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One of Green Bay’s own makes it big

UWGB alumna Mary Gallagher returns to perform at The Tarlton

By Rachel Sankey

Mary Gallagher will return to Green Bay to perform at The Tarlton Theatre on April 22 . Submitted Photos

Lactose intolerance won’t stop University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) alumna and comedian Mary Gallagher from returning back to the dairy state, despite her past remarks.

“I had to leave because I’m lactose-intolerant,” Gallagher said during her show at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California back in 2018. “I just couldn’t stand that much cheese on my head, that much beer going through a funnel into my mouth.”

No keeping this cheesehead away for long.

The Wisconsin native will be in Green Bay for her show at the Tarlton Theatre Friday, April 22.

Gallagher grew up in Elm Grove, but graduated from UWGB in 1990 with a degree in theater.

From the beginning, Gallagher said she gravitated towards comedy – whether that be comedians or comics.

“I did a lot of cartooning, and I think that’s when I first started getting into comedy,” she said. “My parents were really strict. So if I had any chance of getting something, if it went with a cartoon, there might be a slight increase in the chance of me obtaining whatever it was I wanted if I could make my mom laugh.”

Gallagher also said she would watch Late Night with David Letterman often while growing up, which is how she was first introduced to stand up comedy.

Despite being a part of the UWGB theater program in Green Bay, she said it was not easy getting cast in the main-stage musicals.

After a while, Gallagher said she then decided to start writing her own performances, containing humor, and perform them at local bars and competitions.

While attending UWGB, Gallagher said a performer (at the time) from Second City, a well-known comedy school that fostered famous actors and comedians, such as Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Chris Farley, had come to campus to do a workshop. After the workshop, she said she was hooked, and went on to train at Second City herself after college.

“It was such great training, and so close to Wisconsin,” Gallagher said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ I didn’t know how to move to New York or LA, but I knew how to get to Chicago, that’s for sure.”

From Second City, Gallagher said her career really took off.

A Wisconsin native, Gallagher earned her theater degree at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) in 1990. After, she then went to Second City in Chicago, where she said her career really took off.

Putting her talent to use

Gallagher said she has performed at many different clubs and festivals, including the New York Comedy Festival, the Boston Comedy Festival, Michigan Laugh Festival, Burbank Comedy Festival and more.

“I haven’t done a whole lot of comedy in Wisconsin,” Gallagher said. “I have performed at what was called the Comedy Cafe in Milwaukee. And oddly enough, there’s a comedy club called Skyline in Appleton, which I’ve never been in, in that form at least, but it was a gay bar I used to perform in with my comedy duo.”

As for recent performances, Gallagher said she just returned from San Luis Obispo, California, where she was part of the Best of the Fest for the SLO Comedy Festival.

“I was the only woman who made it to the Best of the Fest,” she said. “That was cool to kind of represent.”

Even though Gallagher has been performing stand up comedy for years, she said she still gets nervous, just like any other person would when performing on stage for an audience, and that it never truly goes away.

“I’m constantly second guessing… I mean, all the time,” Gallagher said. “And even like today, I’m going back to Green Bay in two weeks, and I am writing some comedy sketches for me and my former comedy partner. I haven’t written a sketch for her and I in 30 years, so I’m like, ‘I don’t even know if this is funny.’”

Despite the concern and nervousness, Gallagher said at the end of the day what matters most is that she has fun. She said if she’s not having fun, then no one will laugh.

Gathering material for shows tends to happen consistently for Gallagher, however, she said it tends to happen at one of the most inopportune times – like when she’s driving to the club to perform.

“It’s a little frustrating, because I don’t even have time to catch them, you know, like I’m driving,” Gallagher said. “It’s frustrating and thrilling at the same time, because I don’t want to be thinking about new stuff. I want to go do what I plan to do that night. But it’s thrilling, because when I’m in the mindset of comedy, which I am when I’m driving to the club, I feel like that’s when my brain says, ‘Oh, we’re doing comedy. Let’s do comedy all the time.’ It feels kind of magical and kismet.”

Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Gallagher said performing on Colbert was exciting and rewarding.

Gallagher had the chance to show off her comedic talents when she went on national television in 2018 for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Colbert also trained at Second City.

Although Gallagher said she recognizes that even though a lot of talent comes from Wisconsin, the state isn’t considered a capital of entertainment, so she said she was beyond excited to go from starting in the dairy state to performing on Colbert.

“It’s thrilling because I do feel like I have been working so hard,” she said. “And I do come from a small background, you know, and I didn’t know anyone in the business. But it also does take a really long time.”

On stage and on screen

Gallagher’s comedic presence is her main career, but she said she doesn’t stop at just that.

She said she’s also an actor, and has been on popular shows such as How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS and The West Wing. Gallagher said being on a mainstream show is a great way to get one’s name out there, however, it’s not always the most fulfilling work.

“Sometimes you can be on a really high profile show, but you may not be doing much on it,” Gallagher said. “It’s neat to be in that environment, but also, as a performer, you’re wanting to tell a story and express yourself through that medium. So, yeah, some of those shows might be really exciting to be on, but, at this stage in my life, I want to tell the stories I want to tell, either as a writer or an actor. It’s a natural desire to want to expand more.”

Gallagher has been the lead on shows, but said those shows unfortunately never made it past the pilot episode.

The actor is also on a Netflix horror-comedy prank show with Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo called Prank Encounters, which Gallagher said has been a joy to be on.

Gallagher has also been on popular TV shows such as ‘Friends,’ ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘NCIS’ and more.

Coming home

Gallagher said she is excited to return to Green Bay and plans to keep things relaxed for her show, as she knows there will be a little more pressure performing since she will know some of the audience members.

“It doesn’t feel like a normal show,” she said. “It feels more like, ‘Hey, do you guys want to all go hang out at The Tarlton? I mean, I’ll be on stage but let’s just hang out. I think it’s kind of like going to your favorite aunt’s basement.”

The show

Gallagher is set to take the stage at The Tarlton at 7:30 p.m. April 22 and will be joined by special guests Jennie Young and comedy duo The Flying Napkins.

For more information, call The Tarlton Theatre at (920) 562-5612.

Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].

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