Oshkosh might not be the first place you think of as a comedy hotspot, but husband and wife duo Mike and Kyla Heyer are on a mission to change that. They’re the owners of Backlot Comedy House, which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary.
Graduates of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the Heyers are no strangers to entertainment. They both lived in Los Angeles for several years working on television shows such as “CSI Miami” and “Guys with Kids.”
“We worked there for a few years and decided that we wanted to basically just quit our jobs and move back to the Fox Valley and open up this comedy house,” Kyla Heyer says.
Thus, Backlot Comedy House was born — a venue that offers improv comedy shows every Friday and Saturday night at 9 p.m.
“What that means is we know the games and how they work, but we don’t know the suggestions because we get all of those from the audience,” Heyer says. “That’s all given to us on the spot.”
Each show features anywhere from five to seven comedians on stage, but Backlot has a crew of 15 people who can rotate in and out for different shows. Heyer says she especially enjoys continuing to add new talent, noting that no prior experience is necessary to audition.
“I love meeting new comedians and getting new cast members just to bring different feels to our shows,” she says.
Although Oshkosh is a long way from Los Angeles, Heyer says it’s rewarding to bring improv comedy to the city, especially when the next-nearest improv show is in De Pere.
“I feel like we’re sort of paving the way in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley for improv comedy,” she says. “We’re not only performing for people every weekend, but also educating people on what improv comedy is and how it works.”
That effort has paid off with Backlot Comedy House developing a loyal fan base — including one grandmother (who everybody in the cast lovingly refers to as “Grandma”) who has come to the show nearly every Friday for the last four years.
“It’s audience members like that who remind us that we’re all very supported by the community,” Heyer says.