Doreen pulled me away before something else happened, like a real bad headline, “Nationally published opinion columnist beats up drunk lady pushing wheelchair.” A day later, my temper has cooled, but I sure am glad the Miller High Life Theatre fueled her behavior with 16 oz cups of booze long after she should have been cut off. Can you tell?

Unfortunately, this is not the only time when I’ve questioned the wisdom of seeing a live show in Milwaukee.

On Valentine’s Day this year. the Lovely Doreen and I attended a candlelight concert of love songs set to classical instruments.

At the beginning of the show, the performers announced that cell phones were to be kept off until the last song when everyone was encouraged to record it and post it on social media. Quite understandable since the concert hall was illuminated by candles. I happy to say that most of the audience behaved themselves.

But halfway through the show, a couple arrived to fill the two seats next to me in our row. (Folks, if you’re that late you should stay home.) The woman immediately took out her cell phone and started recording, the light visible like a searchlight at the airport. The two of them then started talking, making me wonder why she was bothering to record the music. I about hit my limit when the gentleman recognized a song and started to sing along.

I cannot say for sure they hit the bar at the back of the hall before taking their seats, but alcohol was available. Why, who knows? But another venue understands Milwaukeeans need a little nip (or a big gulp of booze) every two hours.

You cannot blame the bad behavior on Covid. When the late Anthony Bourdain and  chef Eric Ripert brought their “Good vs. Evil” tour to the Riverside Theater in 2013, drunken members of the audience shouted at the stage, too. Again, good thing the bar was kept open to fuel the behavior.

I am not a hypocrite and I’ve certainly enjoyed a cocktail or two at a show. At dinner Saturday night, I had two beers before the show. If there’s a two drink minimum at a comedy or jazz club, I’ll have two vodka martinis and hand the keys to Doreen. No problem.

But I don’t understand how Milwaukeeans have a reputation for being “nice” when they show less manners at a show downtown than someone attending a baseball game. At least at American Family Field, the typical baseball fan will wait until the half-inning or a pitching change before disrupting a row. That must be all of those nice Cubs fans showing good manners.

James Wigderson, at Miramor, April 9, 2023

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