Live comedy show ‘Minnesota Tonight’ makes a joke out of local news

Host Jonathan Gershberg on camera at a recording of Minnesota Tonight // Photo courtesy Minnesota Tonight

Host Jonathan Gershberg on camera at a recording of “Minnesota Tonight” // Photo courtesy “Minnesota Tonight”

Who says the news can’t be funny?

Now more than ever late night talk shows are platforms that are just as powerful as traditional news outlets. Whether it’s “The Daily Show,” “Last Week Tonight,” or “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” watching news commentary shows has become a way for many people to not only laugh at what’s happening in the world, but to stay informed as well.

Thanks to Jonathan Gershberg and the crew of “Minnesota Tonight,” local news and politics are no longer safe from similar smack talking.

“I grew up fascinated with news comedies like ‘The Daily Show,’” Gershberg explains. “When I started doing stand-up comedy in Minnesota, I realized there really wasn’t anything like that here.”

In the summer of 2015, Gershberg put out a call for like-minded individuals interested in producing a live news-focused comedy show. In October of that same year, “Minnesota Tonight” was born.

Focused on satirizing the news, politics, and issues happening here in Minnesota, the show is structured in a similar way to its national influences. Monologues, video segments, interviews with prominent local guests, and musical performances are all on display in front of a live audience each month at Brave New Workshop. Taking place the fourth Wednesday of each month, the show has managed to bring in guests ranging from Minneapolis City Council president Lisa Bender, to musicians like Kerry Alexander of Bad Bad Hats. The group’s next show on March 28 may feature their biggest guests yet, with recently elected Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joining the show, along with musical guest, wetter.

“It’s fun because our guests can laugh at themselves a little more than politicians who appear on these types of shows at a national level,” Gershberg says.

Though the basis is to make people laugh, “the comedy show that keeps you up to date on your state” has also begun to create a unique opportunity for people to learn about important issues and access prominent figures in a new way.

“People today need new ways of digesting and absorbing news,” Gershberg reflects. “There’s so much happening constantly, and our show is another way of helping people understand what’s happening locally.”

Now in its third season, the show has found its footing and begun building a reputation with both fans and potential guests. Covering topics ranging from police brutality to transgender rights to invasive species in our lakes, while also bringing intimate musical performances by some of the Twin Cities’ best emerging artists, there is a consistent format across each episode.

Still, Gershberg says, there is still a sense of newness and excitement.

“It’s good because we don’t have to try and explain the concept as much when we’re pitching potential guests,” he says. “The thing about it that’s so great is that we aren’t trying to reinvent the proven formula for late night shows, but it’s not so established that we can’t have some leeway with the format.”

On average, each show takes about three weeks to put together, which is eons in the nightly talk show world, but is still quite an undertaking when putting together a live show, booking guests, taping segments, and staying on top of the constantly-changing landscape of local news. While it is certainly more intense than your standard stage production, Gershberg says they will stay true to their mission.

“If it’s happening in Minnesota, we’re talking about it on-stage and on-screen.”

Don’t miss the next installment of “Minnesota Tonight” on Wednesday, March 28 at Brave New Workshop. Click here for details and tickets.