Laughs to lighten the air
Kristin Lytie headlines her first Green Bay show at The Tarlton Theatre
By Rachel Sankey
Comedy hadn’t always been in the cards for Green Bay native Kristin Lytie.
When world issues – especially those Lytie said she has come across in her line of work of union organization – started to wear on her, comedy became a way to bring light to a realm full of darkness.
In her early 20s, Lytie said she was a big fan of the former all-ages punk venue, Concert Café. It was there, she said, she came to discover history, music and a sense of the world.
Around the same time she was making these discoveries, Lytie said her father had gotten into an accident at the mill he worked at after a propane tank caught fire, breaking both of his legs from below the knee.
Despite the miracle of her father being able to walk after doctors reconstructed his legs with muscle from all over his body, Lytie said the company’s treatment towards her father angered her and steered her path.
“Seeing the way the company treated him after working there for 20 years really politicized me and made me want to go to college and become a union organizer,” she said. “I didn’t know what an organizer was, but I knew I wanted to work for the labor movement in some way, because it seems so unfair that you could give so much of your life to a company to have them turn on you like that.”
To be a facilitator of change, Lytie said she went to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where she got her degree in social change and development with an emphasis in labor studies and economics.
After receiving her degree, Lytie moved to Chicago from 2008-2018, where she said she worked on various campaigns for a variety of different unions. She said she worked on issues such as raising the minimum compensation for paid sick leave.
Although Lytie said she acknowledged how working to make change wouldn’t be sunshine and rainbows, she said she didn’t realize how much it would weigh on her. When the day-to-day started to become too much, she said comedy became a positive avenue for her.
“I didn’t expect it to be so sad,” Lytie said. “That’s what kind of opened the door for me to start performing stand-up comedy. It’s like, ‘Oh, here’s this arena where I can make a room full of people laugh.’ That kind of fueled me so I can turn around and continue doing the work I do. Because no one calls an organizer because they’re having a good day.”
The comedian said she performed at open mics in Chicago for about four months before she was booked in her first Chicago showcase. After her first booked gig, Lytie said they just kept coming. She said she has performed shows across several states in the country, including Colorado, Texas and Iowa.
“You start creating networks within the comedy community,” she said. “Some of those people that I’ve met doing stand-up in that first year I’m still friends with. Some people look at comedy as a business, but I look at it more as building relationships and friendships.”
Lytie said her stand up performances can cover a variety of topics, from growing up in Wisconsin, women in the world, progressive politics, being sober, divorce and other matters that frustrate her.
“If you can show people a humorous side of a conflict, sometimes it opens it up for more discussion and is less scary,” she said. “The more we talk about (these issues), the more normalized they become, and then everyone feels comfortable talking about it.”
In 2017, Lytie said she wanted to continue her work back home in Green Bay, and by 2018 was back. She now works as a regional director with the Wisconsin Education Association Council in region three.
As her headlining show at The Tarlton Theatre nears closer, Lytie said she is excited to perform at the historical venue.
“I love The Tarlton so much,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful space. It brings back so many memories of growing up in Green Bay and going to the midnight movies. It brings me back to this sense of being a hopeful young woman.”
Lytie said attendees at the June 10 show can expect to hear a lot about growing up in Wisconsin, local Wisconsin politicians and an underlying narrative of equality and justice throughout.
“I’m really looking forward to sharing comedy with all my friends and family and I’m doing that in my hometown; it’s special,” she said. “I’m really excited for this show because I feel like it’s the first time I’ve taken up space in Green Bay.”
Lytie will perform at The Tarlton at 8 p.m. Friday, June 10.
Tickets start at $15.
Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]