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Knock knock. Who’s there? Madison comedy.

Madison has a rich history of hiliarious residents.

Chris Farley entertaining friends backstage

“Everybody who saw him perform got a little piece of his soul” - Bob Odenkirk on Chris Farley | Photo via @thesecondcity

This may sound cheesy, but we think you’re really grate. Perhaps that Wisconsin-centric dad joke made you smile some. No? Perhaps this, “What did the bottle write on the postcard? Wish you were beer.”

Madison has a rich history of goofs and guffaws. We’re writing this on December 18, the day, sadly, Chris Farley passed away in 1997.

With him in mind, here’s our Madison Comedy Mount Rushmore:

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The movie “Airplane!” is considered by many to be one of the funniest comedies of all-time. | Photo via Paramount Pictures

Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker

These three men created, in the opinion of City Editor Jonathan, the greatest comedy movie of all-time, “Airplane!.” It is also, hot take, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar’s greatest performance.

Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (ZAZ) all became friends growing up in Shorewood, Wisconsin. They all attended UW-Madison and founded a small theatre named Kentucky Fried Theater in 1971. The show was a big hit, consistently selling out.

They took it to Los Angeles. The slapstick humor was well received there, too. So much so, “The Kentucky Fried Movie” was released in 1971. A sketch black comedy film, it starred such folks as Bill Bixby, George Lazenby, and Donald Sutherland. It was directed by John Landis. It was successful enough to help Landis to land the director job for “National Lampoon’s Animal House.”

From there, ZAZ’s breakout hit was “Airplane!,” and subsequent collaborations include “Top Secret!”, “Ruthless People,” and “The Naked Gun” series.

The three split up in the 1990s over fiscal and creative reasons, but remain close friends. In fact, they recently wrote a book about “Airplane!” this last fall.

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Award-winning actress Joan Cusack attended UW-Madison pursuing an English degree. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Joan Cusack

Born in New York City, and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Joan Cusack came to UW-Madison to study English. She started her film career as a student. One of her first roles was 1984’s “Sixteen Candles.” After graduating, she moved back to New York and joined “Saturday Night Live.” She started taking roles in films, including “Working Girl,” “Runaway Bride,” and those “Toy Story” movies.

She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards, six Emmy Awards (winning one), and a Golden Globe.

Oh, she also has a brother named John.

Chris Farley

The “fat guy in a little coat” has become a legend. From dancing alongside Patrick Swayze to living in a van down by the river; from drinking coffee to nearly being the voice of Shrek; the Madison native is a Madisonian through and through (as he and Letterman discussed).

He was born in Madison on February 15, 1964, and grew up in Maple Bluff. His father was president of Scotch Oil and his mother was a homemaker. His father’s obituary read, in part, “he endeared himself to countless numbers of people with his honesty and boundless sense of humor.” — The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Chris attended Marquette University and found himself enamored with theatre and comedy. Back in Madison, he learned the ropes of improv at the Ark Improv Theatre.

His star rose and rose quickly. In Chicago, he joined Second City Theatre, the same day that Stephen Colbert did, and his star rose again. By 1990 he was in New York as part of “Saturday Night Live.” He, Adam Sandler, and David Spade became fast friends.

A handful of movies catapulting him to further fame, including “Tommy Boy” and “Black Sheep.”

For much of his adult life, he battled alcohol and drug abuse. He was found dead in a Chicago apartment at the age of 33. His remains are interred at Madison’s Resurrection Cemetery.

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The Onion, the satiric news organization, started as a weekly newspaper in Madison. | Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Christopher Johnson and Tim Keck

On August 29, 1988, a newspaper launched in Madison. The first headline read, “Mendota Monster Mauls Madison.” So began The Onion.

It was conceived by UW-Madison students Christopher Johnson and Tim Keck. It was originally a weekly print newspaper for satirical news. Their friends, Scott Dikker and Peter Haise joined them in their endeavor. The paper was a success. It grew and grew some more. It kept growing. Now based in Chicago, it is a vast American digital media company and newspaper organization that publishes satire on all fronts.

Some recent headlines include:

  • Single Aunt’s Cheeky Request For Boyfriend For Christmas Growing More and More Depressing With Each Passing Year
  • Woman Comes Out of Manic Episode To Discover She’s Been Elected US Representative
  • Ohio Voters Narrowly Defeat Measure That Would Nuke Ohio

As the Onion’s “About Us” page states, “Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.”

There are laughs heard around the isthmus most every day. A few comedy hotspots:

  • Atlas Improv Company, 609 E. Washington Ave., Madison | Founded in 2004, it offers comedic hijinx most every weekend.
  • Comedy on State, 202 State St. Madison | With a lounge vibe, their roster includes nationally-known comics and open mic nights.
  • Monkey Business Institute, 2916 Atwood Ave., Madison | Made up of over 35 cast members, MBI was born from Madison’s ComedySportz.