Meet Chastity Washington, “the aunt of the Milwaukee comedy scene”

It’s a well-known fact that the most successful comedians are those who have universal appeal, often referring to Charlie Chaplin or, more recently, someone like Kevin Hart.

A taste of this universal appeal is fairly common in Milwaukee.

It was there at a show at a brewery in West Allis during a Thursday night performance by North Side native Chastity Washington.

Sitting at a small table after her set, Washington was approached by all types of people present on the show – old people, young people, black, white, male and female. Plus sober and drunk people.

Many simply thanked her for her performance or told her how much they enjoyed it. Someone offered to buy her a drink. One of the venue owners asked her to sign a poster. A woman asked if she could hug her.

“She’s funny to everyone,” said Ton Johnson, a local comedian and 2022 winner of Madison’s Funniest Comic Contest. “Chastity … its energy is organic; it is real. You can tell she really tries to give people the best show she can every time she’s up there – be it an open mic, a showcase or a club spot.”

Greg Bach, local comedian and co-owner of Milwaukee venue The Laughing Tap said, “She has a relationship ability, confidence and charisma. And she connects with people. …And I never see them perform poorly. Always.”

Washington grew up in Sherman Park and lives and works as a teacher in Bronzeville. She began acting in comedy in 1994 in Kenosha, where she was attending college.

After graduating, she moved back to Milwaukee and has been performing ever since. She has appeared on television, worked across the country and alongside big names.

After four comedians performed at the brewery that night, Washington took the stage and performed for about 30 minutes.

She spoke of trying to socialize during the pandemic, drinking too much on her birthday and wanting her pharmacist to have more discretion, among other things.

Much of her comedy is about her students.

Discussing teaching on Zoom, she said: “I was in Zoom class – high school. My high school students. One of my students came in shirtless.”

He asked her, “What are we doing today, Ms. Washington?”

“I said, ‘We don’t do . . . Jarell. I can see your nipples! Turn off your camera, Jarell!’ ”

During her set she also danced, spoke and sang throughout.

Her personal experiences, combined with this set of comedic tools sharply refined over the past 30 years, are some of the ingredients of that universality that Washington has, Johnson said.

“Most of us don’t teach kids for a living, and that’s what she does. She’s so descriptive and emotional — you can see the kids she’s talking about in her head,” he said.

Washington said her goal has always been to be as good as she can in any form of comedy — “whether it’s a one-liner, whether it’s an impression, whether it’s storytelling or physical activity.” .”

She said, “Comedy found me … and it’s really just me bringing out the best in me.”

And what people connect with, she said, is ultimately their “honesty and authenticity and humanity.”

Comedians “can bring joy to people,” she said. “People need joy to be healed. People’s souls and hearts hurt in different ways. People struggle mentally in different ways, and it’s a relief. Laughter is good medicine for the body. It causes healing. And we can.”

“Everyone is given talents and gifts,” she added. “But it’s not for you. Whitney Houston’s vote wasn’t just for Whitney Houston.”

Although Washington faced some obstacles early in her career, she believes there has been progress in the Milwaukee comedy scene.

“I wouldn’t say it’s separate – anymore. Now there are more opportunities for color comics to work in mainstream venues,” she said.

Many of Washington’s peers credit comedians like her for at least some of the progress.

“Chaz traverses every inch and every part of the Milwaukee comedy. … She’s a bridge to different parts of the scene,” said Ryan Mason, a Milwaukee comedian who often works with Washington.

When the viewer offered her a drink on the night of the brewery show, Washington politely declined. When someone asked her for a hug, she immediately did.

Mason said he finally understands what Washington is doing in terms of empathy.

“She tells stories about being a teacher…she creates empathy for herself but also for the people in the story. And she creates empathy for the audience,” Mason said. “If she’s talking about a school in a part of town where I’d be an outsider, you can go with her if she’s talking about it. You learn. It helps bring everyone together.”

Johnson presented his views on Washington’s mentorship. “I don’t know how that statement will make her feel. But she’s like the aunt of the Milwaukee comedy scene. It really is her. I’ve done it, I’ve seen countless comics that have done it on all sorts of levels and have asked their advice. And she will give.”

“She actually wants to help,” he added.

Washington said it has no formal agenda on the matter.

“It’s on my mind,” she said. “I see people and I believe in them. And people believed in me. … It’s for comics – to always know it’s love. And it is true love.”

Check out their Instagram and Facebook pages for information on Washington’s upcoming shows.


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