Channel 6 weatherman and Saukville resident Rob Haswell gets plenty of laughs— and chicken—at his Memories gigs
Memories’ Chicken Comedy has been playing to sell-out crowds since Fox 6 weatherman Rob Haswell joined the production six years ago, warming up the audience for the headline comics.
“We used to be happy with 100 people,” Memories owner Rolland Roebuck said. “Now, if we don’t sell out, we wonder why.”
He considers 200 people to be a sell-out, but can accommodate 40 more if needed.
Last Saturday, March 24, a Milwaukee police officer turned comedian was the first act followed by featured comic Vince Maranto of Chicago.
Haswell did a 15-minute routine, introduced the cop whose politically incorrect act drew as many groans as laughs, then deftly changed the mood by chatting with the audience, playing his guitar and imitating Gordon Lightfoot’s sea chanty lilt while singing the national anthem and songs by Lady Gaga, Madonna and other pop artists.
By learning three basic cords on the guitar, Haswell told the audience, he can play almost any song, demonstrating that Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore” is the same tune as “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Maranto then took command of the stage, providing a professional act that played off his drive from Chicago and the Town of Port Washington dinner-theater’s former life as a beer bar.
“I count the trip in road kills. It was a two-deer, one-raccoon trip today,” Maranto said, adding, “The last time I was here, it was Weiler’s. I don’t remember the ride home.”
Haswell closed the show, telling everyone to be safe driving home.
Haswell is an Ontario, Canada, native who now lives in Saukville with his wife Tanya, son Noah, 10, and daughters Nyla, 8, and Nadia, 4.
He was a comedian with Second City Toronto before he got his meteorology degree and worked for the Weather Network, Canada’s equivalent of the Weather Channel.
When he took the job at Fox 6 in 2005, Haswell went to a Chicken Comedy — the name comes from all the broasted chicken the audience can eat — and agreed to serve as master of ceremonies.
He says his pay is the left-over chicken that he takes home.
“We love Sundays after Chicken Comedy because we have all this good chicken,” said Tanya, who often accompanies her husband, making it a date night.
“Tanya is a very funny person herself, but in a quiet kind of way,” Haswell said. “She’ll slip a few zingers in. She’s more like the producer behind the scenes. I get a lot of my ideas from her.”
Last Saturday was awards night for their older children’s hockey teams, which Haswell coaches, so he gave out the awards, humorously no doubt, to all the kids before arriving just in time to go on stage. He quickly jotted down notes about the two comedians he would introduce.
The comedians also get to eat as much chicken as they want.
“I hear they ask each other, ‘Did you do the Chicken yet?’” said Roebuck, who works with a Chicago agent to book acts.
“We want cruise-ship humor — funny without being vulgar. We have people from their 20s to 80-year-olds and sometimes kids. It’s family entertainment.”
Many of the comics have performed on HBO and Comedy Central.
Chicken Comedy is scheduled monthly from October through April inbetween dinner-theater productions, so the stage is usually set for show rehearsals.
“The comedians sometimes use the set. Once it was a Western saloon and the comic pretended he was the bartender,” Haswell said. “It’s a lot better than playing in dark bars or casinos.”
Haswell said he enjoys performing stand-up comedy.
“I can do a little bit of it on TV, but I have to give the weather facts,” he said. “It’s nice to get this opportunity here. This gives me a chance to meet people in a new light.”
As a weatherman, his personality shows in his interplay with the rest of the news team and when he goes to schools and other events.
Haswell has a degree in communications and worked in radio for several years while doing comedy at night.
“Shortly after I graduated, I went to Second City in Toronto and did a lot of work with them and traveled around doing clubs,” he said. “It was a lot of stand-up comedy and some theater work. After a certain point, you have to make a call — stay in comedy or try something else. Weather is the way I took.”
The Weather Network liked Haswell’s approach and sent him to their in-house meteorology school. He worked at the Weather Network for five years, then three years with a CBS affiliate before joining Fox 6.
Comedy is still his love, he said.
In large cities, there used to be comedy clubs on almost every corner, he said.
“The whole comedy world has shrunk, and it’s a little challenging to make money doing it,” Haswell said. “The good part is not everybody is doing it like in the
’80s. What’s remaining is high-quality comedy.”
The next Chicken Comedy is April 14 featuring Ken Sevara. More information is on www.memoriesballroom.com.
Image Information: Rob Haswell, with his trusty guitar, posed prior to Saturday’s Chicken Comedy at Memories Ballroom. Photo by Sam Arendt